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Tom Tangney

Outdoor movie traditions grow with some cheeky summer selections

With the 4th of July celebrations in our rear-view mirror, it's time to turn our attentions to other outdoor nighttime get-togethers: summer outdoor movies.

Summer outdoor movies are ubiquitous in the Puget Sound region. If memory serves, Seattle's Fremont district kicked off this tradition about 20 years ago and now it seems practically every neighborhood from Everett to Tacoma has one.

If you've never been to one, all you need to know is ...

1) You have to bring your own low-back lawnchairs or blankets
2) The movies usually start at dusk, with at least an hour of casual pre-movie activities like trivia games
3)They're usually free or cost $5

Armed with that info, what stands out this summer season? Among the nearly 100 screenings in the area, the award for the cheekiest movie selection goes to Bellevue's Outdoor series which is showing "Thunderstruck" Tuesday.

It's a family movie about an Oklahoma City Thunder teenager who swaps basketball skills with his hero Kevin Durant. I don't know how we're supposed to react - boo the Thunder? Cheer when Durant starts playing like a bad high-schooler? Maybe, just maybe, it's a sly Bellevue dig at Chris Hansen's failure to land a new NBA franchise in Seattle?

Outdoor screenings usually feature broadly popular family favorites like "Back to the Future" and "Raiders of the Lost Ark" but this Thursday, Magnuson Park kicks off their series with the excellent but decidedly off-beat film, "Moonrise Kingdom."

It's a quirky movie about the first hesitant steps of young love, between a nerdy boy scout and an equally earnest and precocious girl. It's all the adults - Bill Murray, Bruce Willis, Frances McDormand - who are the immature ones.

Campy movies are also a big draw since nothing binds a crowd faster than laughing together, especially on Seattle's Capitol Hill. Three Dollar Bill Outdoor Cinema is running a jokey "I Need A Hero" series, the highlight of which is probably "Batman." Not one of the brilliant Christopher Nolan directed Batmans, but the real Batman, you know the one with Adam West.

Don't be surprised if Phoenix Jones shows up as part of the pre-show activities.

And finally, high marks for niche-marketing go to a recent newcomer to the Outdoor cinema scene, the Lemay Car Museum in Tacoma. You can watch ... from your car ... or ... on the lawn ... movies with distinctive cars. Last month's film was "Back to the Future," so the museum showed off two real Deloreans (obviously in reference to the movie.)

Next up, this Saturday, is "The Flintstones." Not much of a movie, to be honest, but it does feature the Flintmobile. (And if you like a little META-moviegoing, you could be in your car watching the Flintstones in their Flintmobile watching a drive in movie.)

Next month, the museum screens "The Love Bug," starring the VW Beetle of course. This is the original 1960's "Love Bug" movie, not the more recent Lindsay Lohan sequel, "Herbie Fully Loaded." In that one, Lohan is the real wreck.

Exterior image courtesy the Fremont Outdoor Movies Facebook page

Tom Tangney, KIRO Radio Host, Film & Media Critic
Tom Tangney is the co-host of The Tom and Curley Show on KIRO Radio and resident enthusiast of...everything. As the film and media critic on the Morning News on KIRO Radio, he espouses his love for books, movies, TV, art, pop culture, politics, sports, and Husky football.
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By day, you can hear Tom on KIRO Radio 97.3 FM, and by night, he sits in the dark, making snide comments about what he sees on the silver screen.

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