'Close Encounters of the Third Kind’ | Credit: Sony Pictures

With themes ranging from “Hot Nights with Bogie and Bacall” and “Be Excellent and Party On,” to “Gotta Sing, Gotta Dance: The Great American Musicals,” and “Robots, Space Aliens, and Body Snatchers,” it’s always fun to learn about what new theme the team at UCSB Arts & Lectures (A&L) will come up with for its annual free summer cinema series on Friday nights at the Courthouse Sunken Gardens.

This summer’s “Out of this World” series launches on Friday, July 7, at 8:30 p.m. with Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Steven Spielberg’s beloved UFO abduction tale. Caitlin O’Hara, A&L’s director of Public Lectures & Special Initiatives, answered a few questions about the series.

How did you come up with the theme?  I thought about films that would be fun to watch outdoors in a community setting like the Courthouse, and I had several other working lists of themes, but the list of alien-centric films came together the most organically and felt like the most fun. We want to pick a theme that will have broad appeal, and this year we have some thrillers, some classics, some comedies … this lineup gave us an opportunity to have a little something for everyone.

What film are you most excited about sharing or seeing again?  It’s hard to pick favorites because each film offers something unique. But… if you twist my arm, The Fifth Element (July 28) was the idea that kicked off the series in my mind, so I have a soft spot for that film. I think Alien (July 14) is going to be really fun to see in this setting. I sort of visualize people curling under their blankets and popcorn flying out of buckets as they jump in their seats. And I think Nope (August 25) is a great way to wrap up the series. It contains elements of all these other films — it’s serious and humorous, scary and fun, smart and entertaining all at the same time — and it’s a unique and creative take on the alien-invasion film. 

What is it about this summer cinema series that makes it so special?  The balmy summer nights under the stars, the gorgeous Courthouse lit up under the moon, the shared experience with community members from all walks of life — it doesn’t get much better than that. 

Anything else?  There is so much joy and creativity that takes place around these screenings, whether it’s restaurants creating a special menu, truly masterful picnic setups, and other participation like costume contests, performances, deejays — it really brings the community together. Stay tuned to hear about some of the special activities we have in store this year, like a climbing wall and other activities from UCSB Adventure Programs on opening night.

I also want to give a shout-out to our sponsors Montecito Bank & Trust; the county, which partners with us; and everyone who comes together to make this such a wonderful event.

For more information and the complete schedule of free summer films, see artsandlectures.ucsb.edu/events-tickets/free-summer-cinema.


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