Screening Gems: The crowd at Cinema San Pedro in downtown San Jose awaits the start of the show as the sun goes down.
Cinema San Pedro kicks off outdoor screenings
By Richard von Busack
PRETTY MUCH the first time I was alone in Manhattan, I was wandering down by the Battery at sunset. It was one of those summer evenings seething with the intense humidity that brings out every shade of gold and blood and blue-black on the polluted horizon when sundown falls. In San Francisco, summers meant being chased indoors by the marine layer, so it was heaven to feel the wet warmth in the air and to see the hordes on the streets, half-dressed in the semidark. Suddenly, the nasal Brooklyn "eyyyyyyyyhh" of Bugs Bunny rang out, as he sized up a certain bald-headed hunter. I turned around and saw bleachers set up next to Fort Clinton, in front of a full-size movie screen blazing away with Chuck Jones' handiwork. It was the first time I had seen free outdoor movies in the city, a custom that has spread all over the nation during these last 20 years.
Summer can be said to commence in earnest with Cinema San Pedro, San Jose's annual outdoor movie series on Wednesday nights in San Pedro Square, put together by the San Jose Downtown Association and Cinequest. (Full Disclosure: Metro is one of the sponsors of Cinema San Pedro). This series is so popular that it doubles up in August with screenings every Friday in St. James Park. Wednesday (June 20) at San Pedro Square, the series kicks off at sundown with Airplane!, the cornerstone to the ZAZ brothers empire, a much—too much?—quoted epic of the men who ride the winged big rigs, and the women who ride the men. Vintage square-jawed middle-aged actors like Leslie Nielsen, Peter Graves and Robert Stack tough it out. Stack demonstrates the craft of muttering fragrant hardboiled dialogue: "Do you know what it's like to fall in the mud and get kicked ... in the head ... with an iron boot? Of course you don't, no one does. It never happens. It's a dumb question ... skip it."
June 27 showcases Rear Window, the film that growls, "Disturbia, my ass." Elvis (Blue Hawaii, July 11) and James Bond (Goldfinger, July 25) face off in a competition to decide "Who Is Most Macho?" The answer: either Rock Hudson, who turns up in Pillow Talk (Aug. 15), or Frank N. Furter (Rocky Horror Picture Show, Aug. 22). Or maybe Satan (the original and only acceptable version of The Omen on Aug. 8). On other Wednesdays, one can judge the underpants dancing of Tom Cruise (Risky Business, Aug. 29) and Will Ferrell in Old School (July 18). The St. James Park series hosts My Big Fat Greek Wedding on Aug. 3; Aug. 10 brings out the big-eyed starveling goth contingent for Edward Scissorhands; The Wizard of Oz (Aug. 17) precedes Back to the Future (Aug 24).
Up in Redwood City, crowds will gather for that town's summer series outside the historic courthouse, a noble sight to visitors, unless they're in handcuffs. The roster includes Tim Burton (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, June 20), Hitchcock (North by Northwest, June 27) and Spielberg (E.T., Aug. 1). Also turning up: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (July 11), Singin' in the Rain (July 18) and The Chronicles of Narnia (Aug. 29). Also doing the outdoor thing is Casa de la Cultura Mexica, with Sundown Cinema III at 347 E. Campbell Ave. The series stars July 6 with Grease; some highlights are The Maltese Falcon (July 20) and Citizen Kane (July 27). Metro will be covering the different moonlight matinees throughout what one hopes will be a nice long hot summer.
Send a letter to the editor about this story.