Now Playing: TCFF offers free movies at night | ETC

TRAVERSE CITY — Kristin Anderson was the first to bring her covers to Open Space Park for Wednesday’s free movie as part of the Traverse City Film Festival.

She was at lunchtime from a dental office in Traverse City and, although there were possible showers in the forecast, she said: “I thought we would brave this and see what happens. “

Like so many who attend the film festival each year, free movies on a big screen overlooking the West Arm of Grand Traverse Bay is an annual tradition.

Anderson always picks a movie.

“I can only do it once a year because I’m too tired the next morning,” she said.

Anderson planned to attend “Dr. Strangelove, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb,” Stanley Kubrick’s 1964 satirical film starring Peter Sellers. She was going with her husband John and her daughters, who are 21 and 18.

“They wanted to see it,” she said.

Over the past year, they’ve seen “Snow White,” “Black Panther,” and “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.”

“There’s something fun about being outside with people,” she says. “The kids are in their pajamas and sleeping bags, and many of them are collapsing before it’s all over. … People watching are fun.

Pro tip: “The first time we came, I thought we had to be really close because we couldn’t hear it here,” Anderson said. “I didn’t realize how good the sound system they had was. After that, we backtracked further. It’s a great sound system.

It’s an impressive sound system with multiple speakers throughout the park to enhance what’s playing on a 66-foot-wide, 27.5-foot-tall inflatable screen, said 2018 volunteer Bill Autenreith. and responsible for the site.

He said “Singing in the Rain” should draw a good crowd, but expects cult favorite “Princess Bride” to draw a bigger crowd, similar to the 1,000 people who showed up for see “Wizard of Oz” on opening night.

“It’s a Saturday, and it’s this movie,” he said.

He said “Star Wars: A New Hope,” the audience’s pick on Sunday, might do well, but is hurt that adults will have to work the next day.

Movies always start at dusk. Opening night was at 9:46 p.m.

Autenreith said he falls in love with the venue every night because it’s the perfect place to see a movie.

“People come from near and far, that’s for sure. So many children are coming,” he said. “I love it, I love everything about it. I was the nerd that came early every year to mark his spot.

Local tourism officials love hosting the Traverse City Film Festival this year, and the free movies at Open Space are one of the reasons, said Trevor Tkach, president and CEO of Traverse City Tourism.

“It’s quite a unique experience to go down to Open Space Park and watch a movie, a classic with the stars above and the Bay as your backdrop. It’s an iconic experience now. It’s a tradition in Traverse City, and it’s free.

The Traverse City Film Festival continues through Sunday with many more films, shorts, panels and parties.

Outdoor cinema schedule in open space

All movies start around 9:40 p.m. Free entry.

  • Thursday July 28: “Singing in the Rain: (103 minutes): Gene Kelly, Debbie Reynolds and Donald O’Connor star in this sublime marriage of song and dance, innocence and nostalgia, heartbreaking romance and surreal comedy. Set in the advent of “talkies”, this film’s classic song-and-dance numbers celebrate the beginning of musicals. The brilliant supporting cast includes Millard Mitchell, Douglas Fowley and the great Cyd Charisse, whose long-running Broadway Melody ballet legs with Kelly almost steals the show!
  • Friday July 29: “Alien” (120 minutes): In space, no one can hear you scream… The terror begins when the crew of the Nostromo (Sigourney Weaver, John Hurt, Ian Holm) investigates a transmission from a desolate planet and discovers a life form that is perfectly evolved to annihilate humanity. Four decades later, nothing has topped Ridley Scott’s explosive sci-fi clash between one of cinema’s most famous heroines and the perfect killing machine.
  • Saturday July 30: “Princess Bride” (110 minutes): Buttercup and Westley’s timeless romance is a sublime story of true love and wild adventure, propelled by gripping, never-ending dialogue, confident direction and an incredible cast (Billy Crystal, Wallace Shawn, Carole Kane, Mandy Patinikin and Christopher Guest). Criminal masterminds, Spanish swordsmen, masked pirates, misunderstood giants, the cliffs of madness and howling eels – the list of joys this film offers goes on and on. Is there a finer fairy tale in the kingdom… inconceivable!
  • Sunday July 31: “Star Wars: New Hope” (120 minutes): Luke Skywalker embarks on a galaxy-changing journey in Star Wars: A New Hope. Nineteen years after the Empire was formed, Luke is thrust into the struggle of the Rebel Alliance when he meets Obi-Wan Kenobi, who has lived for years in seclusion on the desert planet of Tatooine. Obi-Wan begins Luke’s Jedi training as Luke joins him on a daring mission to rescue the beautiful rebel leader, Princess Leia, from the clutches of Darth Vader and the Evil Empire.

For more on the Traverse City Film Festival, go to

John Gonzalez is a journalist with over 30 years of experience in entertainment, film, food, music, travel and craft beverages. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram at


Alfonso E. Cramer