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Rob Rathmann is inviting everyone to his neighborhood, Charles Village and his very own film festival.

July 10, 2000|By Sandra Crockett | Sandra Crockett,SUN STAFF

He isn't in the movie business. He doesn't have a huge stash of money in the bank. Nor does he have a lot of spare time on his hands. Bob Rathmann, 33, is a full-time nursing student. He's a husband and a self-employed carpenter/handyman.

In other words, he has a life. So why did this man build a movie screen, buy a 16-millimeter film projector, secure the necessary permits (and even distribute the brochures himself) - all to create a free outdoor movie festival in Charles Village?

"I just really, really, really enjoy my neighborhood," says Rathmann, who kicks of his five-week festival tonight after sunset in Wyman Park Dell.

He really does.

Rathmann has lived in Charles Village for about seven years. He and his wife, Carrie, are active in the Charles Village Civic Association and take every opportunity to talk up their community. Most recently, they helped staff a tent at the Charles Village Festival. They have even won a "Painted Lady" award for the colors on their Calvert Street home.

Rathmann always takes part in neighborhood cleanups, has planted trees and been involved in neighborhood security watches. And now, the outdoor film series will come to be. It's an idea that has been kicking around in his head for quite some time.

"Years ago, I had a relative in Philadelphia who showed movies on his own," the New Jersey-born Rathmann says. "I mean he didn't have any permits. He just drove up to a park, threw a sheet up and showed movies."

Then along came last summer, and the free outdoor movie festival in Baltimore's Little Italy, which has proven to be enormously popular. That festival, now in the midst of its second summer, shows movies with Italian themes. It is supported and co-founded by the Little Italy Restaurant Association and Tom Kiefaber, owner of the Senator Theatre and the festival's ad-hoc program director.

However, the movie festival in Wyman Park Dell is all Rathmann's baby. "I'm not doing it with anyone," he says. "No, not at all."

He doesn't sound like a man possessed when he talks about his project, but there are definite undertones of the idealistic hero in "Field of Dreams" who turned his corn field into a baseball diamond when voices told him: "If you build it, they will come."

"I have a 16-millimeter projector," he explains. "I built a screen. People will sit on the hill. The screen will be at the bottom of the hill."

He envisions the movie evenings to be fairly simple and a lot of fun - especially for those not on a tight schedule. Patrons should not come to this neighborhood movie expecting things to kick off at a precise time, Rathmann warns.

"What time [will things start]? You know, people always ask me that," he says. "There's not a definite time, but as soon as it gets dark. I would say probably around 9."

But never fear, Rathmann has the situation covered if people come a little early to grab a good spot on the lawn. "I have a few `shorts' I can show while waiting for dusk to come," he says.

His plans are to show five films on five consecutive Monday evenings (rescheduled for Tuesdays if the weather doesn't cooperate). All are considered classics.

The film for tonight's debut is "Citizen Kane," the 1941 Orson Welles classic based on the life of media magnate William Randolph Hearst. Coming up are "The Bicycle Thief" (1948), "Dead of Night" (1945) "D.O.A." and "The Third Man" (both 1949).

There was no particular theme in mind when choosing the titles, Rathmann says. "I just wanted to show old classics."

Though the series will last just five weeks, he hopes it will be just the start. "My plan is if this goes really well, I will ask for a permit for more films," Rathmann says.

While he's taken care of the heavy lifting himself, Rathmann has received a little help from friends with other details. For instance, Eddie's Market in Charles Village is donating 20 pounds of free popcorn a week. Another friend is helping out with the sound system.

Still, Rathmann is footing the bill.

"It is expensive," Rathmann says. "Those bulbs for the projector cost $50 a pop." He pauses, apparently considering the financial ramifications. "I think I will have to pass the hat around," he says.

But he says it will all be worth it if people are encouraged to get more involved in the Charles Village community. "I'm hoping this sparks interest," he says. "My dream is that this becomes a much better neighborhood. We need a reason for people to walk about."

John Spurrier, president of the Charles Village Civic Association, is delighted about the movie festival and its location at the dell.

"The Wyman Park Dell is an underutilized resource in the community," Spurrier says. "Last month, we had the Charles Village festival there. It is also used daily for people who walk their dogs. And there is a playground."

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