Guns, Gams & Garages

Outdoor film noir festival casts shadows onto downtown lot-and positive light on downtown

Hey, did you ever think that bare wall on the parking garage at Ninth and New Hampshire would be the perfect place to screen movies? Yeah, you and about every other visionary who's used that lot as a public urinal after last call.

Now, instead of just gracing it with bodily fluids, somebody's finally going to splash cinema all over that edifice in wait.

"I think us, along with probably thousands of people, have looked at the lot next to the parking garage and thought that would be a wonderful place to project a film," says Rick Marquez, director of Downtown Lawrence Inc. (DLI), of the idea whose time had arrived. "I'm not saying that we came up with it : but it was something that we felt we could do."

Mick Ranney, Footprints owner and DLI member, says the board was inspired by everything from a scene in Italian film "Cinema Paradiso" to a similar screening on the side of a barber shop in Alta Vista, Kan. "If it can be done in Alta Vista, it can be done in Lawrence," boasts Ranney.

DLI then set out to accomplish what on paper seemed like a pretty simple endeavor-showing some flickering pictures on a wall-but what in reality was a logistical cluster bomb. They marshaled their connections with businesses to shut down the alley next to the lot, contacted the city about partially dimming the garage for the evening, notified residents across the street, and had to jump through licensing hoops to get permission for publicly exhibiting films.

DLI is even attempting to utilize the city's transit system to protect the integrity of the image. "We noticed that cars sometimes drive by : and their headlights project across the building, so we're hoping that we could have some of the T buses parked there and block some the light," says Marquez.

After stealthily maneuvering through so much red tape where others have failed, you might mistake DLI for some shadowy organization of evil plutocrats who bought downtown and plan to turn it into a soulless corporation. "Basically," deadpans Marquez. "My official title is pharaoh."

In fact, DLI is a not-for-profit coalition of business owners who aim to dispel the notion that downtown Lawrence is just a quirky, effete strip-mall. They've used their trove bureaucratic connections to help organize events ranging from gallery walks to the Farmers Market.

And they welcome community input-rather than let your idea languish in your beer, send it DLI via

If the films and live music aren't a sufficient draw, DLI hopes to bribe people with free food. "There will be popcorn for 250 people," Ranney says. Really, though, the hard-boiled dialogue and sultry femme fatales of film noir should be enough to lure an audience. Other than it being the coolest freakin' genre of American cinema in the entire history of motion pictures, film noir was an obvious choice for the flagship festival, Marquez says. "Although they are crime thrillers, they aren't ultra violent : they are more than suitable to show on a wall in a public space," he says.

Considering the desire for universal appeal, future film festival themes probably won't include a Ron Jeremy retrospective-which probably wouldn't fit on the garage, anyway-or the equally pornographic possibility of a Pokemon omnibus. "We had thought about "Blue Velvet" and "Apocalypse Now" : those would be appropriate," Marquez sarcastically oozes.

But seriously, he says "DLI and myself are interested in showing the community, once again, that downtown Lawrence is the center of the community : we think that community events are a wonderful way to do this. If they come down (for the festival) and they do a little bit of shopping, and they grab something to eat and they go to one of the films-that's perfect. But if they come down to just watch the film and have a wonderful experience-that's what we're looking for, too."

Downtown Lawrence Film Noir Festival

Monthly Schedule8:00pmLive Music9:00pmPrize Drawings9:15pmFilm StartFor more information, contact Downtown Lawrence, Inc.785-842-3883director@downtownlawrence.comwww.downtownlawrence.comJune 7, 8:00pm Live Music will be Key West Jazz Quartet


Humphrey Bogart, Gloria Grahame, Frank Lovejoy, Robert WarwickTriStar Pictures; Directed by Nicholas RayBlack and White; Not Rated; 93 minutes; 1950Dixon Steele (Humphrey Bogart), a hot-headed Hollywood screenwriter who'd sooner use his fists than his reason, and his troubled neighbor Laurel Gray (Gloria Grahame) are drawn together when he is questioned for murder and she confirms his alibi. But, Dixon's volatile nature threatens to destroy their last chance at real love.July 5, 8:00pm


Fred MacMurray, Barbara StanwyckUniversal Pictures; Directed by Billy WilderBlack and White; Not Rated; 107 minutes; 1944Walter Neff (Fred MacMurray), an insurance agent, and Phyllis Dietrichson (Barbara Stanwyck), a greedy blonde bombshell, plot to bump off Phyllis' husband and collect the premiums. Leaving behind the standard New York setting of lower-class crime, this definitive film-noir of the '40s takes place in a California of shady streets, supermarkets, and stucco houses.August 2, 8:00pm


Ray Milland, Charles LaughtonUniversal; Directed by John FarrowBlack and White; Not Rated; 95 minutes; 1948In this first-rate thriller, the ace reporter for a crime magazine sets out to solve a murder and discovers that his powerful publisher did it. Framed for the crime, the reporter hides under the world's largest clock in the compelling climax to this film-noir classic.September 6, 8:00pm


Burt Lancaster, Yvonne DeCarloUniversal Pictures; Directed by Robert SiodmakBlack and White; Not Rated; 87 minutes; 1949This expertly knit, low-key thriller with a famous heist sequence tells of two crooks who pull off a robbery and then try to destroy each other.All films will be shown on the wall of the parking garage at 9th and New Hampshire. Bring your lawn chairs and blankets. FREE popcorn for the first 250 people.


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