When HBO decided to not renew the Screen on the Green program in 2009, many District residents were disappointed this summer tradition would not return. Capitol Hill resident of six years Jesse Rauch was one of those disappointed movie-goers, and decided to start a Facebook group to save Screen on the Green. Little did he know that his hope of rallying friends would turn into a city-wide grassroots effort that would bring back this summer tradition for the coming years, as well as result in a major launch party hosted by the Spy Museum.
I met Jesse and Scott Livingston — another long-time Hill resident and Save Screen on the Green volunteer — at Peregrine Espresso near Eastern Market one evening to talk about their involvement in the group. They actually met at Peregrine during one of this past winter’s blizzards, struck up a conversation, and one or two cups later Scott decided to get involved.
In 2009 Jesse’s Facebook group turned into a letter-writing campaign to get HBO to revive the series, the largest outdoor film program in the area and the only one to use the National Mall. The campaign was a success, but HBO again announced they would not sponsor the series in 2010. Rauch rallied a core group of volunteers in March in the hopes of convincing HBO to again revive the program. By then the Facebook group had grown to over 4,200 members. Facebook fans were encouraged to post public messages of support on HBO’s Facebook wall and to use Twitter to rally support for the program. They also launched a new website for Save Screen on the Green. Their efforts again paid off, as HBO announced in May they would run four movies on the Mall this summer.
Scott Livingston has been a Hill resident for ten years (and is a neighbor of mine). After sharing a table at Peregrine with Rauch in February, he decided to work with Save Screen on the Green as he too valued the summer tradition. Bringing his graphic design expertise to the group, he hopes to work on imaging and branding as well as helping to preserve the family-friendly aspects of the program.
Save Screen on the Green is an all-volunteer group of residents from around the DC area led by a core committee of about 12 dedicated folks, including Rauch and Livingston. The program regularly attracts about 15,000 people per movie and is always free to attend. Save Screen on the Green is hoping to enhance the outdoor cinema experience this year with the addition of bicycle valets, organizing some of the local mobile food trucks to park near the screen, and holding trivia contests. Dangerously Delicious Pies has donated 12 pies for the screening of Twelve Angry Men, and the group is currently deciding how to award the treats during that movie’s screening.
This year’s series is being kicked off with a launch party hosted by the International Spy Museum on July 8. It’s free to attend, but the Save Screen on the Green folks would like you to RSVP on their website. The movies start July 12 at sundown, with movies also scheduled for July 19, July 26, and August 2.
Bring your blanket and your popcorn, or cheese and crackers, or “fruit punch” and tortilla chips and enjoy a night out at the movies under the stars once more. And if you see Jesse or Scott, thank them for their time and efforts to keep this DC tradition alive.