In a crowded field, Screen on the Green is still the frontrunner


The Screen on the Green festival used to be shown on the grounds on the Washington Monument. — Tyler Mallory for The Washington Post

When Screen on the Green first launched, I had just graduated from high school and the idea to show movies on the National Mall seemed like the most brilliant thing ever. Back then, the large screen was set up near the Washington Monument. I remember a big group of friends and I made a big deal about it for “King Kong.” And while the setup has changed to house the screen down between 7th and 12th streets, the event is still as popular as ever, as it seemed from last night’s showing of “The Karate Kid.”

With so many outdoor film festivals at one’s disposal these days, it’s amazing to me that the big one downtown is still such a draw. It’s amazing to think that at one point, the original event was almost canceled. Now, in D.C. alone, there are nearly 100 outdoor movies available to watch this summer. Throw in similar events around the suburbs from  Ellicott City to Woodbridge, and the number gets closer to 250. If you were that committed, you could probably watch an outdoor flick every day of the week all summer.

On the Mall, some brought their kids, some their dogs. Many sat in chairs. Even the Park Police stop to watch from their trucks. It was a sprawling scene: People sat in the side yards, they sat on the Hirshhorn Museum steps. But even with a large turnout,  Monday was the most quiet outdoor movie crowd I’d ever seen. Daniel LaRusso’s tale still gets it done apparently.

And since Monday night was the first of this season’s crop of movie showing on the Mall, there were a lot of first timers.

Jake Lloyd has a busy summer travel schedule, and thought this might be his only chance to make it. “I’ve lived in D.C. for four years now, and it was insane to me that I hadn’t yet been down to this really cool event,” Lloyd, 30 said. “I live like two blocks from the NoMa one, so I’ve been to that a few times. That’s fantastic, but it doesn’t really compare to having the Capitol in the background, you know?”

He arrived a little late, but didn’t mind. “I’ll get here much earlier, so I’ll actually get a spot. So I’m not watching from across this path. But it is kind of cool that there are so many places where you can watch,” he said. “As compared to NoMa, where it’s kind of a more constrained area, it’s nice to have all this room to watch it.”

Of course, there’s also the dancing. At the opening of each movie, HBO’s 1983 “Starship” intro song plays. And people get up and wave their hands and jump up and down. Think of it as a goofier version of the 7th inning stretch, that happens before you have to sit for a couple hours.

Leslie Baxley, who was in town visiting her cousin with her kids, loved the deal. “The weather was lovely. And the funnel cakes. We did dance, we brought dinner and we danced. We have moves,” she joked. “We just copied everyone else. Apparently it’s a thing.”

One event-goer enjoyed the film from a slightly different view: perched in a tree. Cordelia Erickson-Davis, who just moved to D.C. three weeks ago, was lying on a long branch, sprawled out casually. “I think it’s an Apple tree. I guess I was walking by and I saw an inviting bow. I thought I’d just stay for a second, but it’s actually quite comfortable, and it’s a beautiful place to watch a movie,” she said. She said she walked over from her Capitol Hill place to check things out and found the proceedings a perfect balance of fun.

“I’m very new. It’s amazing, it was so funny in the beginning when everyone danced. Every seems like they knew what they were doing. It’s really silly and wonderful. It seemed very D.C. from what I’ve gotten to know,” she added.

At this point, she’s exactly right.

Clinton Yates is a D.C. native and an online columnist. When he's not covering the city, pop culture or listening to music, he watches sports. A lot of them.
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