Golden Gate Park may host movies

San Francisco moviegoers have embraced the idea of seeing films in local parks and may soon be able to soak in the magic of the silver screen at The City’s most beloved one, Golden Gate Park.

Summer Entertainment Inc., an Australian-based entertainment company, has proposed showing films during an eight-week run beginning in August. The films would be shown in Peacock Meadow, which is located near the Conservatory of Flowers. If all goes well, it could become an annual affair.

Summer Entertainment, which would charge people to view the films, “is looking to break into theU.S. market,” said Meagan Levitan, chairwoman of the Recreation and Park Operations Committee. The committee will vote on a lease with the company next Wednesday.

The department could pull in thousands of dollars from the deal with a share in the profits and fees.

“Showing movies outdoors in San Francisco is not new to San Francisco. It’s growing in popularity. This is a different take on it,” Levitan said.

Film nights attract people because they foster a “sense of community” and provide a more appealing setting than multiplexes, Levitan said.

The trend began fairly recently. In 2003, the San Francisco Neighborhood Theater Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to saving independently operated movie theaters, showed its first outdoor film at Washington Square Park in the wake of the closure of North Beach’s last independent theater, according to foundation President Alfonso Felder.

Since then, the foundation has kept showing films, including at Mission Dolores Park and Union Square, attracting more than 1,000 people for each screening.

“I think it’s something happening around the country, not just in the Bay Area,” Felder said. New technology making it easier to show the films is helping to fuel the nationwide trend, according to Felder.

San Francisco’s notoriously chilly nights do not seem to affect attendance. “You just pile on a little more wool and it’s fine,” Levitan said.

The Alamo Square Neighborhood Association recently decided to hold a film night at Alamo Square in the violence-plagued Western Addition. Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi, whose district includes the park, praised the event, saying he would like to see more film nights there as a way for the community to reclaim the park.

Traditionally, film nights are free, community-driven events, but Summer Entertainment plans on turning a profit, charging admission and possibly selling alcohol. Levitan said the company has not yet applied for an alcohol permit but is considering it. The company will also show new releases, whereas the community-run film nights show classic films.

“If the impacts are too severe then we won’t reconsider it. But we need to be open to try new things,” Levitan said.

Ultimately, the full Recreation and Park Commission will make a decision on the lease.

Cinema among the trees

A selection of movies shown in San Francisco parks in 2006.

Mrs. Doubtfire: Washington Square Park

Citizen Kane: Union Square

Raiders of the Lost Ark: Mission Dolores Park

Breakfast at Tiffany's: Union Square

Best in Show: Mission Dolores Park

The Birds: Union Square

The Bicycle Thief: Washington Square Park

Young Frankenstein: Mission Dolores Park

Casablanca: Alamo Square

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