Movies By The Boulevard @ Cathy Freeman Park, Sydney Olympic Park (13 January 2017)

Confession.  I once hid in the toilets of Chatswood’s Hoyts cinema after seeing Blade: Trinity to catch a second film, Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events, for free.  I recall the thrill and guilt as a 14 year old boy with terrible taste in movies sitting in that cubicle,  beyond mortified that I would get caught sneaking into a film I hadn’t paid for.  I pulled it off though.  Hardcore rebel.  Aspiring criminal.  The great, pre-torrent film heist of 2004.

Fast forward 13 years and catching a free film isn’t nearly as bad ass.  I headed out to Olympic Park with my friends Victoria, Christine and Sarah to watch Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them at Movies By The Boulevard.  Described as “Sydney’s Free Outdoor Film Festival”, this season runs to 26 January 2017 and features classics like The Lion King and Strictly Ballroom, as well as some newer films (The Secret Life Of Pets, X-Men Apocalypse and Red Dog: True Blue).  And they’re all FREE. Take THAT Moonlight Cinema and StGeorge Open Air Cinema (in all fairness those are slightly more centrally located for my purposes and just as awesome, so I still go to them).

I quickly put the event up on Viva a day earlier (Viva’s great for making quick event profiles to invite friends to):

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Cathy Freeman Park was packed at arrival at 8:10pm, with the movie kicking off from 8:30pm (but food and activities for kids are on from 6pm).  Despite our arriving so close to start time, and the huge amount of people already there, we still managed an awesome seat:

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A thick blanket of grey-blue clouds, the archenemy of any outdoor event, swirled above to hold us hostage:

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We escaped unscathed though, with a few drops startling a crowd of mostly families.  Sitting on that lawn under those clouds and watching a film in silence is a pretty incredible experience, I almost forgot anyone else was there despite being surrounded by hundreds of people.

And Fantastic Beasts is an awesome film.  Superb casting and darker, more mature themes (anti-witch sentiment, abuse, death, illegal wildlife trade, applying for a small business loan) set in beautiful 1920s New York City  brought a refreshing spin on the Harry Potter film franchise, which was wearing thin for me after the first 2 films.   It’s been out for a while now, but I strongly recommend it for fans of the series and first-timers.

The first thing I did the next morning was find my copy of “Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them” (ironically lost for past decade or so, but now found) – amazed to see I bought this as an 11 year old in 2001 for $5.95 from Angus & Robertson:

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3 years later and I’d gone off the rails, sneaking into movies for free.  15 years later and I still go to movies for free.  I suppose nothing’s changed.

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You can catch Movies By The Boulevard at Cathy Freeman Park, Sydney Olympic Park with dinner and activities from 6pm and movies starting at around 8:30pm on most Wednesday-Sunday nights until Thursday, 26 January 2017 – check the website for screenings and dates. It’s free, so grab the fam or get a big group of friends together for the next session on Viva!

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