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Summer cinema in Spain has always had a certain element of sentimentality. For many, attending outdoor movies is more an excuse to enjoy a warm summer night than anything else; in fact, it's safe to say that for many Spaniards, their earliest memories are wrapped up in the nostalgia of a summer night spent outside at the park in front of a movie screen.
These days, outdoor cinemas have become a widespread, popular entertainment option, but there was a time when these kinds of movie theaters were considered "provincial." Until relatively recently (we're talking some 40 years ago) many small towns only had access to movies via traveling companies that would come to town for a few days and install portable film projectors and screens in the towns’ main squares.
According to history books, these outdoor summer cinemas became popular because during this time, indoor movie theaters didn’t have air-conditioning. Movie-goers preferred to watch films outdoors because cool summer evenings were more pleasant than stuffy theaters; but with the advent of air-conditioned theaters the public once again returned to indoor cinemas.
In recent years, whether for nostalgic or economic reasons, open-air cinemas have come back into fashion, and are now more popular and include more variety than ever. There are outdoor theaters that are set up practically like a conventional auditoriums with all the comforts included (like the outdoor cinema in Seville); others that are a little more bare-bones and require attendees to bring their own seats and snacks (like those on the beach in Valencia)... and there are even cinemas that play musicals and let the audience sing along! (Such as the "Sing Along" events organized in various cities in Spain).
Going to an outdoor cinema this summer is a great way to unwind after an afternoon of study: prices are usually very reasonable and you'll even be able to continue your language learning because almost all of them include films dubbed into Spanish.
If you're in Madrid there are several outdoor cinema options: the Conde Duque Cultural Center (Calle Conde Duque, 9) organizes themed sessions with prices ranging from €5 to €8. Parque de la Bombilla (Plaza de San Antonio de la Florida, 1) has been organizing its famous double sessions for all types of audiences for decades; and it is also the place where you’ll find the best prices, just €4 for a double feature. If you're looking for something a little more alternative check out La Casa Encendida to enjoy a great rooftop terrace and interesting films for just €3. And if you don't feel like spending a penny on your outdoor theater experience check out Parque El Paraíso in San Blas (Avenida de Arcentales).
Salamanca is once again hosting its outdoor film festival, "Biblioteca: Gran Pantalla" (Big Screen Library) at the Torrente Ballester Library (Paso de los Olivos, 10) with programming focused on the adventures of famous mischievous, or nonconformist literary characters like Oliver Twist, Billy Elliot, Tom Sawyer and Peter Pan. What better way is there to spend an afternoon than with old friends who never grow old? And without paying a penny!
The heat in Seville is a way of life. So, how could they not have outdoor summer cinema? Each district has at least one; the district of Alcosa-Este-Torreblanca has three, and at least one that's "nomadic," meaning it changes location, like to the Sur or Macarena districts. Finding these screenings can be a little difficult, but it's worth the search if you want to see some great cinema for free. Another good option for an outdoor flick is the Patio de la Diputación de Sevilla (Av. Menendez Pelayo, 32) and their "Asómate the Patio" initiative, where you can see prestigious, award-winning films for only €4.
If you're in beautiful Granada this summer and you love superhero movies, don't miss out on those shown at CineMa Plaza (Plaza de las Culturas, Avenida de la Ciencia, 2). They show a wide variety of movies from some of the newest releases, like Deadpool, to modern classics like 300 and Watchmen, to legendary titles like Conan the Barbarian; and they are all free. If you're more of an arthouse fan, check out the "Cine al fresquito," a film festival located at the Caves of Sacromonte Museum (Barranco de los Negros) for just €3.50.
Barcelona is another city with an incredible range of outdoor cinemas to experience, and they are practically organized by theme. At Poble Espanyol (Avenida Francesc Ferrer i Guardia, 13) you can find classic musicals like Grease, Dirty Dancing, Mamma Mia and Moulin Rouge; at Fossar de Santa Eulalia (Carretera de Montjuïc, 66) you can enjoy independent movies like Whiplash, Pride or Birdman as well as classics like Casablanca and Silence of the Lambs; and at the Center for Contemporary Culture of Barcelona (Carrer de Montalegre, 5) you'll be surprised by avant-garde and experimental films like Labyrinth of Passion, Don't Look Now and The Babadook.
These are all just a few examples of some of the outdoor theaters you can find in some of our biggest cities, but there are many more to explore. Wherever you find yourself in Spain, we're sure you'll find a great place to watch a great movie under the stars in the cool summer breeze!