Library of Congress screens ‘Summer Movies on the Lawn’

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

Many D.C. residents were sad to see HBO pull the plug on “Screen on the Green” on the National Mall in 2016.

The Library of Congress presents "Summer Movies on the Lawn." (Shawn Miller)

Since 2017, the Library of Congress has gladly filled that void with “Summer Movies on the Lawn.”

“When Screen on the Green ended, we decided it was a great opportunity for the Library to jump on this — we decided we have the real estate, we have the view, why not do it outside the Library so people can enjoy it?” Roswell Encina of the Library of Congress told WTOP. “We believe this view is perfect. You have a view of the Library of Congress … but you also see the U.S. Capitol building, so it couldn’t be any more D.C. than that.”

Screenings will be held Thursdays at sundown starting July 6 with the Marvel superhero blockbuster “Iron Man” (2008), which just entered the National Film Registry in 2022.

“The Library of Congress has one of the biggest comic-book collections,” Encina said. “It was the first film of the Marvel Universe and it was a big gamble for them. If it didn’t work, they couldn’t do all the other films. They took a gamble on Robert Downey Jr., then it just exploded into what the Marvel Cinematic Universe is now. We can’t think of superhero films nowadays without Robert Downey Jr. and the cast of The Avengers.”

July 13 brings the delicious family classic “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” (1971), which was inducted into the National Film Registry in 2014.

“‘Willy Wonka’ was based on Roald Dahl’s book ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’ and everybody remembers watching this film,” Encina said. “It brings out so many emotions from the songs, the Oompa Loompa songs, a world of ‘Pure Imagination.’ You clearly don’t need a golden ticket to come to the Library to watch this. It’s going to pull on your heartstrings and remind you of your childhood.”

July 20 brings the animated film “Shrek” (2001), which entered the National Film Registry recently in 2020.

“This was DreamWorks’ first animated film, so it really put them on the map and made them a serious contender in competing with Disney and all the other studios,” Encina said. “Since then, ‘Shrek’ has spawned so many sequels and even became a Broadway show, so it’s been part of the fabric of our film history. … We all want to see Donkey, we want to see Shrek, we want to see Princess Fiona, so this is very well loved.”

July 27 brings “Groundhog Day” (1993), which was inducted into the National Film Registry in 2006.

“There’s been so many other films, especially recently, that have explored the time loop story, but this was the original,” Encina said. “Everybody remembers Bill Murray waking up to ‘Sonny & Cher’ and all of the shenanigans that happened day after day after day. … How could you not include this film? This film was one of the first films added to the registry. People loved it when it first came out. It was an instant classic.”

Aug. 3 brings “Mary Poppins” (1964), which deservedly entered the National Film Registry in 2013.

“It’s one of the best musicals out there,” Encina said. “We want families to come to the Library and sing along. Everybody wants to sing ‘Spoonful of Sugar’ or ‘Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious,’ everybody knows the lines and we want them to sing and have fun with it. This movie was based on a series of books by P.L. Travers and Walt Disney himself courted her. … Julie Andrews won the Oscars for Best Actress for ‘Mary Poppins.'”

The series wraps Aug. 10 with “Jaws” (1975), which made the National Film Registry in 2001.

“It was the very first summer blockbuster and it was one of Steven Spielberg’s first, based on the novel by Peter Benchley,” Encina said. “What’s memorable about this movie of course is not only the big shark but it’s the score, the theme song. Everybody remembers that, just a couple of notes and it made you nervous to go into the water. John Williams’ score is actually part of the Library of Congress’ collection.”

Find more information here.

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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