There is still an hour to go before sunset on a recent Monday evening in New Paltz, but people are already staking out their spot in the courtyard of Water Street Market to view the free outdoor movie scheduled to begin at dusk. Emcee Carl Welden is setting up the sound system and readying the 10- by 14-foot movie screen as attendees settle in at the tables and chairs in the market, or set up chairs and lay blankets they’ve brought from home. The night’s movie selection will be the film, “O Brother, Where Art Thou,” so Welden has the movie’s folk music soundtrack playing, heightening the anticipatory mood among the crowd as it grows to include more than 150 spectators.
Picnic hampers are opened by some as others head off to get take-out from local restaurants or the market eateries that remain open late on movie night to accommodate attendees. And volunteer Dawn Elliott has a growing line at her popcorn-maker, where free popcorn is offered, with all donations left in the tip jar going to Family of New Paltz.
Soon enough, the sun begins to set, and Welden — a professional voiceover artist — takes the mike to greet the assembled crowd and set the scene before the movie begins. As the last of the daylight disappears and the opening titles fill the screen, the crowd visibly relaxes, all cares from the outside world dropping into the background on a cool summer evening.
This is the tenth year now for the free summer film series offered by Water Street Market every Monday night. The rain date is Tuesday, but if that’s a wash-out, the film will have to wait for the following year.
The market also hosts a weekly free concert in the courtyard all summer, with local acts playing live music every Thursday evening from 7-8:30 p.m. The concerts go on June through September, weather permitting. Monday Movie Night ends by Labor Day.
Market events coordinator Theresa Fall — also proprietor of Jar’d Wine Pub and co-owner of The Parish Restaurant there — has booked the bands for Thursdays and organized movie night at Water Street Market from the start. Doing an outdoor film night was her idea, in fact, inspired by similar events held in other places, and encouraged by the market’s owner, Harry Lipstein. “He’s an ‘ideas’ person,” says Fall. “He was all for it.”
It’s not inexpensive to put on movie night, she notes, as the market has to pay licensing fees to show the films. But sponsoring free events like movie and music nights and the Chili Challenges and Chalk Festivals falls in line with what Lipstein intended for the property from the beginning, Fall says. “Harry is a philanthropic guy, and when he built the market, he really just envisioned great things for the space and for the community; a piazza-type courtyard where people could come together. And that’s exactly what happened. We’d have events at first with maybe 30 people in the courtyard, and within a few years, we had 300.”
The first year of movie night came together “bare bones,” Fall says (they literally used a giant piece of sheetrock as a movie screen). Back then the films shown were all documentaries with an environmental theme, but over time it was decided that as important as it is to be informed, everyone needs to relax and unwind, too. “So we shifted gears, and now we still show some thought-provoking films, but we do a variety of things.”
People sometimes assume the movies shown in the series are just for kids or families, Fall says. “But really we’re showing ‘people-friendly’ films. We have movies for adults, children’s films, cult classics, obscure films, indies, documentaries… and we try to always have a musical. We just don’t show anything that has gratuitous language, sex or violence; anything over the top that would be offensive to people.”
The remaining line-up for July includes “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” on July 10, “Cinema Paradisio” on July 17, “Mask” on July 24 and “Lion” on July 31. The film series continues through August with Monty Python’s “Meaning of Life” on August 7, “From Nowhere” August 14 and “Sixteen Candles” August 21. The last film of the year is always a thriller; this year it’ll be the original version of “Cape Fear” with Robert Mitchum on Monday, August 28.
The communal aspects of the experience are part of the pleasure of attending Monday Movie Night, says emcee Carl Welden. “You’re seated amongst your community, all sharing an experience, laughing together, gasping together, and processing it all when it’s done. After the credits roll, people stay, and discuss, and they come early and discuss.”
Welden notes, too, that viewing a movie outdoors in the market’s courtyard brings some distinct advantages. “You’re not hearing the sounds of explosions bleeding through the paper-thin walls of the multiplex on either side of you.”
As for Thursday music nights, local musicians love to play at the market, says Fall, because the hours are early and their friends and family can come. “I’ve heard from so many musicians that it’s their favorite place to play.”
The next concert will feature Cornbread Jam on Thursday, July 6 at 7 p.m., followed by Vicki Russell July 13 and The Big Distraction on July 20. The full schedule for the remainder of the summer is listed on the event webpage at waterstreetmarket.com/live-music-series/.
Water Street Market — “the village within the village” — first opened in 1999. Walter Marquez, who opened his Antiques Barn there 15 years ago, has managed the property for 13 years. In that time, he says, he’s seen the market become the meeting place for people in the community as well as a draw for tourists. “We have regulars that come up from the city once or twice a month that stay in bed-and-breakfasts in the area, and make this one of their destinations, and we have regulars from the community who come for their coffee and bring their laptops and do some work here. We get to know a lot of the people… It’s definitely become a little community here.”
When a business moves out of the market, their space doesn’t stay empty for long, says Marquez, with new tenants moving in quickly for the same balance of community and tourist appeal that keeps the longtime businesses there. (The Mudd Puddle, Maglyn’s Dream and The Cheese Plate have been there as long or longer than the Antiques Barn, he notes.)
Fall says that when market owner Harry Lipstein first enlisted her to become events coordinator at Water Street Market a decade ago, the plan to offer free events there was designed to ensure that locals would feel as comfortable there as the tourists. And over the years, movie and music nights have become one of her favorite things about New Paltz in the summer, she says, seeing the mix of older and younger people and tourists and locals. She’s watched the kids grow up in families that have attended every week for the past ten years. “Every Monday they’re there. And with the music, too, it doesn’t matter who is playing, people know if it’s Thursday, they’re going to go to music night at Water Street Market. And we’re very grateful to Harry for doing this for the community. A lot of what he’s done has been truly a gift to us and enhanced our community.”