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Summer is the season for ice cream, the beach, bad sleep, skimpy clothes, overworking air conditioners and — if you’re partial to a film or two — evenings spent at your local outdoor cinema. On a warm night, slouching back on a picnic rug beneath the stars, the appeal is obvious.

Actually, there’s another important consideration: the film itself. One of the benefits of the outdoor cinema experience is the ability to choose between often eclectic line-ups of old and new titles. Who can say why blending current releases and yesteryear classics is a trait shared at almost every outdoor cinema across the land; it probably has something to do with outdoor cinema’s low-key vibe – the appeal of watching, on the big screen amid a plethora of people and picnic baskets, a film you’ve send plenty of times on DVD. Or perhaps classics you’re afraid to admit you’ve never watched before.

Certain titles, like The Breakfast Club, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Breakfast at Tiffany’s and The Goonies appear on the line-up without fail every year. The latter two are in fact playing tonight in Melbourne: Tiffany’s screens at Moonlight Cinemas in the Botanic Gardens and The Goonies at St Kilda Open Air cinemas.

Here’s a snapshot of what else is on around the country tonight — and over the weekend.

Melbourne: Michael Jackson fans can head to Moonlight on Saturday to catch This Is It, a concert documentary comprising rehearsal footage of Jackson’s highly anticipated comeback tour, which was curtly interrupted by the pasty-faced star’s death three weeks before opening night. For an infinitely better musical experience wait one day and head to The Wizard of Oz on Sunday night — same Bat time, same Bat venue.

Rooftop Cinema on Swanston Street, which exhibits a program geared more towards film aficionados, is screening Peter Bogdanovich’s seminal small town drama The Last Picture Show on Saturday night.

Sydney: Tonight, there’s a bunch of very diverse films to watch. There is The September Issue, a documentary about Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour as she prepares the 2007 fall issue of the famous mag, which plays at St George Open Air.

Those who haven’t checked out Bruce Beresford’s enjoyable if underwhelming biopic of Chinese ballet prodigy Li Cunxin, Mao’s Last Dancer, can give it a squiz at Bondi Open Air Cinema.

And if you’re in the mood for junky retro action populated by buff fellas and super-sized planes join Maverick and Iceman for a screening of Tony Scott’s 1986 high-concept low-brainer, Top Gun, at Moonlight. Or don your dancing shoes and flares and return for Saturday Night Fever on, erm, Saturday night.

Adelaide: Adelaide this weekend will be treated to an outdoor cinema music-fest with Saturday Night Fever on Friday evening at Moonlight (way to defy common sense programming), This Is It on Saturday and Monty Python’s classic you-can-never-see-it-too-many-times-cuz-it’s-always-freakin-hilarious biblical spoof Life of Brian on Sunday.

Perth: For a quality new release flick, Perth residents get the pick of the bunch at Lunar Outdoor, where advanced screenings of director Lee Daniels’s moving Bronx-set drama Precious are playing Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The film, which features stellar acting and a gut-busting performance from Mo’Nique (expect to hear about her come Oscar time) may not be the typical easygoing movie synonymous with outdoor cinema, but it’s very much worth a look.

Peter Fray

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