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Sit-Down Action: Patrons of Cinema San Pedro take in a movie and the brisk evening air.

Great Outdoors

Cinema San Pedro starts its fourth outdoor movie season, and Campbell follows suit

By Richard von Busack

EXPERIMENTS all over the country have proved that folding chairs, a familiar free movie and a few concession booths will bring people downtown—particularly those suburbanites who shun anything more dangerous than their backyards after nightfall. But after four years, the success of Cinema San Pedro is remarkable. Organizers have plans for 14 movies in as many weeks this year, beginning as the sun sets June 1 (the original, putatively classic version of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory) and ending Aug. 31 (the back-to-school-themed Ferris Bueller's Day Off).

Run by Cinequest and sponsored by San Pedro Square's numerous restaurants and taverns, the series has brought an ever-growing number of watchers downtown to have a beer, bask in the light of a 20-by-20-foot screen and gawp at Olivia Newton-John's tight black trousers (Grease, June 22). Jens Hussey of Cinequest says, "We're projecting about 800 to 1,000 people per screening, based on the way it's gone in the past. That means we're bringing about 10,000 people downtown during the summer. It's becoming a destination event."

One of the big nights will be July 27, when the screening of The Road Warrior kicks off the San Jose Grand Prix. Some of the race cars will be parked for that look-but-don't-touch thing. The opener for Mel Gibson's last good movie is Super Speedway, a reformatted IMAX documentary shot from the point of view of Mario Andretti's car. Prizes and premiums will be added to the free screenings, with events like a "shower-scrubbing contest" before Psycho (June 29). A suggestion: Maybe before Animal House, on July 13, they could sign up members of defrocked Berkeley fraternities to shoot BB's into one another.

Not only is the Cinema San Pedro starting its series, but the Chris Esparza-founded Gypsy Cinema will kick in later this summer. At this point, Santana Row isn't planning a summer of free films. However, Sundown Cinema II commences on Friday nights (June 17-Aug. 26) behind the Orchard Coffee House in downtown Campbell. Free movies include Grease (again) June 17, Love Story (June 24), and, on July 8, Sergio Leone's masterpiece, the 1969 Once Upon a Time In the West, featuring Henry Fonda as the most evil blue-eyed villain in the whole wide history of the movies.

The nonprofit outfit Casa de la Cultura Mexica is sponsoring the Sundown Cinema II series, so I wonder how Eli Wallach's stage-Mexican accent as the ugly one, Tuco (in Leone's The Good, the Bad and The Ugly, July 1), might be heard by the very sensitive ear. I love that picture, but Wallach makes the Frito Bandito sound like Octavio Paz. "Who knows," Hussey commented. "We asked our audience for their favorite film, and their No. 2 choice was Breakfast at Tiffany's [playing at Cinema San Pedro Aug. 24]. If anyone should be ashamed, it's Mickey Rooney, doing that Japanese bit with the Coke-bottle-bottom glasses."


Cinema San Pedro runs Wednesday nights (June 1-Aug. 31) on San Pedro Street between St. John and Santa Clara streets. See www.cinequest.org for details. Sundown Cinema II takes place Fridays (June 17-Aug. 26) at sundown at 347 E. Campbell Ave., Campbell. See www.casadelaculturamexica.org for details.


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From the May 25-31, 2005 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

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