The Interns' Guide: Low-Cost Movies and Culture

By Fritz Hahn Staff Writer
Tuesday, May 31, 2005; 2:25 PM

In a city where most of the museums are free, it should come as no surprise that, every week, some of those same temples of culture sponsor screenings of everything from classic silent films to arty European adventures.

The Library of Congress's minuscule Mary Pickford Theater shows classic fare based around a number of themes; this summer's lineup includes "Heart of Darkness: The Vietnam Experience" (think "Hamburger Hill" and documentaries like "Hearts and Minds"); "Rural America"; "Feline Flicks" (including Disney's "The Aristocats" and "The Cat From Outer Space"); and a number of films that have been nominated to join the National Film Registry -- everything from Charlie Chan to "Porgy and Bess" to "The Music Man." All screenings are free, but seating is limited. You can call one week in advance to reserve seats, but any that haven't been claimed 10 minutes before the first reel are given to standbys.

On the Mall, both the Hirshhorn Museum and the National Gallery of Art offer programs in their theaters. The Hirshhorn concentrates on independent films and documentaries about art and artists; the National Gallery tends to show larger, more sweeping retrospectives, such as this summer's series on "India in Focus," as well as films about artists or ones related to current exhibitions. Films are usually shown on weekend afternoons, and tickets are available on a first-come, first-served basis.

If you're searching for more mainstream movies, there are two major outdoor series in the area. Screen on the Green enters its seventh year of showing classic films on a giant screen on the Mall on midsummer Monday nights, beginning July 18. "The Treasure of the Sierra Madre,""The Big Sleep" and "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" are among the features. Families, couples and kickball teams congregate on lawn chairs and blankets, picnics in tow. Films begin at dusk, but the prime viewing spots are often taken well in advance.

Outside the Beltway, the annual Outdoor Film Festival brings 10 nights of free movies to the grassy lawn of the Strathmore Arts Center in North Bethesda. This year's selections include "Ray," "Spiderman 2," "West Side Story" and "Grease." All money from concession sales benefits children's charities at the National Institutes of Health.

And although they're not free, midnight movies at the E Street Cinema are always fun. On Friday and Saturday nights, crowds descend for cult classics like "Napoleon Dynamite," "Donny Darko" and "Office Space," and occasionally yell favorite lines back at the screen. Admission is $6.

If the play's the thing, and you're an intern holding a valid college ID, there is no shortage of theaters offering discounts: 20 percent to 25 percent off each ticket at the Folger; 35 percent off at Arena Stage (also one special "college night" with $10 tickets during each production); and 50 percent off most tickets at the Studio and National theaters.

Not a student? Pay attention to the discounts for patrons under 30 at the Round House Theatre, and under-25s at Arena Stage and the Woolly Mammoth.

Everyone can take advantage of TICKETplace, a clearinghouse for half-price tickets from such theaters as Signature, Studio and the Kennedy Center.

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