Once the days get longer – and the nights a bit balmier – you no longer need to choose between movie night and going out: Open-air screens combine the best of both worlds. Beyond their obvious silver-screen appeal, many of these provide additional diversions – including pleasant chats with picnic blanket neighbors. Always up for a spot of engaging entertainment, smart magazine has sifted through the global selection to pick the world’s ten best outdoor movie theaters.
Vivo Open Air, Brasília
The location: a stunning lake in Brasília that has a rather prosaic purpose – it supplies the Brazilian capital with clean energy. Some of that power goes straight to Vivo Open Air to feed the outdoor movie theater’s projector, treating the assembled cineastes to an eclectic blend of Hollywood fare.
In any other city, turning a burial ground into an open-air movie theater might be considered sacrilege – in Hollywood, it’s an obvious homage. Every Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday, the Hollywood Forever Cemetery‘s gravestones and mausoleums are bathed in the soft glow of Cinespia’s outsized screen, resurrecting Hitchcock classics, cult musicals, and mafia thrillers for our viewing pleasures, enlivened by a sprinkling of current productions.
Somerset House, London
Usually, visitors of this eminent London building enjoy the tranquil sight and sound of a courtyard fountain. During open-air season (August 4-17), however, the latter is switched off to make room for film fans. Beyond two premieres flanking the program – German-French coproduction “Alles was kommt” and British drama “Captain Fantastic” – Somerset House screens seminal favorites from “Trainspotting” to Quentin Tarantino’s “Jackie Brown.”
Kino unter Sternen (Cinema under the Stars), Vienna
This year, Kino unter Sternen celebrates its 20th anniversary with a very special cinematic retrospective: Each of the past twenty years is represented by a prime piece of Austrian film history. The films’ directors, actors, and contributors are invited to join the fun – sweetening the already tasty deal of free screenings (July 1-23) on Vienna’s central Charles Square.
Isola Tiberina, Rome
On tiny Tiber Island, separating Rome’s Piazza Navona from the nearby Trastevere district, it’s easy to imagine yourself back in Michelangelo’s times – unless the bucolic tranquility is shaken up by modern-day movies. For 21 years, Romans have enjoyed this open-air gem with its perfect mood and romantic setting. This year’s season lasts a generous three months, from June 9 to September 4.
Sala Montjuïc, Barcelona
Catalans, too, enjoy watching flicks under the starry sky, including the “best films of all times” (that’s according to the promoters) in front of the castle on Barcelona’s Montjuïc mountain. Those who beg to differ can still enjoy the stunning view of the city.
Fort Canning Park, Singapore
Historic Fort Canning Park is Singapore’s foremost cultural hub – especially when it comes to open-air adventures. This year’s Films At The Fort promises a delectable blend of cinematic sophistication and equally tempting wine and morsels. The actual menu – and program – for the upcoming season (August 11-21) will be published on the website soon.
Millennium Park, Chicago
Chicago’s Millennium Park not only boasts the striking Cloud Gate by US artist Anish Kapoor – a steel sculpture otherwise known as “The Bean“. This summer (from June 21 to August 30, to be precise), another attraction joins the mix: Each Tuesday, the free outdoor movie theater will screen family-friendly entertainment, from “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” to Prince’s music extravaganza “Purple Rain.” The series culminates in the city’s best film of all times, voted for by the audience.
Parc de la Villette, Paris
Between July 13 and August 21, the Parisian Parc de la Villette transforms into an outdoor movie theater. Covering a wide range of genres, the mini-festival screens French classics (“Tati’s Jour de Fête“), blockbusters like “Casino Royale,“ and even socio-political dramas like the critically acclaimed “Timbuktu.“ Bring a blanket or cushion – while admission is free, deck chairs cost extra.
Backyard Cinema, London
Now in its fourth year, London’s Backyard Cinema is again about to stage its popular “Music Film Festival,“ a two-week open-air movie season focused on standout music films. Chord-filled celluloid treasures include “Yeah Yeah Yeah,“ a musical comedy starring The Beatles (1964), and more recent US drama “Ray“, exploring the life and strife of seminal soul icon Ray Charles. It all starts on August 8 in a corner of Camden Market, an open space loved by tourists and locals alike for its many outdoor attractions, and the boutique space will be equipped with seating and decorations for its entire Backyard Cinema run.
Since this year also marks the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s death, the promoters came up with a very special treat: To honor the British bard, they will precede their regular program and schedule with one of his most famous melodramas, “Romeo and Juliet”, screened in its popular, 20-year-old movie version featuring Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes (July 23-30).
While this isn’t technically a true open-air experience, it does enjoy a very special setting: St Mary’s Church in London’s Marylebone district. For its brief run, the nave is bathed in swoon-worthy candlelight while a real-life choir belts out the tragedy’s soundtrack, staged by writer and director Baz Luhrmann. Not just a rainy day alternative!