For a few months now, a pub in The Rocks has been holding an open-air movie night every Monday. It's part of the service at The Argyle, a pub in a 1820s building with a tunnel and cobblestone pathway to match. To celebrate this year's Vivid festivities, the Argyle decided to host a screening of Star Wars: The Force Awakens to celebrate. And since I named a stray dog Yoda with the help of my brother when I was 2, I felt compelled to go along.
The idea of an open-air cinema at a pub is pretty damn enticing. You get the comfort and appeal of eating at a pub, but you're not shackled with the need to arrive an hour or two early just to get a decent seat in front of the projector.
If you want one of the regular deck chairs, you probably will have to get in an hour or so early. My partner and I had a couple of seats reserved, but I wouldn't recommend sitting down and eating dinner there beforehand. You won't have too much difficulty getting a seat anyway: a regular theme throughout the night was people wandering in and realising that a Sydney pub had an open-air cinema at all.
I was actually surprised by the quality of the open-air cinema. Despite the picture quality from my LG G4, the cinema was perfectly visible even from longer distances. It's a good size screen with enough brightness and contrast for those in the back row, although anyone sitting on the regular seats might have the top of the screen slightly obscured by the lights hanging above. The sound was crisp and decent for a pub setting, but not up to the standard of your regular theatre.
Those sitting in the deck chairs will also be fortunate enough to have a heater nearby. It wasn't nearly as powerful as it needed to be, but more on that later.
As part of the "media experience", my partner and I was also supplied with a pair of Lilikoi cocktails made especially for the Vivid festival. They're twists on Argyle staples, consisting of raspberry, Aperol, Belvedere vodka, ice, grapefruit and topped with a passionfruit. It's more acidic than most cocktails, but it went down smoothly enough.
As for the food, you can order anything from the bar and bring it over. The nature of the deck chairs makes it pretty difficult to eat anything that can't be easily consumed in one hand though, so you're best off with the nachos or tacos.
We were provided with three separate tacos. The first was a steak taco with what tasted like grilled skirt with some kind of BBQ salsa, while another was a chicken taco with a texture and taste not too dissimilar from a chicken madras.
Both were excessively juicy, although neither was able to match the flavour of the prawn offering that we were first served. There was a slight battering on the prawns with just enough sauce to coat the lettuce and red cabbage. It's something I'd buy again, but sadly the tacos aren't listed on the Argyle's menu at the time of writing. A pity, really.
The Argyle also supplies free bags of popcorn for movie-goers. They're not particularly large, but you can get free refills and there's plenty of salt to keep you satisfied. It's a heavier dose than what you'd get from a Hoyts or Greater Union, but the popcorn isn't buttered and you're also consuming far smaller quantities, so that's worth keeping in mind.
It all sounds like a beautiful setting, with one exception: the weather. Our Force Awakens episode was brutally cold, and being seated directly next to the heater provided no comfort whatsoever. The construction of The Argyle doesn't seem to help: the entrance from the street is a large tunnel, which helps funnel the cold air towards those watching the movies.
Despite coming prepared and wearing a jumper, the cold air was so vicious that I couldn't physically stay. I looked at my partner and she wasn't doing much better: her lips were violently shaking throughout, which seemed to be a pretty good time to leave. Given that the movies don't start screening until 8:30 PM, you'll want to be really rugged up if you want to stay until the end. I'm talking gloves, scarf and fleece (or cashmere, if you're rich) at a minimum.
All in all, it's a joy to know that there's a local pub screening movies on a Monday night. The end cost is cheaper than going to a regular cinema screening, and it's a more enjoyable environment given you can talk as much as you like and you don't have to deal with whinging infants. My only regret is that it was so, so bloody cold — but then that's always going to be the problem for any outdoor screenings around winter.
The Argyle hosts an open-air movie every Monday night from 8:30 PM, with a movie from the Marvel Universe playing on Monday 13.