The weather was perfect, which is not a statement that can often be made about Boston. Almost 200 people — seated on green and black bean bags, picnic blankets, and folding chairs — stared at the inflatable screen, waiting for the movie to start.
The night? This past Friday, August 5. The place? Sylvester Baxter Park, a riverfront expanse just north of Boston. The event? Hulu's Summer Road Trip (more on that later). And the movie? Good Will Hunting, the 1997 Oscar-winning film that made Matt Damon and Ben Affleck the stars they are today.
Hulu's Summer Road Trip is exactly what it sounds like: A group of Hulu staff is traveling around the country to eight cities. But the screening in each city, although different, is far from random. Each town will not only be watching a movie or TV series available on Hulu, but something that is deeply connected to their home. Hence Top Gun in San Diego, Seinfeld in New York City and Good Will Hunting in Boston. Check below for a full list of screenings.
Baxter Park was already filling up with people some two hours before the film was supposed to begin. There was a selection of Hulu-issue green and black bean bags for the lucky first to arrive, with plenty of room for blankets and chairs on the grass behind them. A tent was set up, filled with smiling Hulu volunteers, who distributed Rubik's Cubes and stress-ball apples to the audience as they trickled in. Indeed, kids and adults alike played an apple-tossing game, while others posed with a mop in front of an equation-covered blackboard.
A camera crew interviewed members of the audience as they waited, asking about their personal connections to the film. One woman said:
"My cousin lived near Ben [Affleck] and Matt [Damon] in Cambridge, kinda knew them growing up. I think he was at a wedding, and he was telling people, 'Oh yeah, these guys, they wrote a movie, it's going to be huge,' and no one believed him."
At its heart Boston's a small town, and the local connection and pride associated with the film were palpable. For those who are unfamiliar with the plot, it follows Will (Damon), a 20-year-old genius working as a janitor at MIT. After solving a nearly impossible mathematical proof — and getting arrested for assault — he finds himself meeting with a thoroughly unique therapist (Robin Williams). At the same time, Will juggles relationships with his friends (played by Ben and Casey Affleck), a renowned math professor (Stellan Skarsgård), and a girl (Minnie Driver). The movie won Oscars for Affleck and Damon's original screenplay, and for the spellbinding performance of the late, great Williams.
There's something about watching a movie under the night sky that brings people together, and that feeling doubles when everyone in the crowd feels a deep connection to the film. This isn't a theater where every person is an island in the dark. Outside, barriers are struck down, and suddenly strangers don't mind chatting comfortably with one another. That's why Hulu's Summer Road Trip is already a success, without being even halfway finished; if you screen it, they will come, and all that.
Son of a gun, I stole that line.
Hulu's Summer Road Trip Schedule:
Saturday, July 9 at 8 p.m.: Bullitt
The Yard at Mission Rock — San Francisco, CA
Saturday, July 30 at 6 p.m.: Curious George
Nashville Zoo at Grassmere — Nashville, TN
Friday, August 5 at 8 p.m.: Good Will Hunting
Sylvester Baxter Riverfront Park at Assembly Row — Boston, MA
Saturday, August 6 at 7 p.m.: Seinfeld and an exclusive Seinfeld fan documentary
Hunter’s Point South Park — Long Island City, NY
Saturday, August 13
Doors 5:30 p.m., Band 6:30 p.m., Movie 8:30 p.m.:
Saved by the Bell and Flashdance
Eagle Rock Recreation Center — Los Angeles, CA
Saturday, August 20
Doors 5:30 p.m., Band 6:30 p.m., Movie 8:30 p.m.
The O.C. and Top Gun
Ruocco Park — San Diego, CA
Sunday, September 4 at 8 p.m.:
Dawson’s Creek and My Best Friend’s Wedding
Raleigh Little Theatre — Raleigh, NC
Date and Venue TBD:
Happy Endings and Wayne’s World