In the Park, A Film Free-for-All

110630_davis_TSPFILM_220Joshua Davis The EPIX Movie Free-for-All is the first sponsored weekly film series held in Tompkins Square Park. Screening will take place Thursday evenings through Aug. 25.

The East Village, with its history of art house theaters and independent video stores, has long been a destination for movie lovers. But for countless summers, East Villagers have had to trek uptown or head to out to Brooklyn to participate in a summer tradition: outdoor movie screenings.

That all ended last night when the EPIX Movie Free-for-All premiered its weekly film series in Tompkins Square Park with the screening of Martin Scorsese’s “Raging Bull.”

“When we saw it was right here, and we could run and use the bathroom in our own apartment we were like, ‘let’s go,’” said Polly Seplowitz, 27, a nearby resident and public school teacher who came with her neighbor.

The series is the first sponsored weekly film event held in Tompkins Square Park, and organizers say they are pleased to bring an event patterned after the popular HBO Bryant Park Summer Film Festival to the East Village.

110630_davis_TSPFILM_090 Boxing promoter Don King was on hand.

“Bryant Park is huge and industrial,” said Darin Rubell, owner of Ella Lounge who helped to organize the screenings. “This is so much more intimate and very East Village, New York.”

The crowd started to arrive more than two hours before the screening and was treated to free snacks including popcorn and Italian ice, as well as giveaways such as an iPad and boxing gloves signed by actor Robert DeNiro. Boxing promoter Don King was on hand as well to help promote the event.

“You see all these people in this park,” said Mr. King. “It’s pure Americana.”

When the film started at about 9 p.m, a diverse crowd — which included young families, students, longtime residents and even some crusties — filled most of the concrete and grass areas of the southeast section of the park.

“This is pleasant,” said Russell Jones, 50, a jewelry designer who lives in Park Slope. “Bryant Park is nice, but it’s super crowded. This is more casual.”

The Free-for-All series will also screen films in three other locations, and it is being sponsored by EPIX, a new television and video-on-demand movie channel.

110630_davis_TSPFILM_068Joshua Davis Polly Seplowitz and Cara Zelikovsky.

The series runs every Thursday evening through Aug. 25. Upcoming screenings include “Coming to America,” “The Pope of Greenwich Village” and “Rosemary’s Baby.”

And while Mr. King doesn’t expect to be at the next screening, EPIX promised more iPad giveaways and other prizes.