Miss ‘Screen on the Green?’ Library of Congress hosts ‘Summer Movies on the Lawn’

WTOP's Jason Fraley previews Summer Movies on the Lawn (Part 1)

Every year, the Library of Congress chooses great movies for the National Film Registry, and you can watch them under the stars at the fifth annual “Summer Movies on the Lawn.”

“We wanted to find a platform to spotlight great films that have become either classics or new classics,” Chief Communications Officer Roswell Encina told WTOP. “We all have a connection to these movies from our childhood or some happy moment in our lives. … Anybody who lives in the DMV will love these films that we present on the lawn.”

It fills a need after “Screen on the Green” was discontinued on the National Mall in 2016.

“I’m not gonna lie, when we heard that the films on the green were not going to happen, that was our opportunity to do this,” Encina said. “People clearly want to hang out on the National Mall, or at least near it because in our case we’re on Capitol Hill, but it allowed us to take advantage of the opportunity.”

The weekly series kicks off this Thursday with “Top Gun” (1986), which was inducted into the National Film Registry in 2015 and is now timely again thanks to “Top Gun: Maverick.”

“With the success of ‘Top Gun: Maverick,’ we decided to bring this classic back,” Encina said. “There’s such a hunger back to see this classic. Clearly, everybody loves the new movie. If you come back to watch the original, you’ll be able to see all the Easter eggs in the new movie like, ‘Oh, Jennifer Connelly’s character was mentioned in the first movie!'”

July 14 brings “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” (1971), which was added to the National Film Registry in 2014, just two years before the passing of star Gene Wilder.

“Everybody has a close connection to this movie,” Encina said. “You’re going to sing to it, you’re going to want to eat some candy while you’re watching it. Everybody has such a close, personal relationship with this movie. I know I do. Every time I see it on TV, I can’t help but watch it. … We all relate to each of the kids. … That’s why it’s so timeless.”

July 21 brings “Rocky” (1976), which made the National Film Registry in 2006, so visitors can run up the steps of the Library of Congress and raise their fists like Rocky Balboa.

“It’s Rocky! Sylvester Stallone! It won Best Picture!” Encina said. “We recently had Stallone at the Library of Congress … and we were able to show him some items in the collection. … Because of that visit, we were inspired like, ‘You know what? ‘Rocky’ would be the perfect movie to show this summer. Everybody will love it.'”

July 28 brings “Mary Poppins” (1964), which made the National Film Registry in 2013 and is timely again as Julie Andrews just received the AFI Life Achievement Award in June.

“With the success of last year’s screening of ‘The Sound of Music,’ we’re going to do a sing-a-long this year with ‘Mary Poppins,'” Encina said. “It’s a classic, everybody knows all the songs. We’re going to have our L.O.C. Chorale, our staff chorale association, to rev up the crowd to sing along. It’ll be a good time. If you know the songs, get ready to sing.”

Finally, Aug. 4 wraps the series with “WALL-E” (2008), an instant classic that was just inducted into the National Film Registry last year as part of the library’s newest class.

“Kids and adults alike connected to this movie, whether it’s the little robot or the status of the earth in 2805 when the movie was set,” Encina said. “The simple message of this film resonates with people whether it’s global warming or preserving the environment. … It allows us to tell folks that you can nominate films to be added to the film registry every year.”

Screenings begin between sunset and sundown at approximately 8:15 p.m. Bring a blanket to the southeast lawn of the Thomas Jefferson Building at the corner of 2nd Street SE and Independence Avenue to watch movies with a picturesque Capitol Hill backdrop.

“We have this beautiful landscape just outside of the Library of Congress,” Encina said. “You can’t beat it. You’ve got the Capitol there, you’ve got the sun setting, we decided it would be a nice setup to showcase these films. … It’s a humongous screen, the equivalent of watching a movie screen at a movie theater, but you’re outside!”

No tickets are required for the outdoor film screenings, but visitors are encouraged to arrive early as space is limited. Visitors must stay with their items on the lawn at all times.

“We welcome everyone to bring their blanket, a picnic basket, bring your dinner, bring your drinks and just enjoy the movie — and of course bring some bug spray,” Encina said.

WTOP's Jason Fraley previews Summer Movies on the Lawn (Part 2)

Listen to our full conversation here.

Jason Fraley

Hailed by The Washington Post for “his savantlike ability to name every Best Picture winner in history," Jason Fraley began at WTOP as Morning Drive Writer in 2008, film critic in 2011 and Entertainment Editor in 2014, providing daily arts coverage on-air and online.

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