If you choose to visit New York in July and August, prepare yourself for heat and humidity - this summer is predicted to be worse than usual! But if you make it through the days you are in for big rewards; New York's wonderful, tropical evenings are as made for outdoor cinema.
And New Yorkers know how to entertain. A variety of organizers are behind the city's outdoor film screenings in the parks, on the rooftops, on the piers and beaches. Some are niched towards indie film and world cinema, others show blockbusters, cult films and classics, so there is something for every taste, and most often the screenings are free. Here are some of the top venues;
At five o'clock on Monday nights, Bryant Park opens up for picnics and blankets. You have to get there early because the park is small and tends to be quite crowded. Unfortunately you can't spread out too much either; chairs, tables, tarpaulin and dogs are prohibited, but free bicycle parking is available, and the screenings are sponsored by HBO and Bank of America.
This is where to go, if you'd like to choose between a wide variety of old and modern film classics. Some of this year's titles are "Top Gun," "The Omen," "Harvey," "The Big Chill," and "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan". Warner Bro's cartoon shorts prelude the screenings, which start between 8 and 9 o'clock, as soon as the sun sets.
Bryant Park's outdoor screenings have a cozy atmosphere, and are easy to access because of it's central location in Midtown Manhattan. Fifth Avenue is a half a block away if you want to do some shopping beforehand, and there are several vendors on site, as well as nearby Delis where you can buy snacks and finger foods. Just be aware that alcohol consumption is prohibited in New York parks, although the ban is not always obeyed...
Bryant Park is located between 40th and 42nd street, and 5th and 6th Avenue. Subway lines F, M, B, D and 7 stops at the park. Times Square and Grand Central Terminal is located a few blocks away. Here is the complete movie schedule.
Over 300 Film screenings for free in Manhattan, Brooklyn, the Bronx, Queens and Staten Island
NYC Parks has allocated space in all five boroughs for free outdoor movies every night. It is in collaboration with a number of different organizers, who have created various film programs for different locations. Some of the most spectacular sets are Movies With A View, Summer on the Hudson: Pier One Picture Show and Movies Under the Stars.
Movies With A View shows films in Brooklyn Bridge Park, against a backdrop of amazing views of the East River and the Manhattan skyline. It is very easy to get there, just walk across the bridge, which is an attraction in itself. The park is clean and tidy, and film screenings have attracted 340,000 visitors since its inception in 2000. The film program contains a variety of different genres, such as beloved classic "Singing in the Rain,” Prince's music film "Purple Rain" and civil rights drama "Selma,” which attracts 7,000 visitors every Thursday evening in July and August.
Summer on the Hudson: Pier One Picture Show has an equally spectacular view of the sunset, though seen from Riverdale Park on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, towards Hudson River and New Jersey on the the other side. This year's theme is Audacious New York! and the film series kicks off with the blockbuster "The Walk" on July 6. Summer on the Hudson continues to show various New York-themed films on Wednesday evenings through August 17.
Last but not least, Movies Under The Stars shows a larger number of children and family films, such as "The Lego Movie,” "Minions,” "Blackfish", “Tootsie" and “Jurassic World.” Movies Under the Stars is a collaboration between NYC Parks and New York City Mayor's Office of Media and Entertainment, and show films simultaneously in several locations in the different burrows. Some of the screenings are at the beach, such as the 80's cult classic "Grease" on July 7 at Rockaway Beach in Queens. It takes about 1 ½ hours to get there by subway from Manhattan, but the beaches around New York are generally kept nice and clean, even if they can get pretty packed. Still, it's quite nice to end a beach day with a movie.
Several other organizers have partnered with the parks to shows films in different neighborhoods, from Harlem to Staten Island. Here is the full summer program with all the movies, locations and how to get there.
Those of you who live in Brooklyn, may have the largest amount of outdoor screenings to choose from close by. What makes the film screenings in Prospect Park Bandshell unique, is that most of them are accompanied by live music.
In 2013, for example, the Philip Glass Ensemble played the soundtrack to Bela Legusos "Dracula" live, and director Benh Zeitlin performed the music live for his film hit "Beasts of the Southern Wild" together with Wordless Music Orchestra. This summer's program includes cult film "Run Lola Run" with live music by The Bays, Oscar-nominated "The Triplets of Belleville" and 80's movie "Labyrinth," which, in fact, is included in several of the other organizer's film programs, as a tribute to David Bowie.
The Band Shell film screenings are part of Celebrate Brooklyn Summer Arts series, which is one of the oldest outdoor festivals in New York City. The festival was launched in 1979 to attract people and revive Prospect Park, which was a rather neglected and even dangerous place back then, and has been a successful incentive, now attracting nearly 250,000 visits per season. In addition to film screenings, Celebrate Brooklyn offers dance, music, spoken word and theater. There is no admission, but a donation of a few dollars is expected at the entrance. The lines to get in can be very long, and the seats fill up quickly, but the audience sits comfortably on chairs, and there is food and drink to buy from local vendors.
Prospect Park Bandshell is definitely worth a visit, and if you don't live or stay nearby, you might want to take the opportunity to spend the day in beautiful Prospect Park. It's designed by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux, the same team that designed Central Park. In the north end of the park you'll find beautiful Brooklyn Botanic Garden, and the Brooklyn Museum, which has interesting exhibits if it's too hot outside. If the summer heat doesn't bother you, and you like to move around instead, there are both tennis courts and stables south of Prospect Park.
The entrance to Prospect Park Bandshell located at 9th Street and Prospect Park West in Brooklyn, New York. Take the F train to 7th Avenue and 9th street a couple of blocks away from the entrance. More information is available at Celebrate Brooklyn's website.
New York is famous for its rooftops and roof terraces with stunning views, and many restaurants has seasonal restaurants on their rooftop where you can enjoy food and drinks. Nowadays, many has started to show films, and one of the organizers is Rooftop Cinema Club. They offer comfortable loungers and wireless headphones on Office Ops hip Bushwick location in Brooklyn, where you can bring food and drinks or order takeaway. Tickets are $19.
The club also shows film on YOTEL in Manhattan. Here the tickets are $33, but the price includes champagne and popcorn. This is a great alternative for those who want a break from the parks, and perhaps have a night out. YOTELs views tend to be sold out and many screenings booked weeks in advance, so you have to be book in advance. The movie selection is a mix of film classics, cult films and recent blockbusters such as "Vertigo,” "Pulp Fiction" and "Hail Caesar.”
Office Ops is located on 57 Thames St in Brooklyn. The easiest way to get there is by the 7 train to Morning street, about 15-20 minutes from Manhattan. YOTEL is located at 570 10th Avenue in Midtown Manhattan, just a few blocks west of Times Square and Port Authority.
Rooftop Films is relevant because the film program has a greater focus on indie films, including foreign films, which there are very few of in the other film programs. They also show short films from the Sundance Film Festival. Some of the screenings are admission free, while others are $15. The evenings will begin with live music, and sometimes continues with after parties.
Last summer Rooftop Films included a three day Swedish theme, including the documentary "Bikes Vs. Cars” by Fredrik Gertten, who was present for a Q&A afterwards, and Alexandra Dahlström's feature debut “All We Have is Now” about the girl band Vulcano. "Camera Personal," "Little Men", and the closing film "Creed" are a few examples from this summer's diverse program.
Here is the full summer program, as well as all the information about the different locations, and how to book tickets.
This is just a few samples of what New York has to offer movie lovers! You will find even more outdoor screenings at Metro's movie list, and Curbed New York features events with maps, for easy access. Central Park Film Festival expands its screenings in August this year to include a Harlem location. Brokelyn lists all outdoor screenings in Brooklyn, while the NYC Parks lists all movie screenings in the five boroughs of New York.
You can end the day with outdoor movie almost every night during the summer. A summer week in New York can be the perfect holiday for movie lovers! So book your trip now and enjoy!
Annika Andersson, as published on MovieZine July 10, 2016