Kennedy Center hosts free outdoor films at REACH

WTOP's Jason Fraley previews outdoor films at Kennedy Center's REACH (Part 1)

The D.C. area hosts plenty of outdoor movie series, but very few take place on such hallowed grounds.

Patrons watch "Show Boat" on the giant video wall at the REACH outside the Kennedy Center. (Jati Lindsay)

Starting this Friday, the Kennedy Center hosts free outdoor film screenings on the REACH Video Wall with movies starting at sundown or around 8:30 p.m.

The series kicks off this Friday, May 31, with “Jurassic Park” (1993), a summer blockbuster 65 million years in the making. Directed by Steven Spielberg, the stunning dinosaur flick marked the transition between stop-motion puppetry into a new era of computer graphics, joining “King Kong” (1933) as arguably the two most important creature features ever made.

It continues next Friday, June 7, with “Dreamgirls” (2006), which famously transformed Jennifer Hudson from “American Idol” contestant to an Academy Award-winning actress belting powerful musical numbers alongside Beyoncé, Jamie Foxx, Anika Noni Rose, Danny Glover and Eddie Murphy. The film joined “Moulin Rouge!” (2001) and “Chicago” (2002) in revitalizing the Hollywood musical for the 21st century.

Friday, June 14, brings “10,000 Dreams: A Festival of Asian Choreography,” featuring a series of short films, narrative features and dance documentaries that were directed, choreographed or starring Asian creatives.

Parents should circle their calendars for a pair of family-friendly animated gems as Friday, June 21, brings Pixar’s “Elemental” (2023), which is, in my opinion, one of the most underrated movies from last year, while Friday, June 28, brings “Ratatouille” (2007), which deservedly won the Oscar for Best Animated Film.

Friday, July 5, brings the big-screen adaptation of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Broadway musical breakthrough “In the Heights” (2021), which was one of the biggest summer blockbusters of the year but sadly got overshadowed by Steven Spielberg’s remake of “West Side Story” (2021) during that award season.

I was very pleasantly surprised to see the indie darling “The Peanut Butter Falcon” (2019) on the lineup for Friday, July 12, as it’s one of the most adorable, inspiring independent films of the last five years starring Zach Gottsagen as a man with Down syndrome dreaming of becoming a professional wrestler.

Friday, July 19, brings “A River Runs Through It” (1992), a wonderful adaptation of Norman Laclean’s 1976 coming-of-age novella about two brothers (Brad Pitt and Craig Sheffer) growing up fly fishing in rural Montana. The film cemented Robert Redford’s directorial prowess in between his Best Picture debut “Ordinary People” (1980) and his ultimate masterpiece “Quiz Show” (1994).

Friday, July 26, brings Richard Linklater’s “School of Rock” (2003), which remains Jack Black’s greatest performance as a bum who becomes a private-school music teacher, turning his pupils into a classic-rock band. I promise you’ll head home singing AC/DC’s “It’s a Long Way to the Top (If You Wanna Rock ‘n Roll).”

Friday, Aug. 2, brings “Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax” (2012) with a voice cast featuring Zac Efron, Taylor Swift, Betty White and Danny DeVito, who voices the title role. Say it with me, folks: “I speak for the trees!”

Friday, Aug. 9, brings one of my all-time favorite films in Alfred Hitchcock’s “Rear Window” (1954), arguably the greatest mystery-suspense film ever made. The prolific Jimmy Stewart plays a wheelchair-bound photographer who thinks he witnesses a neighbor’s murder out the rear window of his Greenwich Village apartment, only to realize that he already has everything he ever wanted next to him in Grace Kelly.

Friday, Aug. 16, brings National Geographic’s Oscar-winning rock climbing documentary “Free Solo” (2018), chronicling Alex Honnald’s death-defying climb up El Capitan in Yosemite National Park without a rope.

The penultimate screening is Friday, Aug. 23, with Steven Spielberg’s “Lincoln” (2012), which earned Daniel Day-Lewis his third Academy Award for Best Actor for his uncanny portrayal of Abraham Lincoln urging Congress to pass the 13th Amendment abolishing slavery during the Civil War. The quiet film remains one of Spielberg’s most underrated, so lean in and listen close as the film has plenty of Euclid lessons left to teach.

Finally, the free summer series wraps on Friday, Aug. 30, with the sweet romance of “Chocolat” (2000), starring Juliette Binoche as a single mother who opens a small chocolaterie in a fictional French village while falling in love with Johnny Depp’s self-proclaimed “river rat.” The film earned five Oscar nominations, including Best Picture, Best Actress for Binoche and Best Supporting Actress for Judi Dench.

Find more info on the REACH film series here.

WTOP's Jason Fraley previews outdoor films at Kennedy Center's REACH (Part 2)

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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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