Cinema paradiso

Spend an entertaining night under the stars at these outdoor arenas

Bring a picnic and settle down under the stars. At these summer outdoor movie series, special events like dance contests, music performances, and script readings keep the night fun and lighthearted. All shows begin around dusk; call for details. (To find out how to start a film series in your area, visit www.outdoorcinema.com)

BOULDER, CO

Boulder Outdoor Cinema, 1750 13th St. $5 donation suggested; www.boulderoutdoorcinema.com or 303/444-1351

SCENE: In a lot behind the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art, with a great view of the Flatirons. Trivia, music, and teams acting out movie scenes for prizes. Friday nights for grown-ups, Saturday nights for families, Memorial Day-Labor Day.

FOOD: Wild Oats Marketplace (303/442-0909), a natural-foods grocery, across the street from the cinema, is great for sandwiches and hot-food takeout. Having pizza delivered right to the lot is also popular.

FLAGSTAFF, AZ

Movies on the Square, Heritage Square on Aspen Ave. Free; 928/774-7356 ext. 165

SCENE: Set in a historic brick square downtown, the family-focused cinema is heavy on Disney, with unique themed preshow festivities ― for Grease, local instructors taught dance moves. Friday nights, May 14-Sep 10.

FOOD: The organizers sell pizza and hot dogs; for a more refined experience before the show, try Pasto (928/779-1937), one of the city's best Italian restaurants and just steps away from the square.

HOLLYWOOD, CA

Hollywood Forever Cemetery/Cinespia Summer Film Series, 6000 Santa Monica Blvd. $10 donation suggested; www.cinespia.org or 323/469-1181

SCENE: Seating is in a big open field, with rarely screened classics and screwball comedies from the '30s to the '70s projected on a large marble wall. Twice a month on Saturday nights, Apr-Oct.

FOOD: Locals in the know bring their own gourmet picnic baskets or wait in line for the messy but delicious chicken tarna pita at Zankou Chicken (5065 W. Sunset Blvd.; 323/665-7842).

OLYMPIA, WA

Olympia (Almost Free) Outdoor Cinema, 700 Capital Blvd. N. $5 donation suggested; www.olympiaoutdoorcinema.org or 360/867-1342

SCENE: In a lot behind the farmers' market. The evening opens with music, games, and flying loaves of bread (a popular giveaway). The website lets fans vote on the lineup. Saturday nights Jun 26-Aug 28 (except Jul 17).

FOOD: Many families set up small barbecues for a preshow grilling party. Or, just across the street, Mercato Ristorante (360/528-3663) does a good business in takeout pizza.

SAN JOSE

Picnic, Popcorn, and Picture Show at Santana Row, Park Valencia on Olin Ave. Free; www.santanarow.com or 408/551-4600

SCENE: Family-oriented movies ― both new releases and classics ― are screened amid the European ambience of Santana Row shopping center. Chairs are set up in a grassy courtyard ― all you need are your snacks. Wednesday nights, May 19-Aug 25.

FOOD: Organizers offer coupons for nearby restaurants. If you're feeling lucky, come early to snag a terrace table with a screen view at Maggiano's Little Italy (408/423-8973).

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