Category: ScreeningActivitiesSummer

Plymouth Arts Centre could have hardly chosen a more joyously apt movie with which to launch its Open Air Cinema season than the original high school musical Grease. John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John headline an all-singing all-dancing homage to the 1950s, heyday of the drive-in, an American institution featuring in the film.

One of eight movies in the Open Air Cinema season, Grease is such a popular choice that it also makes an appearance at several other pop-up screening events across the country this summer. But associating open-air cinema with the classic 1950s drive-in as we do, it’s hard to believe that the idea of screening films outdoors is almost as old as the movie industry itself.

Ever since Sun Pictures showed its first open-air films for the residents of Broome, Western Australia, in 1916 and Richard Hollingshead combined the American love of moving pictures with its obsession with the automobile and created the drive-in movie theatre in 1933, films and the outdoors have gone hand in hand, weather permitting. Perhaps that’s why it’s pretty much a seasonal affair here in the UK, although the Finns could be considered a hardier breed – they have their open-air films projected on screens built from snow.

The current fashion for pop-up ventures and immersive experiences means that this kind of curated event feels as fresh and generates as much buzz as it did one hundred years ago. It’s all part of an exciting trend in cinema that offers an alternative to the predictable and generic multiplex experience. Instead, films and locations are carefully paired and curated. The increasing quality of showing films with HD projection and the ability to spread the word for film events through social media, combined with the British love affair with open-air cultural events, has created the perfect climate for this kind of pop-up revolution.

Perhaps Fabien Riggall’s Secret Cinema, more a movement and theatrical production company than a film exhibitor, is the best-known proponent. Earlier this year it celebrated a decade’s worth of film events with a huge Moulin Rouge-themed immersive happening that transformed a corner of London into 19th century Montmartre and gave 1,000 Secret Cinemagoers a character each – all hush-hush at the time and the more exciting for it.

Not as immersive in nature (although dressing up is definitely encouraged), but perhaps trumping the capital in terms of locations, Plymouth Arts Centre’s season provides us with a host of stellar films coupled with spectacular waterside venues. Who could resist the glorious pairing of Singin’ in the Rain at the art deco treasure that is Tinside Lido? Or brave Jaws or even surfer survival movie The Shallows at the same venue? Dipping a toe in the water is maybe as immersive as you’d want to get with these.

Such programming of cult classics harks back to the days when drive-in theatres which – after studios sent their first runs to the indoor cinemas – were left with B movies to show and, eventually, X-rated ones. Not that there will be any of that here. Romance comes in the form of feel good musicals. As well as Grease and Singin’ in the Rain, if you missed it earlier this year you can catch La La Land on the perfect lawns of Royal William Yard.

Other films showing as part of Plymouth Arts Centre’s Open Air Season and all perfect family entertainment include Star Wars: Rogue One at Mount Edgcumbe and Back to the Future at Royal William Yard. Wonder Woman provides a fittingly futuristic blockbuster finale to a season that is a paean to the joy of cinema.

Friday 18 August Mount Edgcumbe Grease Standard £8, VIP £17 9.15pm, bar from 8pm
Saturday 19 August Mount Edgcumbe Rogue One Standard £8, VIP £17 9.15pm, bar from 8pm
Friday 25 August Tinside Lido Singin’ In the Rain Standard £8, VIP £17 9.15pm, bar from 8pm
Saturday 26 August Tinside Lido The Shallows Standard £8, VIP £17 9.15pm, bar from 8pm
Sunday 27 August Tinside Lido Jaws (sold out) Standard £8, VIP £17 9.15pm, bar from 8pm
Thursday 7 September Royal William Yard Back To The Future Standard £8, VIP £17 9pm, bar from 7pm
Friday 8 September Royal William Yard La La Land Standard £8, VIP £17 9pm, bar from 7pm
Saturday 9 September Royal William Yard Wonder Woman Standard £8, VIP £17 9pm, bar from 7pm

To purchase tickets, visit the Plymouth Arts Centre website

Plymouth Arts Centre, 38 Looe Street, Plymouth, PL4 0EB | 01752 206114

Plymouth Arts Centre is open from Tuesday to Saturday 1pm to 5pm throughout August, and Tuesday to Saturday from 1pm to 8.30pm the rest of the year.

The events are kindly sponsored by Vospers, Plymouth College of Art, Plymouth Citybus and Luscombe.



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