By Fritz Hahn
washingtonpost.com Staff Writer
Monday, May 22, 2006 12:00 AM
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 include "Bob Hope and the American Comedy Tradition," "Get Out the Vote!" (ranging from "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" and "Election") and "American Treasures of the Library of Congress" (a grabbag of lesser-known movies and television performances chosen by the library's curators). All screenings are free, but seating is limited. You can call one week in advance to reserve one of the theater's 60 spots, 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, 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 eighth year of showing classic films on a giant screen on the Mall on midsummer Monday nights, beginning July 17. This year's highlights include "The Day the Earth Stood Still" and the season-closing "Rocky." 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 Comcast Outdoor Film Festival brings 10 nights of free movies to the grassy lawn of the Strathmore Arts Center in North Bethesda, beginning August 11. This series includes more Hollywood blockbusters than anywhere else in the area -- "Walk the Line," "King Kong," "Madagascar" -- plus cult hits like "The Princess Bride" and "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" Proceeds from concession sales benefit children's charities at the National Institutes of Health.
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 Theatre, or half-price "student rush" seats sold one hour before the show (when available); 35 percent off at Arena Stage (also one special "college night" with $10 tickets during each production); $5 off every ticket and 50-percent discounts 30 minutes before the curtain at the Studio Theatre; and half-price tickets for Tuesday and Wednesday evening performances and Sunday matinees at the National Theater.
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. The Washington Opera's Generation O program offers cheap tickets to anyone under 35.
Everyone can take advantage of TICKETplace, a clearinghouse for half-price tickets from most major theaters, including Signature, Studio, Arena and the Kennedy Center. You can purchase tickets at the Penn Quarter storefront or on the Web site, http://www.ticketplace.org/.