Attendees packed in and snuggled up at Alamo Square Park on June 8, 2023 for the Sundown Cinema screening of the 1978 film, “Invasion of the Body Snatchers”. (Michaela Mateo/Golden Gate Xpress) (Michaela Mateo)
Attendees packed in and snuggled up at Alamo Square Park on June 8, 2023 for the Sundown Cinema screening of the 1978 film, “Invasion of the Body Snatchers”. (Michaela Mateo/Golden Gate Xpress)

Michaela Mateo

SF Parks Alliance holds their first Sundown Cinema of the summer at Alamo Square Park

For students who are on campus or live in the city, this outdoor cinema experience provides a new exciting experience during the summer

June 12, 2023

Free outdoor movie screenings are scheduled to take place in various parks in San Francisco throughout the entire summer leading up to October 20, brought to you by SF Parks Alliance.

SF Parks Alliance, a nonprofit organization based in San Francisco, screens family-friendly films that provide an enjoyable community experience held in different parks throughout the city. This past Thursday the 1978 film, “Invasion of the Body Snatchers,” was shown in Alamo Square which features San Francisco architecture.

Sundown Cinema was originally called “Film Night in the Park” created by the San Francisco Neighborhood Theatre Foundation, an organization dedicated to preserving historic movie theaters. The series began in 2003, and the organizations have collaborated since 2019 to bring in a larger community audience.

SF Parks Alliance allows community residents and groups to vote on which films should be shown at the parks, which typically have a theme based on location and time of year. The film featured at Sundown Cinema involves a scene at Alamo Square Park located in the Western Addition.

“We just leave it completely open,” said Mark Hennon, the senior project manager of parks and place for SF Parks Alliance. “Certain neighborhoods have sort of leaned into themes like Jerry Garcia Amphitheatre and McLaren Park, who’ve always requested a family-friendly movie, and now they sort of turned into a de facto Halloween movie just because of the timing of the year when we do our movie down there.”

Jake Ramirez, the associate director for marketing for SF Parks Alliance, says that their organization determines which parks host Sundown Cinema by basing it on equitable development zones in the city.

“The city has what they call equitable development zones that don’t have as much access to parks, programming or funding,” Ramirez said. “We do try and emphasize bringing events to those parts of the city. Some parks though are iconic, like Alamo Square.”

SF Parks Alliance also helps fundraise to build and renovate new playgrounds in San Francisco. Currently, they are collaborating with the SF Recreation and Parks Department in a project titled Let’s Play SF, in which 13 high-need playgrounds across the city are redesigned. Some parks include Washington Square Park, Panhandle Playground, Golden Gate Heights Park and more.

“We identified 13 high-need playgrounds across the city that had wood with lead in it, toxic chemicals, splinters and they weren’t great playgrounds,” Ramirez said. “We kind of redesigned them from the ground up and those are some of the coolest playgrounds in the city In my opinion.”

According to Hennon, an event such as Sundown Cinema takes a lot of time to plan out. He states it is a year-long process to execute the outdoor cinema experience for the community.

“We start heavy planning about four months before a lot of the permits that we get depending on the property owner. At Presidio, some of these permits are required to be turned in months in advance,” Hennon said. “Then we start booking street vendors, security, getting the bar ready and talking to sponsors. There’s a big team actually, I’d say probably at least over 20 people who work on this project.”

The guests that arrived before the start of the film were in for a treat as five individuals participated in a game of trivia with a variety of movie-based questions. The contestants were competing against each other to win prizes provided by SF Parks Alliance. The questions varied from San Francisco film history to the release year of the first-ever science fiction film.

The winner of Trivia, Adam Bruening, won a canvas tote bag, a star projector and also two free movie tickets.

“I spent a lot of time on youtube watching various movie reviewers,” Bruening said. “I like trivia so when he said it was going to be sci-fi movie trivia I thought it was not too bad.”

Also featured at Sundown Cinema were food trucks, a mini-bar and an informational booth of SF Parks Alliance. Most guests on the grass were seen in pairs or groups with boxes of pizza and bottles of wine to share with each other.

One attendee, Hannah Stapp, was seen patiently waiting for her friends as she found a comfortable spot to sit down and relax.

“It’s my first time here and I heard about it through a friend,” Stapp said. “I haven’t seen the film but I looked up reviews and saw that this park was in the film. I’m really looking forward to catching up with friends and also sitting outside in a park and watching a good movie.”

Below is a map of the Sundown Cinema dates that run through October 20.

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About the Contributors
Photo of Bryan Chavez
Bryan Chavez, Multimedia Editor
Bryan Chavez (he/him) is a reporter for SF State’s Golden Gate Xpress. He is a senior pursuing a major in Journalism with a minor in Sociology. As a lifelong resident of the Bay Area, Bryan aspires to become a beat writer for the Golden State Warriors or any other major league sports team in the region. Beyond his journalistic pursuits, he enjoys engaging in hobbies such as hiking, painting, and building with Legos during his free time.
Photo of Michaela Mateo
Michaela Mateo, Visuals Editor
Michaela Gutierrez Mateo (She/Her) is the Golden Gate Xpress Visuals Editor for Fall 2023. Her nickname is Micha, is a 4th year Photojournalism major and an Asian American Studies minor. She is a transfer student from Chabot College, Hayward where she had her first experience as a reporter for The Spectator. Her passion is photography and film but most of all she is a Kdrama and Kpop addict.

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