Thursday, June 30, 2011

Movies on the Common 2011 (Worcester, MA)

Well, once again I've managed to miss an opportunity to blog about an upcoming event (see the three-part look back on the 2010 Drive-In Super Monster-Rama that I finally got around to writing about nine months later). A group called Worcester Film Works is putting on a series of free movie screenings on the Worcester (MA) Common this summer. The first show was tonight (in fact, it's still probably going on as I start this blog). While it's too late to let people know about tonight's show, the good news is that this is going to be a three-movie series. This means that anyone who reads this and might be interested in attending one of these shows has two more opportunities to do so!

I only recently heard about the 2011 Movies on the Common series, and apparently it was only recently organized by the folks at Worcester Film Works. From talking to members of the group tonight this is something they've been wanting to make happen for a while now. For something only recently put together it was a very nice first effort. The weather tonight (which WFW obviously has no control over) was just about perfect--a warm evening that turned into a pleasantly cool night, no humidity, no precipitation. They couldn't have asked Mother Nature for a better night to start their series.

We showed up around 7:00, with the show scheduled to start at dusk (approximately 8:30). The audience was modest but enthusiastic when we arrived. Over the next hour-an-a-half the crowd swelled to a nice size--especially for a first-time event. I'm not good at estimating crowd numbers, but there were easily a hundred people present by the time the movie started. A couple vendors were present too: Sweet Sister Ice Cream was there with their ice cream truck, and Main Street's Theatre Cafe was there with various sandwiches for sale. We got ice cream for The Monsters, but didn't indulge in the sandwiches this time (though I'm sure they were tasty). Worcester Film Works had a table set up too. They had a popcorn machine there to sell popcorn to the viewing audience. Unfortunately, in what must have been the worst glitch of the first night, the popcorn machine didn't work. Through quick thinking they were able to solve the problem: they ran out, bought a bunch of bags of Smart Food Popcorn and filled the machine with that! Just before the movie started paper bags of Smart Food were selling for a buck apiece. You can't have a movie without popcorn after all!

As for the movie, tonight's feature was "Grease" (1978), which was a nice choice. Not only is it a classic, crowd-pleasing movie that I actually remember watching at the drive-in when it first came out, but it also goes very nicely with this weekend's big annual New England Summer Nationals car show in Worcester which starts tomorrow (July 1, 2011). I was expecting one of those inflatable movie screens to be set up, but was pleasantly surprised to instead see a huge screen set up right behind City Hall. I'm also not good at estimating screen sizes, but it was BIG (see photos below). There were colored lights running up both sides of the screen and the movie was projected from behind. It was a very nice set-up. I suppose that if I had to pick something to gripe about, it would be that the projector being behind the screen meant that there was a circle of bright light from it visible onscreen during the feature. While this wasn't ideal, it was actually less distracting than one might expect. I guess that since it's so blatantly right in your field of view your brain kind of tunes it out. Every once in a while you'd remember it was there when the action of the movie was centered where the light was, but in general it wasn't much of a nuisance at all. On the plus side, the projector being behind the screen also meant that the entire area in front of the screen was prime viewing area, since no projecting equipment was set up there. The picture quality itself was nice once it became dark enough, and the sound was loud and clear. Classic rock was blasting through the speakers before the movie.

The show started with a welcome from a Worcester radio personality and a couple Charlie Chaplin shorts before it was really dark enough for the movie. Then, just as darkness was falling in earnest, "Grease" started up. The movie itself needs no description. We had to leave early--after the "Greased Lightning" number--so we could get The Little Monsters home and put them to bed, but I can only imagine that the rest of the show went smoothly.

Worcester Film Works wanted to pick some very popular mainstream movies that would bring the crowds in for this first season as they try to build interest in the series. "Grease" seems a perfect match for this formula. As for the rest of the series, it runs on the last Thursday night of the month in July and August. After the June 30 showing of "Grease" there are still two more movies coming up before the summer ends: "Back to the Future" (1985) on Thursday, July 28 and "Spaceballs" (1987) on Thursday, August 25. In the case of a rainout, the movies will be run on the following Thursday. Hopefully the show will be successful enough that it will be able to continue for many more years. If tonight's turnout is any indication, it should be a good summer for Movies on the Common. I think the vast majority of the good-sized crowd must have had a fine time. As word of mouth spreads and Worcester Film Works and other media outlets (hopefully) get the word out, I'd expect the audience to grow even larger. See Worcester Film Works for up-to-the-minute updates about the series.

They say that a picture says a thousand words, so why don't we look at some photos from tonight's show?

Entering the Common, we passed by the famous "Turtle Boy" statue (note the screen in the background)

The Little Monster makes her choice at Sweet Sister's ice cream truck

The Worcester Film Works crew manning their table (and their malfunctioning popcorn machine)

The Wife and The Little Monsters give you an idea of the sheer size of the screen

The Little Monster gives you an idea of the sheer messiness of her popsicle

The Little Monster and The Tiny Creature enjoy creating an unholy mess (they actually didn't do too bad, surprisingly)

The Little Monster shows off her sugar-stained mouth while waiting for the show to begin...

...while The Creature shows off her Mommy's sunglasses

A look at the projector behind the screen

A couple members of Worcester FilmWorks survey the scene

As the sun sets the crowd swells

Closeup view of one of the Charlie Chaplin shorts that started the show

The Little Monster getting her first look at Charlie Chaplin!

The second Chaplin short

And finally, wait for it...

Our feature presentation: GREASE!

The Wife and The Little Monster enjoy some Smart Food

And so does The Creature

A last look at the scene as the sky continues to darken

And finally, here's a little bit of video footage from tonight. It starts off with The Little Monsters dancing to Led Zeppelin before the show, continues with part of the introduction and then a few quick clips of the movie itself as it looked on the big screen behind City Hall.

See you on July 28 for "Back to the Future"!

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