Pie in the Sky

El Rio's "Outdoor Cinema"

Fireworks, schmireworks: For those who want something more than just lights dancing before their eyes on the Fourth, the El Rio bar provides an engaging alternative. The deep Mission's favorite dive (no Corona -- Dos Equis only) hosts a popular monthly "Outdoor Cinema" series from May to November. The films play on a screen stretching between a lemon tree and a fig tree in El Rio's delightful back garden. The cozy tree-encircled space seats 175 at best. Latecomers are likely to find their view obstructed by encroaching branches and the occasional altar to the Virgin.

Like the bar, which fosters a culturally, racially, and sexually mixed environment, the film series likes to push gently at the boundaries. This Independence Day, the folks at El Rio present "Pie Fight 69 and Other Delectable Shorts." Aristocratic cinephiles can keep to the Foreign Cinema; these down and dirty short films about food will play on a sticky edible screen made entirely of meringue.

The films start at 8:30 p.m. Tuesday at the El Rio Bar, 3158 Mission (between Cesar Chavez and Valencia), S.F. $7 cover includes an omnivore's barbecue, served from 7 to 8 p.m.; call 282-3325.

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