In our third Covid-19 summer, many aspects of life have changed and adapted to a new “normal.” While months-long quarantine lockdowns and the everyday use of disposable gloves have diminished, one of the best things that’s come out of the pandemic is our reinvigorated use of outdoor spaces for events that were always considered indoor activities: the movies. 

Movie Loft is one local organization that is still taking advantage of outdoor movie screenings, with an upcoming showing of the film Citizen Ruth at Shadowbox Studio in late May. The event is free but open to donations, and all proceeds will go to Carolina Abortion Fund, an organization that works to defend abortion rights, says Movie Loft’s film curator Stephen Conrad.

“When the leak broke about Roe v. Wade, I was trying to think of a way to raise some money for a local organization defending and funding abortion rights,” Conrad says. “Carolina Abortion Fund is a Durham-based group, and I thought, why not show a somewhat related movie and then we’ll just give all the money to the cause.” 

Movie Loft isn’t the only organization taking advantage of the outdoors this summer. North Carolina Museum of Art (NCMA) will be continuing its beloved outdoor movie series throughout the summer and plans to highlight movies that many people weren’t able to see in theaters due to COVID, says Maria Lopez, manager of film programs at NCMA.

“I just want people to kind of forget for a while that we’re living in a pandemic, and it’s a way for people to get together with friends and family, have a good time outdoors, watch these amazing movies, and hopefully have a really memorable experience,” Lopez says.

This series will include Oscar nominees and winners, including Nomadland, Soul, Judas and the Black Messiah, as well as new favorites like Encanto, West Side Story (2021), and Dune. NCMA also plans to celebrate Juneteenth with a DJ set and dance party, ‘70s fashion, and an outdoor screening of award-winning documentary Summer of Soul.

Documentaries are on the rise this summer, as Mike O’Connell, a local producer/director at PBS NC, is producing an independent film called George H. White: Searching for Freedom that will broadcast on NC public TV on June 12-18 in honor of Juneteenth. There will also be an in-person showing of the movie on June 17 at the NC Museum of History.

But it’s not time for the credits to roll just yet! This summer’s outdoor movie lineup will also include Durham’s Full Frame Roadshow screenings on Monday nights in August; Hillsborough Summer Film Series highlighting Southern culture; Duke’s Screen/Society series at Nasher Museum of Art’s sculpture garden; and Hayti Film Next Level, a monthly series and fundraiser to support the Hayti Heritage Film Festival.

Outdoor films may have taken off out of necessity, but they provide a rare cinematic experience for audience members that can’t usually be replicated outside of a theater, Lopez says. These summer series will allow people to watch films “how they’re meant to be seen: on the big screen.”

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