01 September 2007

Review: Movies on the Square

I was one of the skeptics. I really thought the old square was fine, and I believed it was a misplaced priority to spend millions of dollars to re-arrange the square. But, I like it more each visit. Mostly it seems to be because of the programming, and the bigger crowds that are there everyday. I am not sure if the programming could have happened in the old square, but that is a discussion for another day.

Last night, I spent what I would call a perfect urban evening on the square. I call it perfect because it was stress free to be in a public space like this, with little kids. I didn't have to hold their hand all the time. It wasn't too loud so that I couldn't talk to them in a normal voice. And when they played loudly, it just added to the mix; it didn't disturb others.

There were people in formal dress, and people who were probably homeless. But they all mixed fine. Kids ran around, young couples took photos of each other at the fountain, old men smoked, college kids sat and had a beer together and this mixed up group had a thoroughly enjoyable evening.

The things that help make it work:
1. Free movie: Nemo
2. Lots of kids. Some in pajamas and sleeping bags. They had a blast.
3. Lots of playing in "The fountain", and the newer squirting fountain.
4. Free iced coffee.
5. Popcorn and beer, for a couple bucks.
6. Diverse, laid-back crowd.
7. Perfect weather, clear, cool, mist from the fountain.
8. Kids meeting new friends, playing, even dancing, laughing and giggling.
9. Clean, easy to use restrooms. (The old ones were underground and hard to find).
10. Downtown Ambassadors, taking care of business.

I don't like a public space to have a giant TV. I don't like to go to the square and see a bunch of people looking up at a screen. But somehow the screen is not obtrusive to me in the daytime. I think because the sound is not too loud, and it is up high. Yet, for a movie is works smoothly. Easy to hear and see. People can be walking around and kids can be playing at the periphery, cars are driving by on the street, but it is not distracting, if you really want to watch.

We got there a little early, and people were hanging out, some watching football, others getting settled for the movie. Kids are tossing coins (and barbie dolls) in the fountain:

A perfect example of the diversity of the crowd. Here is Melvin Wilson, with his free Caribou Iced Coffee. He is the kind of guy, I would never meet at an event that had paid admission. He is a Vietnam vet, lives in some kind of group home, but a sincere guy, who loves to yuk it up with kids. We sat and talked for half and hour. I'll probably never see him again, but it was fun.

The crowd, settled and watching the movie and illuminated by some weird blue lights, that kind of make the granite sparkle:

Our beautiful fountain:

After the kids movie, the "more adult crowd" started taking over (for Jaws). And they looked like a fun group too.


5chw4r7z said...

My nieces come in from out of town for a visit and we walked dwon to watch Indiana Jones, they had a blast. Its cool to see that many people out having a good time. I loved the people who would walk up out of the garage and then freeze in the doorway stunned at the mass of people. Then their face would break into a huge grin and they would continue on their way. It happened over and over all night.

CityKin said...

The only reason I said it was "near" perfect urban experience, is because of my reluctance to accept the video screen in a public space. I would never for example dine in a place with a TV on.

Also, despite my rave reviews, I still am not totally convinced that the square needed a complete makeover. My positive review is mostly of the programming. For exampel I am looking forward to the Halloween stuff next month.

I do recognize though that the old square had a southward slope to it and some other problems, such as the underground toilets.

Randy Simes said...

The square just continues to get better and better in my opinion. Once Via Vite and the other retail establishments are in...it will be VERY hard to say that it wasn't money well spent.

Especially when you consider all of the spin-off investment that has occurred in the near vicinity...almost 100% of which has been private dollars.