If you’re from the Northwest, you’re presented with a problem — summer is the best season for movies, but those movies are screened indoors. And you know that you should be outside as much as possible during the summer months, because before you know it the sun will disappear for six months and this will make you sad.
This year, Riverfront Park will allow you to watch movies without enduring the oppression of air conditioning and darkness with the new Pemco Movies at Riverfront Park series, kicking off July 17 with a screening of Grease and continuing each Wednesday through Aug. 21. Screening in the park’s Lilac Bowl (where you’ve probably seen some live music over the years), the slate of films is entirely family friendly, as it’s generally considered poor taste to screen Pulp Fiction in a public setting. Other selections include The Lion King, Ghostbusters, The Avengers, The Sandlot and The Princess Bride.
“We can’t show a movie until dusk, so we try to make it a full evening of entertainment,” says Doug Borneman, president of Epic Events, a company that produced outdoor movie events in Seattle and Bellingham before bringing the idea to Spokane this year.
“Sure, the culmination of the night is a movie, but we try to do a lot of things to make it more than just a movie,” he says.
Those other things include movie trivia, circus performers, food carts and other activities to keep the kids busy before the sun goes down. Tickets are $5 and a schedule of movies is available at outdoormoviesatriverfront.com.
Young folks have only a rough, black-and-white notion of a drive-in movie, and that’s a cultural tragedy. Once commonplace in American society, drive-in theaters have gone the way of the dinosaur, as it’s become increasingly expensive to own a big swath of land on which to invite people to park their cars and watch a movie for only a few months a year.
Don’t mess around, kids. This is your last summer to experience the Americana of the drive-in. The Inland Northwest’s last example, the Auto Vue Drive-In Theater up in Colville, closes its doors — or more accurately, its gates — after Labor Day weekend. The ongoing digital projector upgrade in the film industry has made it financially impossible for the Auto Vue to adapt to the changing technology, so its 60th anniversary this summer is doubling as a farewell party.
The theater is open Friday through Sunday nights, with those Sundays costing you only $14 for an entire carload. We’re not sure how liberally they interpret a “carload,” but it sounds like it’s a rule begging to be tested by some brave summer adventurers with access to a minivan.
Another fleetingly excellent aspect of drive-ins is the fact that they play two movies — more bang for your buck. That’s also a lot of throwback make-out time with your steady guy or gal. Forgot to mention, kids — your parents probably made out a ton at the drive-in. They may also have gotten into fisticuffs with those greasers from the other high school, but that’s a story for another day.
Another summer, another slate of big-budget Hollywood thrillers, most of which are about the world getting really effed up — for example, After Earth, World War Z, Pacific Rim, Elysium, Grown Ups 2. But one downright charming film will make you long for the days when summer wasn’t merely three months out of the year, but a chance to do something outrageous. In The Kings of Summer, we have three boys who flee the drudgery of overprotective parents to build their own compound deep in the Ohio woods. The kids are the stars, of course, but Nick Offerman (pictured; you know him as Ron Swanson from Parks and Recreation) might be the reason you check out this film. He plays a mean ol’ dad. Not surprisingly, he’s hilarious. Spokane is still waiting for its release date, but expect it in the next few weeks.
If you’re a South Hiller, you might not even need to leave your neighborhood to catch an outdoor flick. And if you’re from another neighborhood, the people in the South Perry neighborhood will gladly let you join them at The Shop (924 S. Perry St.) for the South Perry Summer Theater. It’s a series of free family movies on Sunday nights to benefit local charities. The selections are an intriguing mix of classics, new movies and cult favorites. For example, the series kicks off June 29 with Rocky III — the one where Rocky gets his ass kicked by Mr. T — but also features Wreck-It Ralph and The Hobbit. And it’s free!
There’s a gem down in Riverfront Park. It’s an IMAX theater — one of the first of its kind — and it’s still very much in business. Here, you can see films you can’t see anywhere else in a format you won’t find elsewhere. Great White Shark is playing now, and it’s about exactly what you’re thinking. There’s also Rocky Mountain Express and Lewis & Clark, if the whole wildlife thing’s not your bag.
Most of the summer blockbusters are about the end of the world, and that’s really freaking depressing. Take a break from the special effects and Us Weekly coverboys and head to the cozy, friendly Magic Lantern Theatre for some independent, under-the-radar films. There’s Sightseers (opening June 21), a dark British comedy about a couple who accidentally turn into murderers while on vacation. Or you can enlighten yourself, perhaps with a foreign-language biography called Hannah Arendt, about a German writer who covered Nazi war crimes. Maybe a rock documentary? Try A Band Called Death, a flick about a three African-American brothers who started a hard rock band in the early 1970s before fading into history, then resurfaced as indie stars more than 30 years later. Keep an eye on the Lantern this summer because there’s probably something you’d like to see.