This summer will mark 20 years since a couple of young entrepreneurs, James Tutton and Paul Chiodo, started showing films in Melbourne’s Royal Botanic Gardens under the Moonlight Cinema banner. Their original program offered something for everyone, mingling recent hits, such as Pulp Fiction, with classics including It Happened One Night.

Since then, Tutton and Chiodo have moved on to other ventures, digital projection has replaced celluloid, and tastes in film have shifted (though not entirely). But as this year’s Shortlist Outdoor Cinema Guide demonstrates, movies under the stars are a permanent part of Melbourne film culture, with new venues popping up every year.

At the Botanic Gardens, where it all started, Moonlight Cinema (moonlight.com.au) is still going strong. This year’s program is a typical mix of recent releases and advance screenings of anticipated new titles like Carol (January 3) and The Big Short (January 13), plus the occasional golden oldie like Grease (January 28).

Usually the most adventurous of Melbourne’s outdoor cinemas, the Abbotsford Convent’s Shadow Electric (shadowelectric.com.au) has lost some of its edge. But it still does a strong line in music films, including the Australian premiere of the Blur reunion documentary New World Towers (January 7). Otherwise, the program ranges from recent arthouse hits like Under the Skin (February 10) to 1980s standbys, including The Breakfast Club (February 7).

Six floors up in the heart of the city, the Rooftop Cinema (rooftop.com.au), launched in December 2006, is by now as much an institution as Moonlight. (Be warned, though: it can get cold even on balmy nights.) The programming has a Generation X slant, with the enduring Pulp Fiction (January 3) among the highlights, along with The Talented Mr Ripley (January 10), Clueless (January 12), and Aliens (January 16).

Literally a stone’s throw from Rooftop – though it’s probably best not to test this out – is the new player on the block, the QV Outdoor Cinema (qvcinema.com.au) at the QV retail complex. It might not be the most atmospheric of venues, but the line-up includes some offbeat choices, such as Joel Schumacher’s Brat Pack soap opera St Elmo’s Fire (January 14), as well as home-grown favourites Muriel’s Wedding (January 22) and The Castle (January 24).

Source: SMH