Forget Screen on the Green. You don’t have to brave the National Mall to take in a movie outside this summer—these days, outdoor film screenings are so popular that every neighborhood has its own. (Hell, even NoMa, to which the term “neighborhood” barely applies, has several.)
D.C.’s parks and pop-ups might compete with Netflix for your summer entertainment queue, but the curation quality varies. Here’s a rundown of what each outdoor film series says about its neighborhood and the movies it should really be running instead.
“Golden Cinema” kicks off today with a screening of Empire Records in Farragut Park. This film series may be the city’s very best, if only because it includesNine to Five (above), which features Lily Tomlin, Jane Fonda, and Dolly Parton kicking their pigheaded boss’s ass. And isn’t that the dream of many of the people who commute to Golden Triangle every day? Kudos to the planners for picking The Devil Wears Prada, another film about wishing the worst on your boss, but they missed an obvious entry in this genre: Office Space.
The Capitol Riverfront movie series is one of the city’s most ambitious. From the beginning of June through early September, the neighborhood is hosting 14 films, from classics like Back to the Future and The Goonies to new blockbusters like Selma and Guardians of the Galaxy. But “Capitol Riverfront”? Why can’t this neighborhood accept that everyone else in the city calls it Navy Yard? Capitol Riverfront should add A Few Good Men (above) to its lineup if only to hear Jack Nicholson snarl, “You can’t handle the truth!”
So far, Dupont Festival has announced only one screening. This event is sure to be massively popular—you may have noticed that people like to congregate in Dupont Circle—so there’s a lot riding on it. Fortunately, Dupont Circle nailed its film choice. Starring Rosie O’Donnell, Geena Davis, and Madonna, A League of Their Own (above) captures the team-sports vibe and aging gayborhood status of the area. Crying? There’s no crying in Dupont!
Rich Hill and Whiplash are some of the darkest offerings headed to any D.C. outdoor film series. Adams Morgan is many things to many people, but deeply serious isn’t usually high on the list of qualifiers given to the area. AdMo’s increasingly dated nightlife scene and signature Jumbo Slice late-night fare puts me in the mood for some vintage pieces of cinema: Mystic Pizza, starring a babyfaced Julia Roberts and Vincent D’Onofrio, for one. And frankly, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles(the 1990 version, above) would do just fine. (Note: If you really, absolutely must see Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles this summer, you can—at National Harbor.)
There’s no outdoor film series planned for Bloomingdale, but can’t you just imagine a Wes Anderson festival projected along the wall of Big Bear Cafe? How has this not happened already?
There are three different film series running in NoMa this summer. Union Market is screening Jurassic Park and Space Jam, both must-see summer films. The micro-neighborhood of Sursum Corda is hosting its own family-focused run, with Annie (the new one) and The Princess and the Frog. The city’s most fascinating series, though, is NoMa Summer Screen, which is—get this—dance themed. Nearly all of the films are about the art of getting down: Dirty Dancing, Flashdance (above), Singing in the Rain, Moulin Rouge, and so on. The closed and bankrupt Ibiza dance club notwithstanding, NoMa has to be one of the city’s least danciest neighborhoods. Dancer in the Dark is more like it.
The classiest summer-screen venue in the city? It’s a toss-up between Congress Heights and Palisades. If the Gateway Pavilion at St. Elizabeths renews the festival it launched last year, it’ll be the clear winner. But if it doesn’t announce a lineup soon, that honor may go to the Palisades Recreation Center. The schedule for Palisades is unimpeachable—The Goonies, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and The Princess Bride—but also limited, so here’s hoping the Gateway gets its act together. Is there a movie that would win over audiences in D.C.’s toniest and poorest neighborhoods alike? Maybe Independence Day (above): Aliens blow up Congress, Will Smith tags out aliens, everybody wins.