Out in the Open Air

February 5, 2007 at 11:49 am (Uncategorized)

Last Friday night, I was lucky enough to accompany Sarah to the Open Air Cinema at Mrs Macquarie’s Chair (Jan 11 to Feb 16). I’d only been once before, last year, and that was also as a result of Sarah having a spare ticket. I have a number of friends who are always completely clued in as to what bands are playing, exhibitions are showing, and shows are performing, and they are always totally on the job snapping up tickets to whatever in the vast, ever-shifting line-up takes their fancy. As a result, they rarely, if ever, miss anything they want to see. Sarah is one of these people. Sophie is one of these people.

I am not, sadly, one of these people. If I manage it, it’s usually the result of dumb luck or blind chance (those of you who recall the recent coup of Lou Reed tickets know how easily that little excursion could have ended in tears….Hell, it should have). Only very rarely do I read about something coming to Sydney and leap, that second, to the nearest computer or telephone to book tickets. I did it (and I’ll be forever glad I did it, and I’m tempted to do it again) for Keating! The Musical, but most of the time my response time is a little on the casual side.

So I never get tickets to Open Air Cinema. They sell out immediately, they’re the veritable hot cakes of Sydney’s cinema scene, and it’s only because of Sarah’s vast ticket-procuring expertise that I’ve ever had the pleasure of the experience.

On Friday night’s bill was Glastonbury, a documentary about the famous English mudslide of a music festival. It was cool, interesting, hilarious, and even revolting in parts, but I enjoyed it so much more because I saw it at Open Air. There are several reasons for this. One is that it was a perfect night. Another is that Sarah and I went early and had ample time to reserve good seats for the flick, find good seats in the bar/restaurant area, enjoy a couple of ice-cold drinks and eat a really tasty meal, all overlooking the Sydney Opera House, Harbour Bridge, and skyline as the sun went lazily down. A third reason is that Glastonbury is an outdoor festival, and so is the Open Air season (hence the name).

As we watched the screen – which, for those of you not in Sydney, literally rises out of the water on Sydney Harbour, sitting along a section of the outer perimeter of the Botanical Gardens – the skies over Glastonbury and the skies above us merged spectacularly. The effect was to bring us into the festival’s world in a way that watching from within a closed cinema would simply fail to do. There was one very spellbinding scene of a white-clad acrobat gliding through the air, suspended from a balloon and performing a delicate, almost ghostly routine. She reached down at points to connect with and even touch the crowd with her downward-stretching fingertips, and, having Sydney’s starry night above her, soaring well above Glastonbury’s screen limit, it seemed to us that she was in our own midst. It was lovely to watch, and one of my favourite moments of the night.

It’s such a great spot, and such a well-executed good idea. It’s one thing to have nailed the concept that people do like watching films outdoors in a beautiful setting. It’s another thing entirely to make the experience comfortable (in addition to the tiered seating, Open Air boasts the cleanest, most abundant and well-stocked port-a-loos I’ve ever seen anywhere) and even exceptional. I was shocked the first time by the standard of the catering. This time I was licking my lips in anticipation days before the event. I can’t believe the food is as good as it is given the circumstances. Say ‘temporary food stall’ at any other time and you’ll be ripped off and regretful in moments. This food is good. It’s affordable. It’s varied. It’s tasty. It’s so well set-up it’s also still fast. Amazing. I don’t quite know how they do it, but I did get the caterer’s card just so I could do the right thing and say “Well done, you,” Belinda Franks Catering.

I’m a huge fan of the whole thing. I think it’s an excellent summer event, and next year I might just feel compelled to get in early and book myself some tickets (with spares for Sarah, of course).



  1. Mike said,

    I just don’t get the whole ‘outdoor’ cinema, eating, or whatever. I’d rather be in the exhaust fume, noise, heat and humidity-free confines of a cinema, restaurant, or whatever, to do my biz in peace. I find the worst is the ‘al-fresco’ (we’re sooooo eye-talian) dining on the side of some busy champs-elysée wannabe: unless you’re still a smoker, what is the attraction of carbon monoxide seasoning on your food? Not to mention the interminable traffic noise. Give me the table up the back of the shop anyday (as long as it’s nicely climatised).

    And don’t get me stated on queueing for tickets: have been to Moonlight cinema once or twice and these days you need to arrive about 2 hours before the film you’ve already seen 10 times before to ensure you can pay $20 to get seats that see the screen. Maybe the one you went to is not as bad as that, but I don’t take those chances anymore.

    Give me a DVD at home anyday! You can keep your excursions!
    [actually, with the mass produced bile that passes for cinema or entertainment, you can keep the DVDs too]

  2. doctordi said,

    My, my, aren’t you the grumpy old man…?! Sorry Mike, I stand firm – Open Air is exhaust fume-free, there is no long queuing, the seats are well placed, the catering tops, and the setting sensational. No complaints, not one (except perhaps that it sells out too soon every year because it’s so good).

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