Summers in Maine are glorious things. We’re not called Vacationland because of slush season, after all. But, for the film fan, those near-perfect summer nights pose the dilemma of choosing to spend an evening in the great outdoors, versus hunkering down in a nice comfy theater seat and watching the latest blockbuster movies. If only there were a way to combine those two unique summer pastimes, right?
Well, of course there is, thanks to the dedicated people behind the various summer outdoor film series in the Portland area. Think of it. The sun goes down in a lovely public space, friends and neighbors gather in beach chairs and picnic blankets. The lights on the temporary movie screen go up, accompanied by the sounds of the movie mingling with the sounds of nature and people all around. Just about perfect.
PORTLAND SUMMER FILMS
The Portland Summer Films make fine use of the city’s newly revitalized Congress Square Park to show an eclectic mix of family films (“Super 8” on July 9, “A Monster Calls” on Aug. 6), classics (like the Hitchcock duo “Dial M for Murder” on June 18 and “Strangers on a Train” on July 16) and assorted crowd-pleasers (the original “Arthur” on June 25, the heartwarming immigrant story “The Visitor” on Aug. 13), all chosen by the fine folks at Portland nonprofit art organization Mensk (menskmaine.org).
Kicking off on June 4, with a screening of the appropriately urban anthology “New York Stories” featuring paeans to city life by master filmmakers Martin Scorsese, Woody Allen, and Francis Ford Coppola, the series will take place every Sunday evening, right through the end of August. The series ends with the Oscar-nominated musical fantasy “La La Land” on Aug. 28. (For the full schedule, check out the PSF website at portlandsummerfilms.com.)
What you need to know: There’s no charge for any screening, and all movies start at dusk (essentially, when it’s dark enough to see the movie). Maine’s a summer wonderland and all, but temperatures can change in a jiffy, so dress in layers and come prepared with a folding chair or other comfy thing to sit on if you don’t get to Congress Square Park early enough to snag a perch on the park’s stone steps. Bring your own snacks, or since you’re right in the heart of downtown Portland, frequent some of the area’s eclectic eating establishments or food trucks for some tasty takeout. The one drawback to an outside screening is, well, it’s outside. Bug spray makes sense, and if the weather turns nasty, there’s always next week’s film.
BUG LIGHT SUMMER MOVIE SERIES
Maybe you prefer your outdoor movies with a more bucolic vibe — seagulls and waves instead of car engines. In that case, the Bug Light Summer Movie Series in South Portland is the place for you. Family fun and nostalgia alternate in this July series, which takes place every Thursday at dusk, with recent kids’ movies “Trolls” and “Moana” screening on July 6 and July 20, respectively, and “The Princess Bride” on July 13 paired with “Dirty Dancing” on July 27.
What you need to know: Less than four miles from downtown Portland, Bug Light offers plenty of free parking, both on site and next door at Southern Maine Community College. There are going to be plenty of food trucks present for each free screening, along with face painting for the kids and themed activities for each movie. As with the Portland screenings, chairs and blankets are a must, and flashlights aren’t a bad idea, either. Being closer to the ocean, dressing for the weather is an even smarter idea, and check the weather reports — in case of rain, there are rain-out screenings in August. For more information, go to the South Portland/Cape Elizabeth Community Chamber of Commerce website.
SUMMER MOVIES AT BAYSIDE BOWL
If your outdoor movie tastes tend toward adult beverages and bar snacks, there’s always the Wednesday Night Summer Movies at Bayside Bowl. Located at 58 Alder St. in Portland, Bayside continues to expand the definition of “bowling alley” by presenting free movie screenings on Wednesdays all summer long on its new rooftop patio. Considering that the screenings are 21-plus and that Portland indie film hot spot Space Gallery is helping to program a half-dozen of the showings, the Bayside series skews more toward the eclectic. Starting with the perennially hilarious “Anchorman” on Wednesday, May 31, the roster includes the a can’t-miss mix of cult classics (“For A Few Dollars More” on June 21, “Dog Day Afternoon” on July 5 and the original “Alien” on Aug. 16), and recent soon-to-be cult classics. Space has a hand in presenting the likes of “Mad Max: Fury Road” (June 14), “What We Do In The Shadows” (July 12) and newly minted horror classic “Get Out” (Aug. 9). For a full rundown of Bayside screenings, check out the Bayside Bowl website (baysidebowl.com) and head to the Space Gallery site (space538.org) for the Space co-presentations.
What you need to know: Like all outdoor screenings, the Bayside movies start when the sun goes down. Seating on the patio is provided but limited, so getting there early is your best bet. Have no fear about passing the time, as there’s both a rooftop bar and a taco truck providing refreshments for every showing. What with the bar and all, all free screenings are 21-plus.
OTHER OUTDOOR MOVIES
Greater Portland seems to the hub of outdoor movie screenings, but there are others in the state to check out as you travel or that may even be worth a day trip, if the selections are more your style. In Bar Harbor’s Agamont Park, the Seaside Cinema Outdoor Movie Series will show family-friendly movies on a 16-foot screen overlooking Frenchman Bay every Wednesday night from July 12 through Aug. 16. Popcorn is provided. For more information, go to barharborinfo.com/events/seaside-cinema.aspx.
Not far from there, the Ellsworth Arts Outdoor Movies will play on Thursday evenings in the city’s Knowlton Park, starting July 7 with “The Peanuts Movie” and running through Aug. 18. For the full schedule, go to ellswortharts.org.
Maine summer movies: They don’t need air conditioning.