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Theater in the parc

July 20, 2009

Back in Kansas, we have a local summertime program called Theatre in the Park where locals come to picnic on the grass at Shawnee Mission Park and then to watch a play as it grows dark. I remember as a child watching, bug-eyed, as an honest-to-dickens horse mounted the stage. Its rider was singing “Oh, what a beautiful mornin'” as the animal climbed the steps, and with that, Oklahoma! (and yes, the exclamation point is necessary) began.

The movie scrren sits in the background. Som picnickers rent green chairs and red blankets, but you can also bring your own.

The movie screen sits in the background. Some picnickers rent green chairs and red blankets, but you can also bring your own.

Here in Paris, I was delighted to discover a similar attraction. Every summer in mid-July, the Parc de la Villette puts on the famous Ciné en Plein Air (or “outdoor cinema”). Parisians from all walks bring blankets or low-backed lawn chairs, picnic food and maybe a soccer ball, and they set up on a giant lawn in the park. As the sun sets, everyone picnics, and the giant hot-air-balloon movie screen slowly blows itself up. Because it often stays light here until after 10 p.m. in July, movies often don’t start until 10:30 p.m., so there’s plenty of time for a good dinner.

Movies on the program range from recent films such as Pirates of the Carribean (which showed last Friday) to fuddy-duddy old flicks like Ninotchka (This played last year and was much better than I expected it to be). There is a surprisingly large number of movies in English (subtitled in French), though I’ve also seen movies in Spanish (again, subtitled in French). For example, Voyage en famille, an Argentinian film titled Familia Rodante, will likely be shown in Spanish when it plays this Wednesday.

The movie poster for Vera Cruz

The movie poster for Vera Cruz

Yesterday evening, I went with a friend to see Vera Cruz, an old Western with Gary Cooper and Burt Lancaster. Usually you should arrive at the very least two hours before the movie to stake out your real estate. This is done by laying a blanket over the area.  This evening, we arrived a little late, but thanks to an overcast sky, we had less competition than usual and were able to mark out a spot at dead-center about 25 yards from the screen.

Thus begins the picnicking. The best way to do this, I’ve learned, is to bring a half-baguette for each person (and yes, you can buy half-baguettes at the boulangerie) and then a little lunch meat, pâté or rillette (These last two are a sort of meat spread. I thought this was disgusting when I first tried it, but over time it’s grown on me). Put the meat inside the baguette and add some lettuce, pickle or tomato, and you’ve got yourself a first-class French sandwich.

Many of the picnickers bring wine, though Coke or water is acceptable. I personally like to bring cidre, a sort of cross between beer and apple cider that comes in what looks like  champagne bottle (and pops just like one, too).

In the evening, it gets chilly, so we bring blankets and extra socks, and once the movie starts, we spread the blanket over and settle in. All in all, it’s a perfect (and free) way to spend an evening. For more information, check out my à Paris page.

Last year's Cinéma en Plein Air poster.

Last year's Cinéma en Plein Air poster.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. sarahmorning permalink
    July 20, 2009 6:32 pm

    Are they more polite than the ones at TTIP here? Almost every time I bring a blanket, someone comes in with their chairs and sets their chairs on the edge of my blanket to ensure my full view is blocked! Anyway, that sounds like a lot of fun. The Nelson Atkins does this here…I went to Pirates of the Caribbean there a few years ago (but fell asleep!).

  2. sarahmorning permalink
    July 20, 2009 6:33 pm

    Oh and I wish it would let me post as sarahinboston. I need to look into that…

  3. July 21, 2009 12:17 pm

    No they are not Sarah ! It’s the same here and everywhere i guess…..

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