It is one of my goals in life to attend a drive-in movie. Growing up in LA, driving home on the 110 at night, we would pass the drive-in theatre and I would try to figure out the different movies playing from the backseat. It looked magical and I couldn’t wait to go to there. Unfortunately, by the time that I grew old enough to have a car or go on dates with a boy who had his own car, the drive-in was shut down. I know they still exist around the country, though unfortuately fewer and farther between all the time, but I have not yet managed to make that particular dream come true. I’m going to keep working on it.
I have, however, discovered another type of great moviegoing experience that does not take place in a theatre, one that I have come to love, and that you find everywhere, every summer. That’s, right! It’s outdoor movie time!
Particularly here in NYC, there are many many locations to choose from. I love how much this city celebrates being outside when the weather gets warmer and provides free art events in cool outdoor spaces. I love going to outdoor movies here and want to encourage you to try it out. I think it’s so incredible to have so many people in one space being quiet together as they watch a movie and have a shared experience. That’s especially amazing to me when you’re in Bryant Park, where you have the bright lights and craziness of Times Square just a block away. You can see that it’s there, but over here it’s hushed. People are watching. Plus there’s star-gazing. Or an amazing skyline or the sound of the river. And there’s often wine.
And there are those weird shared experiences, not necessarily Rocky Horror style re-enacting, but just things everyone does. In Bryant Park everyone stands up and dances during the odd old 80s(?) HBO movie intro they play. And there’s always a cartoon before the movie, that makes everyone feel like a kid again. A few years ago at Rocky, everyone stood up and pumped their arms in the air when he reached the top of those steps. It was really cool.
And sometimes life intervenes and you have sirens passing or the annoying people next to you who won’t be quiet. Last year, I experienced one of the more fortuitous types of distractions. We were watching Ghostbusters out by the river and a huge thunderhead got going to the north of us…just about the time that a storm started brewing in the movie. It was so cool to see the lightning flashing in the distance at the same time that it was striking buildings on the screen! Cool and surreal and freaky and awesome. It’s all part of the experience.
That reminds me. If you are new to the outdoor movie scene, you should know that you do have to contend with weather. Many movies have been cancelled this year already due to rain or thunderstorm predictions. Our attempts at The Great Muppet Caper last Friday were foiled by a huge lightning storm prediction, after everyone had set up their blankets, of course. Well, they were right about the storm, but by that point we were in a bar drinking from tiki glasses with little paper umbrellas. Still a good Friday night and I think the muppets would have approved.
So now that I’ve got you thinking about it, I really hope that you’ll look into local outdoor movies. I should have posted this much sooner, but I was unable to attend any outdoor movies this year until this past Monday, when I saw Monty Python and the Holy Grail in Bryant Park. The following links should help guide you on your quest.
If you’re here in NY, you have a LOT of options, wonderfully summed up in this WeekendNotes article. They list all the big ones – Bryant Park, Hudson River, Brooklyn Bridge Park, and on and on – with links to the websites of each separate festival. …
…except they missed one. The Summer Movie Festival ABOARD THE INTREPID! That’s right, it’s on a boat. And not just any boat; we’re talking movies on the deck of a famous aircraft carrier, now National Historic Landmark and museum, situated in the Hudson River. Now that’s a place to go see Indiana Jones! (I so wish I had known about this series back in May when they played Top Gun!)
I’ve also heard of Rooftop Films, playing more of those movies you haven’t heard of (though I have never attended one of these). And I’m sure there are many more I have yet to discover.
For those not in Manhattan, I recommend checking your local papers, magazines, and that thing called Google. Also, the Alamo Drafthouse in Austin has organized the Rolling Roadshow tour in August that will screen movies across the country in the town/a location where the movie is set. Torrance, I’m looking at you.
I hope you’ll take advantage of being outside this summer. I know I am!