As the number of rural and suburban drive-in movie theaters across the country continues to decline, a smaller, more informal brand of outdoor movie screening is on the rise in urban centers.
This summer, Buffalo audiences have had opportunities to see Squeaky Wheel's Outdoor Animation Festival, its screenings of "Pee-Wee's Big Adventure," "Super 8" and other films on the waterfront.
Just this week, Squeaky Wheel also hosted an outdoor screening of the Rural Routes Film Festival outside Big Orbit Gallery. And don't forget the popular weekly classic film series presented by the Parkside Community Association in Delaware Park, which closes out its season at 7:55 tonight with "Young Frankenstein."
At the Burchfield Penney Art Center tonight, two local artists will host Buffalo's first foray into the international pop-up film festival phenomenon known as Bring Your Own Beamer.
Leave your BMWs parked at home, though: "Beamer" is a German word for "video projector," and artists at dozens of BYOB events around the world have been encouraged to tote their own projectors along to screen their work in a variety of public and private spaces.
The event's website describes the concept as "an international open source art project."
The Buffalo event, organized by artists Anna Scime and Liz Flyntz, is not quite as democratic as that.
Scime and Flyntz invited about two dozen local and international artists to participate in the event, with projectors supplied by the Burchfield Penney and the University at Buffalo's Media Study department.
The screening will be held on the art center's lawn, with videos to be projected on the curved wall of the building.
"We sort of had to control the amount of projectors because there's a limit to how much wattage we can pull from the outdoor circuit at the Burchfield Penney and we don't want to accidentally overload the circuit and, like, turn the power off for the whole street," Flyntz said.
She added that her desire to mount a Buffalo version of the event was inspired by a similar series of outdoor screenings mounted by Squeaky Wheel. Those screenings, she said, "seemed pretty family-friendly and a nice way to get people to sort of occupy that space, because it tends to be sort of just a big lawn that leads up to the museum and it's sort of barren."
The screening will include work by well-known Buffalo video artist Tony Conrad, along with recent pieces by Scime, Shasti O'Leary Soudant, Tim Scaffidi, former Squeaky Wheel director Dorothea Braemer and the European artist Anthony Antonellis.
Musical backing will be provided by the Reactionary Ensemble, which will play during setup and may also provide improvised soundtracks for some films.
For Flyntz, the screening will not only provide a unique venue for artists to exhibit their work, but a way to tap into a new audience that might be intimidated by the surroundings of a gallery or museum.
"Just thinking about other spaces where people watch movies outside, like drive-in movie theaters, they tend to be more community-oriented," she said.
"I think that people act differently when they're watching something outside than when they're inside. I hope that it would ... have a more participatory feel and maybe engage people who maybe wouldn't otherwise go inside the Burchfield Penney because they might just be wandering by and see all this crazy activity on the side of the building."