Dog Bowl Movie Nights at Trinity Bellwoods Park are free, they’re public, and there’s only a very small risk of sitting in poo.
Before last Thursday night’s Dog Bowl Movie Night at Trinity Bellwoods got started, Andrew Lidstone and the screening’s other organizers walked along the hill, bagging dog poo so that guests could sit on the grass comfortably. “We’re actually leaving the space cleaner when we leave than when we start,” he said.
Normally a large pit used by dog owners and their pets, last week a corner of the public park’s dog bowl was repurposed into a free outdoor movie theatre, with candles lining the makeshift amphitheatre where several hundred young downtowners sat watching the 2001 cult classic Wet Hot American Summer. These Dog Bowl Movie Nights have been going on once or twice a month all summer for the last three years, but it was only a few weeks ago—thanks to a screening of R. Kelly’s Trapped in the Closet—that they transformed from fairly intimate gatherings of 40 to 60 extended friends to a full-fledged phenomenon drawing many times that.
It was obvious that many in attendance on Thursday had done this before, though, coming prepared with blankets to sit on and coolers to snag cans of PBR from, and passing around snacks and even bug spray. Lidstone, who watched from the foot of the hill near the projector, wasn’t too worried about running afoul of any city bylaws. “The major issue I would be concerned about would be noise complaints, but because it’s in a depressed part of the park and we don’t necessarily need to have it that loud, people can enjoy it, and we’ve never once experienced a complaint from anyone,” he said.
Along with fellow organizers, Lidstone takes suggestions from the wall of the Dog Bowl Movie Night’s Facebook group. “The main criteria for movies,” he said, “is that people can talk during them and that they’re not too heavy.” And Wet Hot American Summer was just that. The audience was knee-slapping and cry-laughing all the way through, and at the end everyone applauded. Seeing it in a hyped-up group helps. “Everybody’s so energetic and really wants it to be funny,” observed one attendee, Stefan Banjevic, after the screening.
Lidstone and the other organizers haven’t decided on the next movie, but given the momentum of their events, it’s likely that in the next few weeks, on another unsuspecting warm night in the park, faint laughter will trickle out from deep in the dog bowl.