Reel 'em in: Outdoor movie screenings fill Toronto parks this summer


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Movie night does not have to involve scrolling through titles on Netflix for an hour on the couch you eat/sleep/work/pass out on; nor do you need to shell out $20 in the cool darkness of a cinema wondering what your date is thinking for two hours. Part of summer in Toronto means that the film screens are out: From the Harbourfront Centre to Mel Lastman Square; across Christie Pits to Corktown Common, there’s always a flick to watch on in the warm summer night. All you have to do is bring snacks and a blanket. 

Christie Pits Film Festival has weekly Sunday screenings of films including Harold Lloyd’s 1925 silent comedy The Freshman (accompanied by a live musical score by The Holy Gasp), The Maltese Falcon, starring Humphrey Bogart and Mary Astor, and Christopher Guest’s dog  mockumentary Best in Show, and each screening also comes with specially chosen short films. 

On the other side of the city, Corktown Common offers a flash of the silver screen with its stunning view of the city skyline on Thursdays through July, with such classics as John Waters’ original Hairspray, the Tom Hanks and Geena Davis baseball movie, A League of Their Own

But free outdoor screenings are also available, from the waterfront to North York: Mel Lastman Square hosts the Cultura Festival on Friday evenings through July, with recent Oscar-winning releases such as Hidden Figures and La La Land and interactive performances; while the Harbourfront Centre sprinkles their jampacked summer events with their Free Flicks, ranging from 2014’s My Prairie Home, a documentary about indie singer Rae Spoon followed by a talk with the director and Rae Spoon, to the explosive 2013 Hollywood blockbuster Pacific Rim

Other outdoor film programs include Movies in the Meadow at Downsview Park, Fridays through July and August, featuring films with a Canadian connection; Movie Nights in the Park, which alternates screenings at Kew Gardens and Ivan Forrest Garden; Movies in the Square, offering PG blockbusters and classics every fourth Saturday of the month culminating in a WaBASH Fall Festival at the end of September; and the Open Roof Festival, which features a roster of indie-ish favourites on a downtown rooftop with beer and musical performances, running from the end of June to the end of August. There’s also the City Cinema on Tuesday nights at Yonge-Dundas Square, the six-week outdoor screening festival at Regent Park on Wednesday nights, the Sail-In Cinema, a two-sided floating movie screen atop a barge in Toronto Harbour that can be seen from Sugar Beach and by boaters on Lake Ontario, and the Scarborough Worldwide Film Festival, which is presenting a cliffside screening of 2001: A Space Odyssey at Bluffer’s Park on June 10. And these are just the screenings that have been announced so far. 

So this summer, Toronto film buffs don’t have to settle for another half-hearted Uber Eats order and their slowly-deepening seat-groove on the couch. Instead, hit your local park and enjoy watching the stars under the stars. 

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