The Making of Movies in the Meadow

Note: Parkside Movies in the Meadow 2022 kicks off tonight at dusk with Encanto

Today, Mayor Brown proclaimed August to be “Movies in the Meadow Month” in Buffalo.

OK, not really. But he should.

To me, the Parkside Community Association’s “Movies in the Meadow” series – each Friday night in August – is a quintessential part of a Buffalo summer. Located in Delaware Park, the Central Park of Buffalo, where all the parkways lead – or used to. Timed for the grand finale of the summer, following the season’s GardenWalk peak, and wrapping up as Labor Day looms. That can make the series bittersweet, as each movie begins at dusk, which arrives a little earlier each week, a relentless reminder of the approach of autumn.

As befits all things Buffalo, MITM also involves wine and beer. Not just at the screenings which, like Shakespeare in Delaware Park, are BYOB, but in the making of it. I’d heard about this process from Parkside board member Matthew Pelkey, and this year I got to see it for myself.

Way back in March, like Anna Pavlovna’s drawing room, the upstairs back of the Central Park Grill slowly began to fill. Like any salon much was discussed – including, eventually, movies.

Because memories are short and new residents are new, a list of previous movies circulated around, ostensibly to prevent duplicates. It was fun to reminisce about some favorites, like Monty Python and the Holy Grail and Rogue One – where characters appeared in person for a lightsaber duel and whose line “Rebellions are built on hope” helped fuel the pushback on the DOT’s Scajaquada corridor plan.

But a secondary purpose of the list, I think, was to subtly carry forward MITM’s formula for success. As I’ve written in years past, what makes this summer film series a standout among local offerings is not just the Olmstedian setting and the great neighborhood association involved (one of Buffalo’s oldest and most distinguished) but the consistently great selections. Just how that curation happens is what I went to find out.

Simple as it sounds, much of it is due to the list. Looking through the list, you understand the assignment: extrapolate the formula that picked these past offerings to the present. For recent films, fresh memories quickly sort the standouts from the stinkers. For older films, folks make suggestions and use a kind of ranked-choice voting. (Note: we should try that with civic elections, too.)

The list shows the instantiation of the formula from year to year – the phenotype of the genotype, if you will. As I wrote in 2018, the MITM formula yields selections that are regularly a cut above those of other outdoor film series in the area. But, as I learned, not in the sense of gathering around a computer watching the blinking lights while it crunches reviews and spits out the choices. Much more simply, rather, using the list as a model and a guide. A successful formula based not on algorithms or second derivatives but a distillation of past success as a guide to the present. Simple, elegant, and effective.

Here’s that formula again, updated for 2022 (full list with links at the end):

An animated film (think Disney/Pixar), but one that works for adults as well as kids. This year, that’s Encanto.

A quality sci-fi or comic book flick. This year that’s Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.

A couple of classics and favorites, usually one from the studio-system era and one more recent. A pair like North By Northwest and Ghostbusters, or Citizen Kane and The Princess Bride, or The Wizard of Oz and The Natural from previous years. This year there’s Bell, Book, and Candle and Honey, I Shrunk the Kids.

See you in the meadow!

Note: As in years past, movie-goers are welcome to bring picnic baskets, chairs, blankets, family and friends. I was not able to confirm whether PCA will have refreshments available for purchase including popcorn, candy, and ice water this year. For more information about that, contact the PCA directly.

Get connected:

Parkside Community Association

Parkside Community Association Facebook

“For more than ten years, this free series has provided a way for parents to share the classics with their kids, for friends to say all their favorite lines out loud, and for the community to get together and enjoy one of Buffalo’s greatest outdoor gathering spaces.” – Parkside Community Association 

The series is as follows:

Friday, August 5th: Encanto

Friday, August 12th: Honey, I Shrunk the Kids

Friday, August 19th: Bell, Book, and Candle

Friday, August 26th: Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings

Films begin at dusk and will be shown on the meadow in front of the Parkside Lodge at Delaware Park. 

Another note: Fans of Parkside will also enjoy this summer’s Unique Nature of Parkside Scavenger Hunt also running through the end of August.

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