Hello Movie Lovers,
Nearly 20 years ago, during July, 1989, I had a seminal moviegoing experience in Chicagoâ€™s Lincoln Park: a screening of Terrence Malickâ€™s Days of Heaven projected on a giant screen with six-channel Dolby Stereo sound. The screening was part of a weekend called â€œCinema Borealis,â€ three nights of free movies shown outdoors near Chicagoâ€™s lakefront that also included 2001: A Space Odyssey and Kurosawaâ€™s Ran. The whole project was the brainchild of a Chicago projectionist/movie guru named (no kidding) James Bond, and it was Bondâ€™s innovation to show these movies on film, as opposed to video, which allowed for a brightness and clarity and massiveness of image that was positively hypnotic for me and the thousands that gathered to watch Malickâ€™s masterpiece when the sun went down.
While there have been huge advancements in video and digital projection in the decades since the days of Cinema Borealis, there still is nothing to match the purity and beauty of 35mm film. Inspired by Bondâ€™s gift to Chicago and with the initiative of Chris Jones and the Business Association of the South Wedge Area, George Eastman House will present five nights of free screenings under the stars on a 45 foot screen in the Highland Park Bowl, with state-of-the-art 35mm projection and stereo sound provided by the talented folks at Boston Light & Sound.
The films selected for screening are all acknowledged classics of American cinema and they were chosen primarily for their ability to transfix and entertain an audience, but also for their visual splendor, qualities which will be enhanced by the enormity of this cinema-under-the-stars. There are no other films that have captured the awe-inspiring element of space travel like Kubrickâ€™s 2001 (screening Tuesday, Aug. 26), and are there images of New York City more iconic than the ones captured in black-and-white widescreen by cinematographer Gordon Willis in Woody Allenâ€™s Manhattan (Wednesday, Aug. 27)? Even if youâ€™ve seen the films before, you wonâ€™t want to miss the spectacle of Cary Grant clinging to Mount Rushmore in Hitchcockâ€™s North By Northwest (Thursday, Aug. 28) or the glistening cars cruising Modesto, California in American Graffiti (Friday, Aug. 29) when theyâ€™re projected like this. The double dose of Boris Karloff horror (Saturday, Aug. 30) that closes the series will reveal that Karloff truly was a talent to be reckoned with and the set designers of the 30s at Universal Pictures were no slouches either!
The tradition of the open-air screening is a common one outside of North America, unless we consider the legacy of the Drive-in, and itâ€™s a special experience that I think you will treasure.
See you in the Highland Park Bowl!
Jim Healy was the Assistant Curator, Exhibitions in the Moving Image Department at George Eastman House from 2001-2010. He is currently the Director of Programming for the University of Wisconsin - Madison Cinematheque.