Cinema alfresco: Watch a movie under the stars

Watching movies under the stars is fast becoming the thing with people who want to gather with friends and family to catch a show and have a good time

Whether you are a fan of mainstream comedies or cult indie flicks, it is time to pack your picnic mats and head to the great outdoors.

Cinema alfresco - that is, watching movies on a huge screen under the stars - is getting more popular here, with diverse film options and price points.

Popping up at carparks, open fields or by the beach, these events are no longer held as part of festivals, but are frequent standalone affairs.

Whether they are private companies or government institutions, organisers say that they want to encourage alternative ways of enjoying movies other than the usual multiplex experience.

The purpose of Be My Kaki Movie Bus, a mobile cinema on wheels that goes to different neighbourhoods every week, is to reignite a community tradition in old kampungs, in which neighbours came together to watch black-and-white television programmes in a person's home or at community centres, says Mr Andre Oei, People's Association director of residents' and neighbourhood committees (RC and NC) division.

  • Upcoming screenings

  • BE MY KAKI MOVIE BUS

    Movie: Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice (2016) Where: Marquee at Palmview, Block 555 Hougang Street 51 When: Tonight, 8pm

    Movie: The Mermaid (2016)

    Where: Basketball court at Block 116 Ho Ching Road When: Tonight, 7pm Admission: Free Info: There are more screenings this weekend in other neighbourhoods. Go to to www.facebook.com/BeMyKakiBus for the full schedule of screenings


    MOVIEMOB

    Movie: Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them (2016) Where: Urban Plaza outside Viva Business Park (in front of Yoda Japanese Dining), 750 Chai Chee Road When: May 5, 7 to 9.30pm (screening starts from 7.30pm) Admission: Free Info: www.facebook.com/apemoviemob

    SUNSET CINEMA PRESENTED BY PERONI

    Movies: Arrival (2016), Jackie (2016), Lion (2016), The Founder (2016), A United Kingdom (2016) and Captain Fantastic (2016)

    Where: Tanjong Beach, 120 Tanjong Beach Walk, Sentosa When: May 5 to 14, 7.30pm (gates open at 5pm) Admission: $29.80+ (recommended for adults as all the films are rated PG13 or higher) Info: Some screenings are sold out. For details, go to www.sunsetcinema.com.sg. There will be free shuttle bus services from Tanjong Beach to HarbourFront MRT station after each screening


    OUTDOOR FILM SCREENING AS PART OF SINGAPORE HERITAGE FESTIVAL

    Movies: Old Friends (2015), Wanton Mee (2015), Kway Chap (2015), and The Missing Ingredient (2016). All are local films that revolve around food

    Where: Asian Civilisations Museum Green, 1 Empress Place When: May 12 and 13, 7 to 10pm Admission: Free  Info: heritagefestival.sg/programmes/outdoor-film-screening


    SINGAPORE OPEN AIR CINEMA CLUB

    Movie: Amelie (2001)

    Where: The Hive, 59 New Bridge Road When: May 19 Admission: $18 or $10 for members of The Hive (includes a drink and snack) Info: www.facebook.com/SingaporeOpenAir CinemaClub


    FILMS AT THE FORT PRESENTED BY CASILLERO DEL DIABLO

    Movies: A total of 15 films but titles are yet to be confirmed

    Where: Fort Canning Park When: Aug 3 to 20 Admission: To be confirmed Info: www.filmsatthefort.com.sg

The programme was launched by the People's Association in January last year.

From Fridays to Sundays, three 8m-long trucks carrying a 3m by 2m LED screen travel around the island to various public and private housing estates showing movies for free.

They stop at open spaces such as carparks and basketball courts. On average, 250 residents turn up each time and there are 15 to 20 screenings each month.

Two are taking place tonight in Hougang and Taman Jurong and another five during the weekend.

In February, estate cleaner and grandmother of three Toh Ah Ni, 70, caught Jack Neo's kampung movie Long Long Time Ago 2 (2016) below her block in Buangkok Green with her family.

"I can explain to my grandchildren that this is like the open-air cinemas we used to have in kampungs last time. And it is convenient for me as I do not have to travel," she says.

Certain outdoor film screenings can form a strong and loyal community, especially when viewers have a say in what is being shown.

This is the case for MovieMob, a free open-air cinema experience held six to eight times a year at various locations, including The Oval in Seletar Aerospace Park.

MovieMob's 46,100 Facebook followers typically vote for the movies they would like to see, based on a theme. These can range from oldies to recent flicks.

On May 5, there will be a screening of the recent Harry Potter spin-off, Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them (2016), at an open space at the Viva Business Park in Chai Chee.

MovieMob was started by homegrown advertising agency Ape Works in 2009.

Inspired by the Jurong Drive-In cinema, Singapore's only open-air drive-in cinema in the 1970s, it started to do pop-up drive-in cinemas. The screenings take place using a mobile inflatable screen .

Since then, it has expanded to screenings without the cars. Instead, patrons sit on mats provided by the organisers and have a picnic.

More than 1,000 people showed up for each drive-in screening and 500 for the regular ones.

One of Ape Works' co-founders, Mr Caine Teo, 34, says MovieMob's outdoor film screenings do not compete with regular cinemas.

"We always tell people who request new films to go to the theatres. MovieMob is more about the experience and enjoying a night under the stars with your family or friends rather than just watching a movie," he says.

These outdoor film options are PG fare catered to families - and their pets.

If you are looking for something more adult-oriented, or want to catch an indie film, there is the Singapore Open Air Cinema Club's monthly screening.

Its selection ranges from arthouse to award-winners such as the road trip comedy Little Miss Sunshine (2006) and cult Quentin Tarrantino flick Pulp Fiction (1994).

The event is organised by co-working space the Hive Singapore in New Bridge Road and takes place on the rooftop of a shophouse.

Although admission comes at a fee - $10 for Hive members, including a drink and snack and $18 for non-members - each event quickly sells out days before the screening.

Hive's next showing is the quirky French arthouse film Amelie (2001) on May 19.

Some of these outdoor film events have built up a lifestyle experience around the screening, for example, by choosing scenic locations and having food and game booths.

The upcoming Sunset Cinema, a new outdoor film festival taking place on Sentosa's Tanjong Beach from May 5 to 14, allows patrons to bring their own food, or they can buy snacks and booze from the F&B stations.

Nearby restaurant-bar Tanjong Beach Club will be selling lobster rolls and shucked oysters from $4.

Sponsored by Peroni, the Italian beer brand, the festival features six recent films, including adoption drama Lion (2016) and philosophical sci-fi thriller Arrival (2016).

Tickets start at $29.80 a person.

So far, three of the seven screenings are sold out.

The event is organised by Groundswell Events, the company behind Films At The Fort, an outfoor festival at Fort Canning combining films with gourmet food and wine.

In the case of rain at Sunset Cinema, Groundswell Events director Ben Williams, 34, says the screening may be cancelled and rescheduled, or the tickets can be credited to Films At The Fort.

The free and easygoing atmosphere of outdoor screenings attracts assistant manager Ann Lai, 38, to rally her family for movie nights.

She last attended a MovieMob screening of animated comedy The Secret Life Of Pets (2016) in Marina Bay with her elderly mother, sister and nephew.

"You can bring your own food and don't have to keep silent throughout the entire movie," she says.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 28, 2017, with the headline 'Screen capture'. Print Edition | Subscribe