In a city that loves its fresh air, patio cafes and beer gardens, why not also enjoy movies outside? For the past five years, Pickford Film Center has hosted a summer Rooftop Cinema series, screening free movies on the top floor of the downtown Parkade. With sweeping views of the city’s landscape, this tippy-top venue is the perfect place to hold a unique community event from Bellingham’s favorite movie house.

Live music will precede each rooftop film, tailored to set the scene. Photo credit: Jake Holt.

This year happens to be pretty special for the Pickford. “In honor of our 20th Anniversary, we’ve sprung for some big and fun titles that people will be excited about,” says Marketing Manager Lindsey Gerhard, who’s pulling out all the stops for their Rooftop line-up. “We want to make this our biggest year so far.”

This summer, we can look forward to seeing three cult classics: Clueless, The Big Lebowski and Napoleon Dynamite. Rooftop Cinema will kick off with the quintessential hair-flipping nineties teen flick, Clueless, on June 29.

The atmosphere of Rooftop Cinema is like a mini-festival with live music, snack vendors and service from several local organizations. Boundary Bay Brewery will provide a beer garden and host one of their best loved films. “The Big Lebowski is a favorite here at Boundary, and was a movie we showed for many years in our beer garden,” says Jenny Schmidt of Boundary Bay Brewery. “We are so thrilled they chose this film for this year’s rooftop series. We have a lot of great memories from those evenings in the sunshine with about 50 ‘dudes’ hanging out on rugs and we can’t wait to see what new memories we create this summer on the roof.”

When going to the rooftop, remember to bring a comfortable seat. Photo credit: Daisey James.

This year, the plan is to widen the scope of entertainment and bring more engagement to the screenings. “I’m hoping to do a costume contest for every film and we’re going to have live music and activities tailored to the themes; something special that will tie in with each movie,” says Gerhard. If you didn’t catch The Big Lebowski at Boundary Bay, you’ll get a second chance on July 27.

Whatcom Educational Credit Union (WECU), is a title sponsor for the entire summer series, but they are especially looking forward to hosting the screening of Napoleon Dynamite. “They’re really excited about the event,” says Gerhard. “WECU has energy and enthusiasm! They really care about making this a great community event.”

To celebrate in style, WECU will host a glamour shots inspired-photo booth and The Racket will partner to provide the honorary tater-tots.

The Parkade gives Bellinghamsters the perfect vantage for watching the sun dip below the bay, as the Herald lights brighten. “Being on top of the Parkade building, you feel like you’re in a bigger city but you’re really in little Bellingham,” Gerhard says. The structure is owned by the City of Bellingham and normally isn’t open to lingering visitors trying to catch the sunset. When the Pickford approached them about using the space for screening films, however, the city was very supportive.

After the sun goes down, the curtains go up. Photo credit: Aaron Brick.

Getting a large event like this staged in a place that had never been used as a venue took some trial and error at first. “We’ve worked together with the city to make this happen and, as a result, have learned a lot about the facility – for example, the power load up there! One year we had a food vendor plug in a machine and it blew a circuit,” recalls Gerhard. “The fan that kept the screen inflated then stopped and the thing started to collapse – luckily not onto the crowd!”

Having grown from a humble club of cinephiles to one of the area’s mainstay attractions, the Pickford is committed to bringing the joys of cinema to a wide audience. The Rooftop Cinema series is just one of many ways the Pickford makes films more accessible to our community. Keep an eye on their calendar for the theater’s $3.00 Sci-Fi and $1.00 family Saturday matinees.

If you plan to attend a Rooftop Screening, bring a camp chair or cushion to sit on, along with an extra layer for when it gets dark. Invite your friends and family, and don’t forget to dress up! Keep updated on the event’s activities and any changes in their calendar by visiting the Pickford’s website.

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