Movies Under the Skyline
by Harrison Peck, 06/16/2010
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From the banks of the Hudson River to rooftop patios and the foot of the Brooklyn Bridge, some of New York City's most sensational outdoor spaces double as open-air cinemas each summer, offering viewers sweeping skyline panoramas as the ultimate big-screen backdrop. To keep film buffs busy this season, at least one classic flick, recent blockbuster, edgy indie or lighthearted family film is projected on a big screen somewhere in the City every night of the week. So spread out your blanket, kick off your shoes and enjoy a great movie under the stars (while taking in some of New York's most beautiful scenery).
Start your week with a free classic film at the ever-popular HBO Bryant Park Summer Film Festival—a veritable New York institution. Set behind the New York Public Library, amid Midtown Manhattan's skyscrapers, this summer's series kicks off on June 21 with Sean Connery's turn as James Bond in Goldfinger. The festival continues each Monday night through August with laughs (Monty Python and the Holy Grail), chills (Rosemary's Baby) and thrills (Bonnie and Clyde). The park gets packed, so arrive early—the lawn opens at 5pm—to snag a blanket-size plot on the lawn or a coveted spot on the steps behind the library.
Tuesdays in August, grab the kids and head out to Bayside's Little Bay Park for Movies Under the Bridge, an exciting—and free—series of family-friendly blockbusters. Located on the shore of the Long Island Sound and offering views of the Throgs Neck Bridge, this festival focuses on recent action-adventure films that will keep kids and parents alike on the edge of their lawn chair. Beginning August 17, the series packs in three weeks of thrills with 2009 box-office hits like J.J. Abrams' visually stunning Star Trek and Spike Jonze's reimagining of Where the Wild Things Are. Films begin at 8pm, and screenings include free popcorn.
Hop on the L train to catch SummerScreen at the McCarren Park Ballfields in Brooklyn. Kicking off a six-week run on July 7 with Cameron Crowe's 1989 teen romance, Say Anything, SummerScreen's lineup caters to the Williamsburg crowd with cultish films that are thrilling (Kathryn Bigelow's Point Break, a paean to FBI surfers), trippy (Labyrinth, featuring the sublimely bizarre alliance of Jim Henson, George Lucas and David Bowie) or just plain weird (Jim Jarmusch's Dead Man, a Kafkaesque Western that features Johnny Depp, Iggy Pop and the music of Neil Young). Other great Wednesday options include foreign films at Outdoor Cinema in Long Island City's Socrates Sculpture Park, as well as two festivals on the Hudson—RiverFlicks for Grown-Ups (on Pier 54) and Movies Under the Stars (at West 70th Street on Pier I).
Don't miss a Thursday night at the brand-new Pier 1 section of Brooklyn Bridge Park—whose skyline vistas are sure to bewitch even the most jaded New Yorker—for the 11th season of Movies with a View. This summer's lineup, inspired by the theme "dynamic duos," showcases some of cinema's funniest, quirkiest and most talented twosomes. Opening night (July 8) features New York neuroticism at its best with Woody Allen's Oscar-winning classic Annie Hall. The following week, catch the rare opportunity to see an outdoor movie in eye-popping 3-D with Monsters vs. Aliens (glasses will be provided at the park). Other highlights include The Big Lebowski, Rear Window, Brokeback Mountain, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade and more. Get there a little early (films start at sundown) to picnic while relishing the sunset over New York Harbor and listening to jams spun by DJs from Brooklyn Radio (music starts at 6pm).
Also on Thursdays, from July 29 through August 19, take in some classic New York films—including Broadway Danny Rose and The Muppets Take Manhattan—at the River to River Festival's Movie Nights on the Elevated Acre (55 Water Street).
Welcome the weekend on Pier 46 with a free family favorite at RiverFlicks for Kids. But don't let the name fool you; the kid-friendly lineup includes crowd-pleasers that are sure to satisfy film lovers of all ages. And the festival's location, which offers magnificent views of the Hudson River in one direction and the City skyline in the other, is the ideal spot to spend a warm summer evening with the family. The festival premieres July 9 with The Wizard of Oz, followed by classics both new and old such as Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, The Great Muppet Caper, Big, Annie and more.
A little further upriver, catch fun flicks (The Goonies, Ghostbusters, Rocky and more) on the flight deck of the Intrepid every other Friday night through late August.
Soak up the NYC rooftop scene while enjoying Rooftop Films' 14th season of Underground Movies Outdoors. This inspirational festival supports independent filmmakers by making indie narrative, short and documentary films available to diverse audiences in magnificent aerial spaces around Manhattan and Brooklyn. This summer, discover little-known worlds through touching documentaries like The Tightrope, which examines the demise of a small-town Mexican circus (July 10 atop El Museo del Barrio), or ponder urban change through provocative short films in Rooftop Films' Brooklyn Transformations series on July 17. On June 19, don't miss the critically acclaimed dark comedy Lovers of Hate—a breakout hit from both Sundance and South by Southwest—that takes sibling rivalry to a new level through a tale of two brothers vying for the same woman. Rooftop Films screenings are generally New York, United States or world premieres and are frequently followed by Q&A sessions with filmmakers and nearby open-bar after-parties (included in the $10 ticket price).
Kick back and wind the weekend down with a margarita and a burrito while enjoying a complimentary movie in the mellow courtyard of Fort Greene's Habana Outpost. The varied lineup features a slew of NYC classics—including Fame, A Bronx Tale and Saturday Night Fever—as well as favorites such as Footloose, Flashdance and Cocktail. Be sure to arrive early to try a treat from the renowned Bike Blender, an eco-friendly smoothie-making device that's powered by your own two feet, and to gnaw on an ear or two of Habana Outpost's famous cheese-coated corn on the cob.