Dessert and a Movie

Martha Stewart Living, July 2005

Just the ticket for a good time with family and friends.

On long summer days, twilight usually means the outdoor fun is starting to wind down. But at a summer movie party, it signals that the main attraction is about to begin.

You don't need lots of space or special equipment to throw an outdoor movie party. You can put out chairs in the backyard, or spread blankets on the grass. Hang a sheet instead of using a screen. For the entertainment, visit your local video stores (a lot of interesting material is found under "Other"), check online movie-rental sites, and stop by your local library -- many have excellent selections. A feature-length film is fine, but shorts are ideal. With shorter selections, you wind up with something for everyone.

Reel Advice
Want to throw a movie party yourself? Heed these been-there-done-that tips and your event will come off without a hitch.

Renting Equipment
Contact an audio-visual rental business in your area or look online.

Film Projector
It can be tricky to use unless you're experienced at it. An LCD projector is less complicated and more readily available. Be sure to ask the rental company for any safety considerations regarding outdoor use.

Consider testing the lighting, power, and sound the night before. Then, take care of everything technical before your guests arrive so the show is ready to go with the touch of a button. A technical delay will make the show run longer, and kids can get antsy quickly.

In Case of Rain
Have a back-up plan. If there are unexpected drops, unplug equipment at the source immediately and move it indoors.

Renting a classic or offbeat film instead of the latest blockbuster is a great way to become reacquainted with the magic of movies. Look for them at video stores, the library, and online movie-rental sites -- a good place to go for obscure selections.

This Japanese style of animation is characterized by stylized, often fantastical images. "To see these outdoors would be really magical," says Jeff Scher, who throws an outdoor film party in Upstate New York each year. His favorites include "My Neighbor Totoro" (1988), about two sisters and forest spirits, and "Spirited Away" (2001), about a girl's journey in a supernatural world.

Old Television Shows
"The nostalgic value can be great," says Scher, who likes "Flipper," "M.A.S.H.," "Lassie," and "My Favorite Martian."

Science Fiction
Select movies from the 1950s and '60s -- a particularly strong period for this genre. Scher recommends "Fantastic Voyage" (1966), which is about a medical team that is miniaturized and then injected into the body of a dying man.

These are "music videos" that came out in the early 1940s. Louis Armstrong and Lena Horne were among the performers who made them. Shown on jukeboxes in bars, the clips would play after patrons put a coin into the machine.

Vintage Commercials
Those from the 1950s and '60s are smart picks, as that's when television ads were coming into their own. "Calder's Circus" (1961) is a short film of an installation created by artist Alexander Calder, best known for his mobiles. In the 19-minute work, Calder moves around figures in a miniature circus made from found materials including cork and wire.

More Family Flicks
"The Black Stallion"
"The Shaggy Dog"
"Raiders of the Lost Ark"
"Finding Nemo"
"Pirates of the Caribbean"
"Parent Trap Gremlins"
"Muppets Take Manhattan"
"Family Vacation"
"Star Wars"
"Charlie and the Chocolate Factory"

To keep things easy, the party doesn't have to involve a big meal. In fact, keep it simple by setting up a help-yourself dessert buffet. Once friends and family have loaded up on all the goodies, you can settle in to watch the show.

Popcorn Balls
Peach-Raspberry Slab Pie
Chocolate Chunk Brownies
Citrus Sugar Cookies
Strawberry Lemonade


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