Outdoor cinema brings new trend to town

'City Slickers' to be shown under the stars

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Americans are going outdoors to watch movies again. But this time, they also are getting out of their automobiles.

In 21st century America, drive-in movies have been replaced by occasional screenings in grassy parks and even lakes and cemeteries.

Steamboat catches the latest nostalgia wave Saturday night, when the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association hosts the comic western "City Slickers" as Mars rises over the Headwall amphitheater. Admission is free.

"Cinema Under the Stars," as it has been dubbed, is part of Steamboat's Rockin' Roundup Labor Day weekend, and the choice of films is meant to fit in with the theme of professional bull riding. With two free concerts planned for Headwall (Dave Mason on Saturday and Credence Clearwater Revisited on Sunday), the stage and sound system are already in place for Saturday night's cinema.

Organizer Paul Catterson has experienced the new wave of outdoor cinema in his hometown of Hoboken, N.J. He said the trend is fueled more by nostalgia and the novelty of watching a movie outdoors than it is by the actual film.

"This is less about the movie and more abut the experience," Catterson said. "It's the first of its kind here in Steamboat and we had to ask ourselves, 'How do we scale it?'"

The dilemma facing Catterson and his fellow committee members was whether to plan for 50 guest or 3,000. They decided to go all out, in order to ensure that the audience has a quality experience.

Accordingly, they rented a new breed of inflatable screen to show off actors Billy Crystal and Jack Palance to their best advantage. The frame of the inflatable screen is 25 feet high and 36 feet wide. Within that frame, the viewing screen is 18 by 25. It has a retro-reflective surface that will ensure the colors seen by cinema-goers are rich and saturated, Catterson said.

"We'll be rolling right off the DVD with an extremely intense project about 65 feet from the screen," Catterson said.

In order to make sure the audience enjoys a full experience, members of the figure skating club will be selling popcorn, hot dogs and soft drinks.

"City Slickers" is the story of a big-city radio advertising salesman who experiences a midlife crisis as his 40th birthday approaches. In an effort to shake him out of his funk, his friends take him out west for a dude-ranch experience. The cast of urban neurotics squeezes every heartwarming gag possible out of its ineptitude at everyday ranch chores. Predictably, Crystal's character simply cannot learn to rope. There's a significant chance the movie will resonate with a Steamboat audience.

The screen will begin showing a sponsors slide show at 8 p.m., followed at 8:30 p.m. by 15 to 20 minutes of cartoons -- the greatest hits of Wile E. Coyote and Roadrunner -- with the featured film beginning at 8:50 p.m. and continuing until 10:40 p.m. Seating is unlimited.

If Cinema Under the Stars is well received, it could become a recurring part of Steamboat's summer experience, Catterson said.

-- To reach Tom Ross call 871-4205

or e-mail tross@steamboatpilot.com

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