Willy Wonka in the Park – Movies as an Experience

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I’ll admit I’m a sucker for the snozzberries. Face it, they taste authentic.

This past Monday night in Bryant Park, NYC, I took a date out to an outdoor screening of “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” and let me tell you, there’s no other high note I could’ve imagined hitting upon the end of my Summer 2013 NYC journey. Movies are meant to be a shared experience, and large event screenings like this are really the only way, sometimes, to appreciate the medium.

At 5pm the grass in the park is opened to the public. The invasion of the grass was an event to see — people line the border of the grass, blankets and supplies in hand, waiting for the call. At exactly 5pm, the organizers announce that the lawn is open — and in 7 everyone at those borders is now on the grass, cracking open their wines, beers, and meats & cheese plates.

Hours pass, as the movie doesn’t start until dark — 9pm. That’s about 4 hours hanging loose, playing games, and trying to annoy as many of your co-viewers without actually touching them. Seriously, when people walk by you can make a pretty good game out of “what WON’T they step on.”

But eventually, the movie started. We’d brought some water, whiskey in a flask, some grapes and of course, chocolates. And the crowd was into the experience, shouting, hooting and hollering, and clapping like crazy when Charlie opened his lucky candy wrapper to reveal his golden ticket. Gene Wilder’s shout of “I said Good Day Sir!” got a resounding applause, and even “Cheer Up Charlie” caused a stir.

Despite the drizzle, the obnoxious drunks, and the questionable viewers (‘That’s the dude from all those memes!”) I found myself engrossed in the movie like never before. The experience, as a whole, was a great one. In this lifetime of multiplexes overrun with the smell of popcorn butter, soda, and overcooked Nachos with cheese, don’t forget the reason you go to the cinemas: The MOVIES themselves. Once in a while, look for an outing like this, an “event” to watch a movie — whether it’s a midnight show, a movie in the park, or a Q & A of a mediocre hit.

Go to the movies and be a PART of them. It’s an evolving industry and these days it’s much more pleasant, at times, to sit on your couch in the peace and quiet of your own home. Don’t discount the crowd platform entirely, I implore you. When you’re there, even the most obnoxious of viewers will be engrossed for a part of the movie — and sometimes, that’s the best revenge.

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