As part of the entertainment during the short-lived Milwaukee summers, many parks and places show a plethora of free films outdoors to thousands of people ranging from kids’ affairs to adult-only showings to bike-in theater.
Although I shouldn’t complain about free movies, I’m going to anyway: many of these film showings are extremely crowded, full of loud kids (can you tell we’re DINKs?), and provide a poor visual or audio experience. Despite being surrounded by an oppressive amount of people, the events don’t often have a thick community feel to them. The leftover garbage on the hillsides may be a reason.
I found the answer to all my criticisms in an alleyway in Walker’s Point. Surprisingly, it was not a narcotic.
What you’re looking at, in all its cobble-stoned, assorted-chair glory is Paul’s Alley Cinema. Paul Dorobialski has been setting up this neighborhood hangout spot since 1998, way before this Walker’s Point hideout got as much foot-traffic as it does today. The handful of people there when we arrived were joined by others on their way to or from nearby Purple Door Ice Cream, Lucky Joe’s Tiki Room, or Black Sheep wine bar. Paul only has room for maybe 20 chairs as the other half of the alley still functions as a through-way for cars headed to Rumor’s parking lot.
On this hazy night we were treated to West Side Story, as most films Paul shows are classics from his own collection. I was impressed with both the video, projected on a screen hanging from the side of a building, and sound quality, coming from a large set of speakers behind the screen. It was interesting, too, that as most cars came through they courteously turned off their lights while passing us.
The movies typically start around 8PM, though all updates can be found on the Facebook page. There’s plenty of free street parking in this part of town, and there are no crowds to compete with. Paul supplied the chairs (make sure to help put them away!), and we simply brought our own snacks.
Paul’s Alley Cinema is one of those things that makes a city and a neighborhood unique. I’m amazed it’s still unknown in a town that loves to turn the quirky and endearing to mainstream and profitable. But Paul’s is chugging along, a hidden Walker’s Point institution with friendly folks and fun films. Make sure to introduce yourself to the regulars, stay within the cones, and enjoy the movie.