Al Fresco Festivals

What more perfect New York experience is there than pursuing the city’s favorite leisure activity on the world’s most glorious real-life soundstage? An outdoor summer film series is better than any drive-in. The best-known option, at Bryant Park, is free, fun, gorgeous—but sadly overwhelmed nowadays. So lay your blanket down at one of these less populated alternatives.

Brooklyn Bridge Park Summer Film Series
A movie under the bridge.
Photo by Etienne Frossard

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Other series may show no-brainer New York films like Dog Day Afternoon and Radio Days, but none offers a view of the Brooklyn Bridge or beach-chair rental. Catered by the local restaurant Rice, this series is thoroughly civilized and eco-friendly, offering free valet parking—for bikes only. But the perfect date begins with a sunset water-taxi ride from Pier 11 at South Street Seaport.
Empire-Fulton Ferry State Park, between the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges, July 8–August 12;

Celebrate Brooklyn Festival

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Similar to the days of silent film, an orchestra will accompany the movies shown during this Prospect Park arts and music festival. But there are some new twists on this old theme. For instance, the sound to The General will be provided by the Alloy Orchestra, performing an original score while the film rolls.
Prospect Park Bandshell, Prospect Park West and 9th Street, July 15–August 5; 718-855-7882,

Rooftop Films
Rooftop films in Williamsburg
Photo by Kevin Cooley

Williamsburg hipsters turn up their noses at summer blockbusters at this eclectic series of arty diversions. Short films grouped by themes like “Youth Power” or “Un-American Films” are screened against the city skyline on a scruffy Gowanus rooftop.
The Old American Can Factory, 3rd Street at 3rd Avenue, Brooklyn, Fridays at 9pm, through September 3;877-786-1912,

On The Waterfront

Film schedule TBA
In Long Island City, the Socrates Sculpture Park organization plays international films on Wednesday nights. Vendors are also on hand to provide refreshments from the movie's country of origin.
Socrates Sculpture Park, Broadway at Vernon Boulevard, Queens, July 7–August 11; 718-956-1819,

RiverFlicks at Hudson River Park
Beatlejuice, playing on July 30 at Pier 25.

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Forget good taste. Munch on free popcorn and gorge yourself on sugary movies like Raiders of the Lost Ark, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, and The Goonies. It can get noisy by the piers, but the West Side Highway lends a drive-in feel, and it’s easy to score a seat.
Hudson River Park, Pier 54, at 13th Street, and Pier 25, at N. Moore Street, July 7–August 27;

And if you insist on braving the crowds...

HBO Bryant Park Summer Film Festival
Moviegoers at Bryant Park.

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HBO's twelfth annual Monday-night series is full of good-old gems. This year, the lineup includes American Graffiti, Dial M For Murder, and bring-a-pack-of-tissues Love Story.
Sixth Avenue at 40th Street, June 21–August 23; 212-512-5700,

Published May 31, 2004