Throughout this unusually sultry July, audiences have been packing the courtyard at Old Town Pasadena for a gulp of bigscreen ’60s cool: the James Bond Film Festival.
DVDs of the first seven 007s, six of them starring Sean Connery, are projected onto a 28-foot screen on the side of a brick building. The sponsoring property management company at One Colorado set up 300 folding chairs for the July 5 series opener, “Dr. No,” but soon discovered it needed more seats.
“We added 50 more the next week (for “From Russia With Love” and “Goldfinger”), but that filled up, too,” said assistant property manager Kathy Driscoll.
Subsequent screenings, every Friday and Saturday night at 8:30 (and ending this weekend with George Lazenby as Bond in “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” and Connery in “Diamonds Are Forever”), have seen some retro filmgoers arm themselves with lawn chairs and picnic blankets.
Courtyard restaurants feature outdoor seating — the wait for a such a table recently at Gordon Biersch directly corresponded with the length of the feature. Those milling about the fringes make the crowd swell to as many as 800, amid the scent of garlic fries, popcorn, burgers and pizzas, and the periodic fly-by from a police helicopter making sure the Bond fans aren’t involved in anything covert.
This is the seventh year the courtyard has held the monthlong open-air film series, with an eight-film Hitchcock event last September and earlier fests co-sponsored by the American Film Institute.
Renting the Bond films cost One Colorado $255 per pic through licenser Swank, and incidentals such as the sound system, setup and advance work run the price of the series to roughly $10,000 (not to mention $6,000 for the screen, an improvement over last year’s dinky 14-footer). Even then, there can be glitches. The July 18 screening of “You Only Live Twice” got stuck on one chapter, which had to be skipped — with minimal effect on the pic’s plot.
But Bond has been more conducive to co-sponsorship than Hitchcock. Smirnoff has added its name to the event, and courtyard restaurants offer a trio of blended “Bondtinis” at $7 a shake.
“We serve martinis like mad anyway, but the Bondtinis are selling better than I would have expected,” says John Beeman, general manager and part owner of eatery Il Forniao. Beeman estimates Il Forniao poured 65 of the drinks during “Dr. No” alone.
The free film series even takes a few potential patrons away from the AMC Old Pasadena 8, whose box office is just a few yards from the outdoor screen and whose lineup this week includes spy spoof “Johnny English.”
“It does get pretty slow” when the Bond films are being screened, conceded theater manager Julia Munoz. “But people are still coming in and buying concession items to eat outdoors.”