Cinema Under the Stars

It’s been just about nine months since I moved from Los Angeles out to Tucson, AZ, and I’ve slowly but surely been getting to know my new hometown. Although Tucson is the second-largest city in Arizona, when your point of reference is LA, it definitely has a small-town feel. For example, since it gets so damn hot out here in the summer, most of the structures are built close to the ground, so it’s rare to even see a two-story home. There’s only one freeway in the whole city, and you only use it when you’re headed out to California or (heaven forbid!) Phoenix. Given that the last place I lived was at the intersection of two of the busiest freeways in Southern California — the I-10 and the I-405 — that is definitely a big (and enthusiastically welcome!) change.

Despite being a smaller city with way fewer connections to Old Hollywood than, well, Hollywood, I’ve found Tucson to have an absolute bevy of events, resources and opportunities for classic film fans. This past Thursday, I attended my first-ever event at Cinema La Placita, which has been showing classic films outdoors in downtown Tucson for the past twelve summers. Every Thursday night at 7:30, May through October, you can join your fellow Tucsonans under the stars in the plaza of La Placita Village for a measly donation of $3 per person, which includes all the popcorn you can eat. I have been aware of Cinema La Placita for a few months, and it has actually made me look forward to the start of our impending 115° summer.

The film on May 10 was George Cukor’s 1939 masterpiece The Women, a classic which never gets old no matter how many times you see it. However, by the time 7PM rolled around on the day of the event, I was not in a particularly good mood. The fact that it took us twenty minutes of aimless wandering to find Cinema La Placita certainly didn’t help matters much. Once I’d paid my $3 and found my seat, I just wanted to get it all over with and go home. However, by the time the color sequence featuring Adrian’s stunning fashion show rolled around, my mood had done a complete 180° turn. There’s nothing like a classic to cheer you up.

Watching this fantastic film on a big screen with an appreciative audience, cool and comfortable under the twinkling summer stars, was a truly wonderful experience. There were a few children in attendance who made me a bit nervous before the show started, but quieted down promptly when the opening credits rolled. Well-behaved dogs are also allowed at Cinema La Placita, and the one canine present was very well-behaved and only barked once in the beginning. (Alright, alright, I confess! It was my dog! But he really was [mostly] good.) I also appreciated the two five-minute intermissions, which allowed us to purchase some very reasonably-priced beverages and desserts at the nearby open restaurants in the plaza, and of course to restock our complementary popcorn.

The Cinema La Placita schedule for the rest of the month looks amazing, and at $3 a pop you really can’t find a better value in town. This is definitely my new regular Thursday-night thing.

May 17 — Shadow of a Doubt (1943)
May 24 — A Streetcar Named Desire (1951)
May 31 — 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954)

I haven’t yet found any fellow Tucsonan classic film aficionados online or in “real” life, but I’m hoping that by writing more about local classics-related events I can make some connections. Plus I want to show all of my friends back in the Big City that Tucson may be a desert, but in no way is it devoid of life-giving movie opportunities for Golden Age groupies.

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