I went to my very first open air cinema screening last night. Half-sitting, half-lying on a stripy deckchair, wrapped up like a sausage in a pink blanket, a glass of peach fizz in hand, and Mamma Mia blasting in my ears through some pretty funky headphones – it all added up to an absolutely excellent evening out.
I actually went with fairly low expectations, just in case it was a disappointment (I was worried it would rain and that I wouldn’t be able to hear the film over the wind). The plan was to sack it off and run home and order Domino’s if it was anything other than amazing (how pessimistic!) but I was thankfully, wonderfully surprised.
So here’s my top 10 reasons for why you should definitely plant yourself in a deckchair this summer, in a nice English garden, and watch a film on the big screen.
- You’re watching a film… outside!
The air is typically British; fresh, and chilly, and with a slightly icy bite, but your tucked up in a nice, soft blanket and watching a movie. Outside! The only other time I’ve ever watched a film outside was when I went camping with family. It rained solidly for a week so we spent most of the time watching Kung Fu Panda on a tiny portable DVD player. And let me tell you that was not the same.
These open air cinema nights always seem to have some food on offer to entice you away from your warm sofa and into the bitter night. The one we attended, M&S Spirit of Summer, didn’t allow you to bring your own, but included dinner and drinks (from M&S of course) in the ticket price. We had cheesy burgers, lemon and chicken couscous, fruity macaroons, orange and chocolate éclairs, sweet and salty popcorn – and of course, Percy Pigs. A proper feast! The £15 entry price also included three drinks each, so we could choose from sangria, lemon bucks fizz, or peach frizzante, as well as a selection of beers and non-alcoholic juices. I actually ate so much I saved the lemon couscous for lunch today.
- The ‘will it/won’t it rain?’ conundrum
We wouldn’t be British without that classic stab of ‘rain fear’ whenever we nervously book an outdoor event. I sat at work all day yesterday watching the rain come sheeting down over Snow Hill Station. Hmm. The screening was not only non-refundable but also would not, under any circumstances, be cancelled if it rained (buckets or not). I frantically considered buying a poncho at lunch, but told myself to get a grip. Thankfully, the rain gods looked kindly on me and it didn’t tip it down.
- People aren’t as annoying as the normal cinema
I can’t tell you even one time I’ve been to the cinema where someone hasn’t pissed me off. Last time some guy checked his voicemail about three times during the film. Another time a man started translating every word to two women beside him (my brother hissed at them to “fucking shut up” which was quite funny/alarming). I’ve seen people Snapchat scenes of the movie to their friends, check Facebook, ANSWER A CALL. To these people, please, stop coming to the cinema. Because I hate you.
The outdoor cinema, however, was different – it wasn’t quite as dark as a normal cinema so phone lights didn’t distract me. People were singing, laughing and chatting throughout but I couldn’t hear/didn’t care as I had headphones on and could only hear Pierce Brosnan belting out SOS. For once I didn’t want to kill anyone, nor did I have to throw a Malteaser at anyone’s head. It was blissful. It was perfect.
- You sleep EXTRAORDINARILY well that night
Fresh air, man. I slept like a log.
- You get toasty blankets to make yourself into a burrito
I was very snuggly. More snuggly than I often am at home (maybe due to the fact my apartment sofa is wildly uncomfortable). I had a pink blanket (provided by organisers) tucked around my legs and middle like an old lady. I had a big coat on with a hood around my ears. There were a few sharp gusts of wind which made me wince, but asides from that, I was warm.
- It’s just cute
As I haven’t been to many others, I can only go on what I experienced, but this open air cinema was very sweet. There were twinkly lights hanging from the trees and glowing lanterns lighting the pathways. The sunshine yellow wooden stalls serving food and drink all had greenery, flowers, and some sort of fruit climbing up and around them. Vases of colourful flowers were propped up in various corners of the park. I’m a sucker for anything pretty – and it was very, very pretty. I’ve been to this park (Birmingham City Garden) once before to hunt for a Pokémon, and it was dark then. It was dark and secluded and very quiet for a park in the middle of the city (I thought). But all dressed up for the cinema, it became unrecognisable.
- You can sneakily sing along (if it’s a musical) and no-one will hear as they have headphones on
But don’t underestimate how loud you are when you can’t hear your own voice. I was unknowingly bellowing along (out of tune, naturally) at the very end. So much so that the person I was with felt she needed to point out exactly how noisy I was being.
- It’s sort of healthy – sort of?
It’s outside, and there is grass. And couscous was involved. Healthy!
- It’s simply a summer must
It just exceeded all my expectations. An excellent film, tasty food, plentiful drinks and snacks, and a bit of British fresh air. Whether you’re out with your other half, going with friends, or treating your mum, I highly recommend a night out at an open air cinema.
Just-in-case-disclaimer: This is an honest review of my experience at an open air cinema event. Specifically, the M&S Spirit of Summer screening: Mamma Mia! By ShortList & Stylist Magazines, held in City Centre Gardens, Birmingham. I paid the usual price of £15 for my ticket.