Hey, there’s an outdoor film tonight! The annual Screen on the Green kicks off this evening with “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,” and will run weekly on the National Mall through Aug. 6. But does anyone really care?
A few years ago, Screen on the Green was a big deal. Kicked off in 1999, it served as one of the few outdoor movie festivals in D.C., a great place to meet friends on a nice evening and enjoy a classic movie with an unbeatable backdrop. But in 2009 ran into financial problems in 2009, and in recent years it has faced a number of neighborhood outdoor film festivals that are giving it a run for its audience.
This summer, for one, you can watch outdoor films in NoMa on Wednesdays, at the Capitol Riverfront on Thursdays and in Rosslyn on Fridays. (A series in Crystal City even coincides with Screen on the Green on Mondays.) And while Screen on the Green focuses on classic films, its neighborhood competitors are thematic: NoMa’s offerings this year focus on the end of the world, while Crystal City features only romantic comedies.
Jesse Rauch, who launched the 2009 effort to save the festival and now runs the Friends of Screen on the Green, isn’t worried about the competition, though. “Screen on the Green is the only festival that transcends neighborhood, class, age, etc.,” he wrote us in an e-mail. “Held on the National Mall, in the Nation’s Backyard, we believe it’s the one movie festival that helps bind the city together.”
According to the Friends of Screen on the Green, some 15,000 people showed up to each showing last year. Because of its location, Rauch saud, it attracts not only residents, but also visitors. Few neighborhood outdoor film festivals can say the same thing. It was also voted the second best film festival by City Paper readers earlier this year, just behind SIlverdocs.
“With its long history, almost everyone can say they’ve been down to the National Mall — that shared experience is very powerful in a city traditionally thought of as very transient,” wrote Rauch. “We consider Screen on the Green to be the flagship movie festival — and thus, welcome anyone else who celebrates community as well as classic American cinema!”