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Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Screen on the Green switches greens

fourth-of-july.jpg

(Courtesy Olympic Centennial Park)

While there's tons of stuff in this week's upcoming cover story on Robert Osborne and Turner Classic Movies, one thing that didn't make it in by the print deadline was today's announcement by Turner that it will relocate the wildly popular and very fun Screen on the Green movie festival to Centennial Olympic Park. The festival also will switch out presenting networks: Turner's Peachtree TV (formerly WTBS) takes over from Turner Classic Movies.

The festival will start up May 29 and will run each Thursday evening at dusk through June 26; the schedule is yet to be announced.

The move, like so many others over the next few months, was inspired by the drought. Due to the related conditions, Piedmont Park will spend 2008 without hosting key events like the Dogwood Festival, Atlanta Pride Festival or the Atlanta Jazz Festival. It was only a matter of time before Screen on the Green, which draws tens of thousands of viewers and picnickers (more or less) over the month of June, would join the evacuees.

"Peachtree TV's promise to Atlanta is 'Great Movies, Every Night.' We are now taking that promise outside with Screen on the Green," Jonathan Katz, senior vice president/general manager of Peachtree TV, said in a statement released by Turner on Friday. "We are excited to present the festival this year and to celebrate the start of summer with the community at Centennial Olympic Park."

The miracle, of course, is that the event will be held at all, as various sponsoring officials have been scrambling to find new homes for all these popular spring and summer events. The benefits to the temporary move to Centennial Olympic Park are fairly obvious: The site already hosts the popular Wednesday Wind Down concert series, and the move comes at a time when civic leaders appear to be succeeding in selling downtown as a destination location for locals and tourists. Katy Pando, spokesperson for the park, says the North Lawn of the park is perfect for these types of crowds, which can number around 25,000, and that food and drinks will be provided. The park, she says, is still working out the logistics of the series, but one thing is certain: Movie-goers might need to be more creative about transportation. Downtown parking is almost never free, and Pando recommends MARTA as a smart option.

On the other change, the switching out of presenting networks is consistent with Turner Entertainment Group President Steve Koonin's ongoing mission to focus the branding of each of the respective Turner networks. With Peachtree TV promoting itself as having a "hyper-local sensibility" – mainly because of carrying 47 Atlanta Braves games– Koonin believes it makes more sense to have its local network promoting a local event. Plus there's the chance to solicit more local sponsorship. It's a logical corporate decision.

While Koonin doesn't believe fans will care which network presents the film festival, there was something particularly appropriate about having TCM behind the event. Peachtree TV doesn't exactly scream "classic movies" –  tonight's offerings feature 2000's Bait (starring Jamie Foxx) and 1994's Corrina, Corrina (Ray Liotta, Whoopi Goldberg). And I'll definitely miss those occasional guest introductions by TCM regular hosts Robert Osborne or Ben Mankiewicz. There's something cool about being reminded such a great national network is generated –and active – on the local cultural scene.

But considering the recent weather calamity, it's a great thing just to have Screen on the Green at all.

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