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Nowadays, it is quite common for Shanghai residents to enjoy movies at theaters or on their computer. But to older generations, watching outdoor movies on hot summer nights remains a fond memory. It was not until the 1980s that televisions came into average households in big cities like Shanghai. Prior to that era, outdoor movies shown in neighborhoods were a common source of entertainment for locals.

People stand or sit on stools to watch outdoor movies shown at Shanghai's parks. Photos: Yang Hui/GT

True tentpole cinema

In parks or public squares, rows of small stools were placed in front of a large white cloth used as a de facto silver screen. Children who couldn't see over all the heads rode their fathers' shoulders while they watched classic Chinese movies.

Over time, however, outdoor movies gradually faded as televisions and movie theaters sprung up across the metropolis in the 1980s and 90s.

Nevertheless, nostalgia about outdoor movies has reignited the vitality of outdoor movies, with young parents and grandparents taking their offspring outside on Friday and Saturday nights to experience movies the same way they did decades ago.

Starting in 2005, outdoor movies began playing again at Shanghai parks every summer. This year, 28 public parks in 16 districts (at least one park per district) around the city will show more than 150 movies between July and August.

Outdoor movies provide a cultural service for residents to enjoy the cooler night air while being entertained and socializing with each other, something that modern society has been missing with the advent of gated apartment communities and digital viewing devices.

According to Zhu Hongxia, deputy chief of the city's park administration center, with the increasing number of night parks, the scale of "night film festival" will expand and the number and varieties of outdoor movies will increase.

Global Times

(From above) Local residents watch an outdoor movie at Jing'an Park.