4 must-experience outdoor cinemas in Montreal

Cinéma urbain à la belle étoile. Sébastien Roy

MONTREAL – Summer in the city usually means any excuse to stay outside.

With so many great movies hitting the big screen, why should we trap ourselves in a dark, cold room?

Luckily, this summer it seems almost every green space in the city is boasting its very own large-screen movie projection.

Best of all, it’s all free.

Cinéma urbain à la belle étoile

Every Tuesday, June 9 to September 8 from 9 p.m. – 11 p.m.

Cinéma urbain à la belle étoile. Cinéma urbain à la belle étoile/Facebook

Almost every film festival in the city has teamed up with Société des arts technologiques (SAT) to show movies every Tuesday night in the Latin Quarter as part of the Cinema urbain à la belle étoile.

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If nostalgia is your game, you can catch a special screening of Back to the Future for the film’s 30th anniversary or the slightly trashy Quebec classic Pinball Summer.

Older films aside, the schedule is ridiculously diverse – you can catch anything from Kanehsatake: 270 Years of Resistance, a documentary on the Oka Crisis, to The Incredible Adventure of Jojo, an adventure film to captivate both kids and adults alike.

Make sure to arrive early though – the movies are screened at the relatively tiny Place de la Paix just off Saint-Laurent boulevard.

If weather gets a little damp, screenings will be moved to the nearby Société des arts technologiques building.

Cinéma sous les étoiles

June 26 to September 8; check the schedule for times and places

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Cinéma sous les étoiles. Cinéma sous les étoiles/Facebook

A six-year mainstay of outdoor movie screenings in Montreal, Cinéma sous les étoiles specializes in documentaries – and has a well-curated selection of them.

If you want to do a little learning at the cinema, then you’ll appreciate their programming.

There are some bigger-name documentaries on show like Laura Poitras‘ Academy Award-winning Citizenfour about Edward Snowden, but much of their selection is smaller in scale and on topics you might never have thought to look into.

There’s also some great local talent like the Quebec-made Slums: Cities of Tomorrow, which offers a thoughtful look into the lives of people living in shantytowns around the world from the USA to India.

Cinéma sous les étoiles holds screenings multiple times a week, and locations vary across several parks in the Plateau and Sud-Ouest.

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Most, but not all of their films are in English.

Parc Compagnons-de-Saint-Laurent outdoor cinema

Thursday, July 2, 9, 16 and 23

Parc Compagnons-de-Saint-Laurent. L'Avenue du Mont-Royal/Flickr

This is outdoor cinema done classically: straight-up movies in the park; bring your chairs and popcorn.

Catch the films right after sunset at the charming Parc Compagnon, on the Plateau’s east side.

The group is showing mostly light-hearted, family friendly fare like Love at First Fight, a film about a couple falling for each other at a boot camp; the kid-friendly Ernest and Célestine, about the unlikely friendship between a cartoon mouse and bear; and Meryl Streep‘s famous The Devil Wears Prada.

The opening night is a little heavier, with Montreal darling Xavier Dolan‘s critically acclaimed Mommy.

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Screenings are cancelled if it rains.

Cinema Out of the Box

Check the schedule for times and places

Cinema Out of the Box. Cinema Out of the Box/Facebook

When they say Cinema Out of the Box, they really mean it: the screenings are entirely bike-powered.

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That is, the projector doesn’t work unless there’s somebody riding the bike that is hooked up to it.

It’s a small operation run out of McGill University, with the films being chosen on a week-to-week basis.

If it’s anything like their inaugural season last year, the movies will be a diverse selection of cult films, from cheesy older films that may not have aged well to more experimental, modern fare.

The screenings change location every week, with the organizers attempting to pick outdoor spots to fit with the movies.

Case in point: last year they held a screening of 70s horror flick La Rose de Fer in the Mount Royal cemetery.

Like all the others, the movies are free but if you want to help out, you could put in a few minutes of pedalling on the projector-bike.

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