Over the past few years of covering the Portland film scene, I’ve found that the growth and proliferation of local films and filmmakers has emphasized how important movies are to the city. With new film festivals, premieres, directors, and film students arriving in greater numbers all the time, it sometimes feels like you can’t walk down the street without running into a new movie.
Well, starting this week, that’s literally true, especially if you’re walking down Congress Street. The 2015 Portland Summer Film Series starts this Sunday with a screening of the eternally entertaining “Casablanca” beginning at 8:15 p.m. in Congress Square Park.
The screenings are free and open to the public (taking place as they do in public), and will continue every Sunday evening for the rest of the summer.
Presented as ever by local non-profit arts organization MENSK, the series has lined up a truly crowd-pleasing roster of films, as Sunday’s “Casablanca” is followed by the one musical even I love, “Singin’ In The Rain” on June 14th, the original (and delightful) “The Muppet Movie” on the 21st, and Hitchcock’s classic “North By Northwest” on the 28th. (See the MENSK website for the full lineup, which ends with an August 30 showing of “Annie Hall.”)
All the films are of the PG variety, making them a great destination for the whole family. (Just be ready to distract the little ones from a few things – Jason Robards drops one classic f-bomb in July 5th’s “All The Presidents Men,” for example.)
“We tried to choose films that were appropriate and fun for everybody,” says Patrick Roche, MENSK board member. “We – myself, Michael Henderson, and Bethany Field – chose 13 films from the AFI ‘100 greatest movies’ list, with an eye toward showing films that everyone could enjoy.” Also, in line with MENSK’s mission of supporting local artists, every other showing will be preceded by a short film from a Maine filmmaker. “We value the awesome talents in the Southern Maine film community, and we’re really looking forward to taking advantage of that,” explains Roche.
In addition, Roche is excited that MENSK is helping to revitalize Congress Square Park, which was nearly lost to development last year. Moving the Summer Film Series from its former venue (as Rooftop Films, the series had been hosted at the Spring Street parking garage) to the wide open spaces of Congress Street, according to Roche, was a conscious choice to broaden its appeal – and to affirm MENSK’s commitment to utilizing Portland’s public spaces for artistic endeavors.
“We felt Congress Square Park was an excellent venue – it’s right down town, and the Friends of Congress Square Park really made it easy for us, helping with permits and financial aid. We thought, ‘Let’s show Congress Square some love,'” Roche said.
Adding to the fun movie experience, Roche says that they’ve lined up food trucks and carts to be at the ready for hungry moviegoers. (He also urges everyone to dress in layers in deference to the ever-changeable Maine evenings, and to bring along something to sit on. Speaking of that Maine weather – there won’t be any rain dates should things get too wet, so pray for clear, starry skies when your favorite flick is up in the rotation.)
For movie fans, the Summer Film Series offers 13 chances to see some great, free movies right in the heart of downtown Portland. For the full schedule, check out the Portland Summer Films site: portlandsummerfilms.com.
NICKELODEON CINEMA, Portland | patriotcinemas.com
Friday: “Love & Mercy.” A must for Beach Boys fans, this biopic examines the troubled life of songwriter Brian Wilson (played in the film at two stages of his life by Paul Dano and John Cusack).
FRONTIER, Brunswick | explorefrontier.com
Starts Tuesday: “It Follows.” In case you missed it, this is the scariest horror movie of the year, in which a group of teenagers discover that – something – is inexorably pursuing one of them after an ill-advised sexual encounter.