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Outdoor Film Festival Draws Thousands

The fifth annual Outdoor Film Festival at NIH drew perhaps as many as 60,000 attendees over its 9-night run (Hitchcock's The Birds was rained out), raised more than $18,000 for three NIH charities, provided the venue for innumerable birthdays and other anniversaries, and even made the front page of the New York Times on July 30; a feature story about the national resurgence of al fresco moviegoing prominently featured the NIH event.

"Everything else (but the rainout) went really hunkydory," said R&W President Randy Schools. "People really enjoy it." He said that, drawn by the Times article, guests arrived by shuttle from New York City to view films here, and that several businessmen from Long Beach, Calif., came out to see the series in order to plan a similar event for the Los Angeles/Long Beach area. "The film series also made all the local television news broadcasts," Schools added.

Crowds gather before dusk to claim prime real estate in the viewing amphitheater.

He noted one mishap that was funny only in retrospect: a late-arriving guest, thinking the event was a real drive-in, pulled her car into the parking lot between Stone House and Bldg. 16A, and proceeded to hop the curb and head down the grass before police and organizers halted her vehicle.

"The location is great, plus the movies are good choices," said Seth Coppock. "It's nice to have the vendors — we'll buy dessert. But it's also nice that we can bring in our own food too if we want."

"It's different, a unique alternative to everyday life," said Cory Kenworthy. "It's outside, free, relaxing and a great way to spend a summer evening." Added Carole Berman, "It's fun, convenient, and a great atmosphere. You see all different types of people here." Guest Ellen Mennie said, "It's something the whole family can do together."

Clutching their teddy bears (above) before the movie one night are guests who gathered to celebrate the 10th birthday of Laura Sheys (second from l). They are (from l) Lacy Leibovitz, 9, of Bethesda, Kristen Rupp, 8, Karen Sheys (kneeling), 7, and Lily Oyler, 9.

Three NIH-related charities — the Friends of the Clinical Center, Special Love, Inc., and the Children's Inn — split proceeds raised from donations and from sales by vendors ringing the grassy amphitheater where the screen was erected. Sponsors of the event included Comcast, Geico, KSI Realty and Bethesda Court Hotel.

A picnicking group poses for a shot from their encampment on the lawn behind Natcher Bldg.

Despite daunting expenses for the giant screen, sound system, a projectionist/projector and movie rental ($400 per film), Schools said the annual filmfest is so successful that it will likely remain a summer staple on campus.

The lights from vendor row illuminate the guests at the Outdoor Film Festival.

Ahhh, a moonlit night, a film projector, and thee...

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