Denise Neil

May 29, 2011

Cinemas Alfresco to feature films with a twist

Hard to believe it's been nine years since the first Cinemas Alfresco, an ingenious event that turned a bar parking lot into a drive-in movie theater, only with lawn chairs.

It was 2003, and the Wichita Association of Motion Picture Arts started showing movies under the stars, projected onto a wall next to Big Sky (the downtown bar now known as Rain.)

The first installation happened on Saturday nights and showed classics such as "Splash" and "The Graduate." (Note to self: Watch "Splash" and "The Graduate" again soon.)

Over the years, the event has moved locations many times, from the Vagabond to the Garage to the Brickyard.

It also moved to Thursday nights, and the lineup grew longer and became much more sophisticated.

This year's ninth annual Cinemas Alfresco started Thursday at Rock Island Studios, which is on Old Town Square at 338 N. Mead. It will continue every Thursday night through July 28.

The Tallgrass Film Festival screening committee, which organizes the event, chose the theme "Get Twisted," and every movie they've picked for the lineup involves some kind of crazy, unexpected plot twist. ("The Crying Game," anyone?)

"A lot of the movies are classics that people either haven't seen in a long time or have never seen before," said Tallgrass executive director Lela Meadow-Conner.

The event has grown in popularity over its long life and usually attracts 30 to 70 people each screening, depending on the weather.

This year's first movie, which was screened Thursday, was "Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?" a 1962 thriller starring Bette Davis and Joan Crawford.

The summer lineup also includes one of my personal favorites, 1987's "Raising Arizona," a crazy movie that I would describe as one long plot twist.

All of the movies except for one will be shown at Rock Island Studios, which allows for both indoor and outdoor seating.

The June 9 screening of "The Man Who Knew Too Much" will be at Exploration Place and will be an official Wichita River Festival event.

Attendees can buy wine and beer from neighboring Beyond Napa and can bring in carryout meals from participating Old Town Square restaurants. So far, the group has signed up Oeno Wine Bar, which will be selling Italian subs with chips or fruit for $10.

The movies start at 7:30 p.m. on Thursdays, rain or shine. Admission is free, and seating is provided.

Here's the whole lineup:

* "The Wicker Man," (1973) Thursday

Starring Edward Woodward, Christopher Lee, Diane Cilento. A police sergeant is called to an island village in search of a missing girl whom the locals claim never existed. Stranger still are the twisted rituals that take place there.

* "The Man Who Knew Too Much," (1956) June 9, 7 p.m. Special Wichita River Festival Presentation at Boeing Cyberdome, Exploration Place.

Starring James Stewart, Doris Day, Alfred Hitchcock. When the McKennas learn details of a planned assassination, the assassins kidnap the McKennas' son in order to keep them quiet. The couple must follow many twists and turns to save their son. Concessions available. Seating capacity 165. This screening is sponsored by TFA and FMI: Forming and Machine Industries.

* "Blue Velvet," (1986) June 16

Starring Isabella Rossellini, Kyle MacLachlan, Dennis Hopper

After finding a severed human ear in a field, a young man soon discovers a sinister twisted underworld lying just beneath his idyllic suburban hometown.

* "The Birdcage," (1996) June 23

Starring Robin Williams, Nathan Lane, Dianne West, Gene Hackman

Lies and twisted deception — it's all in the family when a man must convince his future in-laws that he's as uptight as they are. Can Armand and Albert transform themselves into Mr. and Mrs. Family Values in time for dinner?

* "The Third Man," (1949), June 30

Starring Orson Welles, Joseph Cotton, Trevor Howard and Alida Valli

Arriving in Vienna, Holly Martins learns that his friend, who invited him with the promise of a job, has died in a car accident. Martins tracks the twists that lead him to the truth about his friend's death.

* "A Fish Called Wanda," (1988), July 7

Starring John Cleese, Jamie Lee Curtis, Kevin Kline, Michael Palin

Four very different people team up to commit armed robbery, then plot a string of twisted double-crosses on each other for the loot.

* "The Crying Game," (1992) July 14

Starring Forest Whitaker, Miranda Richardson, Jaye Davidson

Fergus experiences a hostage-taking gone wrong. His unexpected relationship with the hostage's girlfriend provides unexpected twists that force him to decide on his future.

* "The Maltese Falcon," (1931) July 21

Starring Ricardo Cortez, Bebe Daniels

Not the one with Bogart, this is a different twist: the rarely seen 1931 pre-code version of Dashiell Hammett's classic Sam Spade detective tale. Follow the backstabbing and murdering in pursuit of the black bird.

* "Raising Arizona," (1987) July 28

Starring Nicolas Cage, Holly Hunter, Trey Wilson

When a childless couple of an ex-con and a cop decide to help themselves to one of another family's quintuplets, their lives become more twisted and complicated than they anticipated.

Related content