There would not be too many places better than a Hawke's Bay hillside to watch a great movie or two on a summer's evening.

"Hawke's Bay is climatically perfectly suited for movies under the stars," is how Doris Blum puts it, as she and partner Urs put the final planning stages to the 12th OpenAir Cinema season which kicks off at Black Barn Vineyards in Havelock North on December 27.

"The past seasons have been extremely successful," she said, predicting the upcoming season would be no different.

As they have in the past, she and Urs have picked plenty of variety.

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The festival kicks off with a bang with Helen Mirren starring in Woman In Gold, the moving and powerful real life story of one woman's journey to reclaim what was taken from her and to seek justice for what happened to her family.

Music is a popular topic this season as Asif Kapadia provides an insightful portrait of Amy Winehouse.

The story of one of modern Britain's defining singer/songwriters is told through interviews with family members, close friends and Amy herself and the filmmakers have also been given access to never before seen archival footage.

Then Pink Floyd frontman Roger Waters steps onto the screen to perform the band's critically acclaimed album The Wall.

It details one of the most elaborately staged theatrical productions in music history and is an amazing concert film experience, combined with an intensely personal road trip.

The final night will host the intense Oscar-winning drama Whiplash, which tells the story of a young jazz drummer aspiring to make it to the top but having to go through the brutal tutelage of his ruthless instructor (J.K. Simmons in his Oscar-winning performance).

And a regular season highlight, the NZ Mountain Film Festival, returns to the amphitheatre with another Black Barn selection of "the best of the best" sport and adventure short movies.

After the huge success of The Budapest Hotel last season, Wes Anderson is also back with his earlier gem The Royal Tenenbaums.

The tagline for the movie says it all - "family isn't a word ... it's a sentence".

In Third Person, Oscar-winning writer-director Paul Haggis (Crash) examines three interlocking love stories involving three couples in three cities.

This is a contemporary romance serving as a crash course in complex modern relationships featuring the stellar cast of Liam Neeson, Mila Kunis, James Franco, Olivia Wilde, Adrien Brody and Kim Basinger.

And not to be missed are two of the best road movies of recent times - the crazy and fast paced German action-comedy Not My Day is genuinely funny and includes great music, and then there is Mad Max: Fury Road.

The season will run over nine nights from December 27th to 30th and from January 2nd to 6th.

"Everybody loves the experience of watching movies on a big screen, nestled in the picturesque vineyard setting of the amphitheatre," said organiser Urs Blum.

"It has great acoustics, good sight lines, the best technology installed and it offers views to die for, especially at dusk."

Moviegoers can relax on grassed terraces, sip a glass of wine with friends, enjoy a nibble from the on-site caterers or bring their own picnic and watch the sun set over Hawke's Bay.

It really is the ultimate outdoor summer evening experience - great films, great technology, great sound, great food and great company under the stars.

ADMISSION

Gift tickets: valid for any movie (ideal Christmas presents, only available until December 24)

General tickets: Adult $19 (pre-sales) $20 (gate) / Child (5-12 yrs) $10

The full programme, trailers, the print-your own ticket facility (ticket fee) as well as movie and venue details are available on the Black Barn website (www.blackbarn.com). Other selected ticketing outlets are:

-Havelock North: Black Barn Vineyards, Black Barn Road, 877 7985

-Havelock North: Dobsons Photo & Camera, Cnr Te Mata Rd / Columba Way, 877 8989

-Hastings: Dobsons Photo & Camera, 318 Heretaunga St West, 878 5424

-Napier: Dobsons Photo & Camera, 19 Dickens St, Napier, 835 9430