Free Summer Courthouse Movies in Full Swing

Free Summer Courthouse Movies in Full Swing title=
Free Summer Courthouse Movies in Full Swing
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Film posters of North by Northwest, Rebel Without a Cause, and Some Like it Hot (courtesy photos)

By edhat staff

This year marks the 10th anniversary of the free outdoor summer film series in Santa Barbara County Courthouse's Sunken Gardens.

Hosted by UC Santa Barbara Arts & Lectures, the Santa Barbara County Office of Arts and Culture, and with Montecito Bank & Trust as the premier sponsor, this local tradition is celebrating its first decade with "Those Fabulous Fifties!" honoring the golden decade of American Cinema. 

With the films shown every Friday this summer, locals race to set up their blankets and low-backed chairs at noon to return at dusk with a delightful picnic. The first installment took place on July 5 during the holiday weekend with the appropriately titled "Roman Holiday" starring Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck. 

Edhat caught up with Arts and Lectures film curator Roman Baratiak to find out what makes these events so popular and special to the community.

"We have been able to keep the screenings free for all to attend and the evenings simple and uncluttered with ancillary activities and distractions.  We want people to focus on enjoying one another’s company in a friendly setting that is appealing and safe," said Baratiak.

Obtaining these films and picking a theme is not as easy as ordering it from your Apple TV. Baratiak said each year they pick a theme, genre, or time period. For this year's Fifties theme, they chose a range of styles including a comedy, romance, thriller, drama, and western. The biggest challenge is obtaining public screening rights to specific films and the expense in acquiring the films.  Often they've found that films have been pulled from distribution or are simply unavailable for presentation in an outdoor setting. 

"We’ve focused on the classics over the years and found that to be attractive to audiences. But really it is all about having a picnic with family and friends in a beautiful setting at the Sunken Garden at the Courthouse.  Its all about community," said Baratiak.

This year the film series coordinators have been able to add additional speakers and enhanced sound coverage for the upper section of the Sunken Garden, so getting the perfect blanket spot doesn't become a lunchtime burden. Although, if you are angling for the prime movie watching location, Baratiak suggests fighting the crowds and heading down at noon on Friday to lay out breathable blankets/sheets in the front blankets-only section or low-to-the-ground chairs in the lower garden.

"Particularly special are full moon nights.  It is amazing to see the moon rise above the Courthouse while watching a classic film.  Oh!  And bring a warm jacket or sweater.  It can get chilly when the marine layer rolls in," suggests Baratiak.

"North by Northwest" starring Cary Grant is scheduled for tomorrow, July 12, followed the next week by "Rebel Without a Cause" with James Dean, and the subsequent week with "Some Like It Hot" starring Marilyn Monroe. "On the Waterfront," "High Noon," and "Sunset Boulevard" are also scheduled to play during the rest of the summer.

Learn more about the film series and specific dates here.

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