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Legend Brewing Company brings the silver screen out under the stars.

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Summer nights at the drive-in: a pile of friends in the car, jumbo buttered popcorn and the silver screen against a starlit sky. What can beat it?

Beer. Microbrewed beer.

Every Tuesday night this summer, Legend Brewing Company will transform its skyline deck into an open-air Cineplex showing cult classics like "A Clockwork Orange," "Strange Brew" and "Sixteen Candles."

Every table on the deck is snagged for this Tuesday night's showing of John Wayne in "Rio Bravo." Young urban professionals in khaki pants and button-down shirts drink pints of microbrew at wrought-iron tables. Younger college undergrads sip iced tea and chain-smoke cigarettes in the fading light. No one seems to notice the giant projector set up in the middle of the deck. The big, black reel-to-reel 16 mm projector will take center stage once the sun goes down.

As the sky fades to black, waitresses balance pitchers of Pilsner, chef salads and Angus burgers in the crooks of their elbows. Then a flicker of light hits the white movie screen, the upside-down numbers 9...8...7... count down for John Wayne to swagger across the screen. But wait — first, it's Daffy Duck and Porky Pig running wild in a vintage Warner Bros. cartoon. The crowd cheers.

"We're trying to provide a laid-back feel for the customers. Not stuffy," says Legend manager and creator of Tuesday Night Movies, Matt Simmons. "Just drink a beer, have some food and be able to talk during a movie."

Simmons came up with the idea while on vacation in Washington. He visited a local brewery that was projecting "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers" across a vacant lot onto the wall of a building. "What I noticed was all these college students, completely enthralled in this musical from the '60s," he says. Right away, he thought of Richmond's large community of Virginia Commonwealth University and University of Richmond students. When Simmons got home, he purchased a used 16 mm projector from Randolph Macon College, tracked down a New York distributor of 16 mm films, and Legend Tuesday Night Movies was born. To increase Tuesday's slagging business, Simmons implemented the movie night idea in December with Vincent Price in "The Raven." Since then, Tuesday night business has quadrupled. Plus, renting 16 mm movies costs half the price of booking a band.

From campy classics like "Barbarella" to cinematic gems like "Midnight Cowboy," Simmons wants to offer a wide variety of films at Tuesday Night Movies. "The movies I look for are the ones that people say, 'Oh I love that movie!' or 'I haven't seen that movie since high school,'" Simmons says.

VCU undergrads Chris Gregory and Micah Berry were surprised to find Tuesday Night Movies on tap when they arrived at Legend to hang out and take in the skyline at sunset. When they heard that Legend would be screening "Rio Bravo" in a few minutes, they relaxed in their chairs and awaited the free entertainment. "I think it's just awesome," said Berry. "It's even better that the movies are old. It adds to the atmosphere. You can't beat it."

With green canvas umbrellas shading the wrought-iron tables, white Christmas lights strung through the railings and the Richmond skyline flanking the deck, the atmosphere is pretty impressive. To create the outdoor effect, Legend purchased a PA system with four giant speakers and hooked it up to the projector. "After that, it's really just a matter of running extension cords," says Simmons. The Legend staff even made their own 8-foot-square movie screen out of plywood painted white.

Tuesday Night Movies already has a handful of regulars and faithful followers. Bucky Metcalf Jr. and Craig Norris of the Richmond Pipe Smokers carry cards in their wallets listing the Tuesday Night Movie schedule and use the smoke-friendly deck as a meeting place for their pipe club. To keep interested patrons up-to-date, Legend prints its movie schedule on business-sized cards and puts them in the sugar packet tray for easy access.

"I'm a big fan of Mystery Science Theater 2000, and this is like that, with guys in the background hooting and hollering," says Norris. It's true: A few guys catcall when Angie Dickinson makes her entrance. Somebody else counters with "I love you John Wayne!" But the audience interaction is fairly tame. Most people continue to chat with their friends, order more pitchers and watch the movie under a starry sky.

Rain or shine, Legend will show a movie at 8:30 p.m. every Tuesday from now until October. Upcoming films include "Slaughterhouse-Five" on May 15 and James Bond in "Thunderball" on May 22.

So forget cramming your friends into the trunk of your car like they did in the '50s. Just drive over to Legend Brewery early on Tuesday nights to grab a coveted table on the deck.

Tuesday night movies at Legend
All movies start at 8:30 p.m.:

May 22 "Thunderball"
May 29 "Strange Brew"
June 5 "The Pink Panther"
June 12 "Ocean's Eleven"
June 19 "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance"
June 26 "Midnight Cowboy"
July 3 "The Jerk"
July 10 "A Clockwork Orange"
July 17 "Dirty Harry"
July 24 "Walking Tall"
July 31 "Taxi Driver"
Aug. 7 "Risky Business"
Aug. 14 "Repo Man"
Aug. 21 "Sixteen Candles"
Aug. 28 "Raging Bull"
Sept. 4 "Barbarella"
Sept. 11 "War of the Worlds"
Sept. 18 "Mad Max"
Sept. 25 "The Time Machine"
Oct. 2 "Invasion of the Body Snatchers"
Oct. 9 "Revenge of the Creature 3-D"
Oct. 16 "The Shining"
Oct. 23 "Psycho"
Oct. 30 "Frankenstein"

Legend Brewing Company is located at 321 W. 7th St., 232-3446.

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