A lot of things stand out about summer in New York City, but one of them, certainly, is the weather. It can be brutal at times, sure—the hair-melting heat can be a bit much for this writer to handle—but when it’s on, it’s really on. And when the weather is on, and a beautiful day evolves into a nice, crisp evening, there isn’t much better than going to an outdoor movie screening among friends, food, fun, and Mother Nature herself. While a mad dash for a traditional indoor theater and its air conditioning may be a good bet when your disgustingly sticky-hot apartment is untenable, here are a few outdoor film options that might just make you want to be amid the open air.
A Summer Movie Under the Stars
As part of the celebration of Prospect Park’s 150th anniversary this summer, the borough of Brooklyn and the Prospect Park Alliance have teamed up with Williamsburg-based Nitehawk Cinema to program four separate occasions of live music followed by family-friendly film screenings. The events will take place in the park’s Long Meadow North and start at 7 p.m.
John Woods, director of programming and acquisitions for Nitehawk shared that each film in this year’s series was specifically chosen to represent what makes Prospect Park such a special place, both to Brooklyn and at large. The NeverEnding Story represents the park’s incredible scenery; The Sandlot, the little leaguers and pick-up baseball players; Moonrise Kingdom, the young campers; and Zootopia, the Prospect Park Zoo.
“Seeing a movie outdoors can really elevate the experience—and being in a place like Prospect Park only adds to it,” Woods says. “There are no drive-in theaters in Brooklyn, but this is pretty close.”
Films screen Wednesdays from July 19–August 9 at Prospect Park’s Long Meadow North, located nearest to the Grand Army Plaza entrance at Eastern Parkway. Music starts at 7 p.m. Films start shortly after sundown.
Picture a mid-summer Wednesday night. You’ve been sitting in the office all day, probably sweating at least a little bit, and you’re anxious to get out. You need to decompress. And what’s even happening on Wednesday if you can’t make the trek to Prospect Park?
Enter SummerScreen, now in its twelfth season. For six straight weeks in July and August, SummerScreen kicks off Wednesday evenings in Williamsburg’s McCarren Park with live music followed by a film. Curated by Tidal and Northside Media (Brooklyn Magazine’s parent company), the music is always an up-and-coming act, well worth your time to check out (last year, Chance the Rapper’s younger brother Taylor Bennett was one of the featured performers).
This year’s film lineup features an eclectic assortment of films. Mean Girls, Office Space, Donnie Darko, Selena, and I Know What You Did Last Summer are on the schedule; the final screening of the summer will be chosen by audience vote.
As Jennifer Mills, Northside Media’s director of experience, tells me, they look for a certain kind of movie when curating the lineup—something they used to call a “party movie.” These are films that are so beloved—ubiquitous, even—that watching them with many, many other people won’t shrout your enjoyment. “We’re looking to pick movies that are well-known and energetic enough that you won’t get too annoyed if the person next to you is talking over bits of it,” she says. That laidback atmosphere is part of the fun.
SummerScreen takes place every Wednesday in July and August at McCarren Park in Williamsburg. Doors at 6 p.m., music at 7 p.m., and films at sundown—around 8 p.m.
Now in its twentieth year, Rooftop Films is more than just a series—it’s a non-profit film organization that helps filmmakers produce new works and provides rental equipment at low cost to artists and other non-profits.
But a core part of what they do is engage communities around film through their expansive, four-month-long Rooftop Films Summer Series. The series brings first-run films to rooftops around Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Queens, as well as post-film Q&As with cast and crew, and on-site after parties.
The lineup is extensive and has a little something for just about everyone, but one of this summer’s highlights is the inclusion of Williamsburg’s William Vale hotel as a venue, where The Incredible Jessica James, starring Jessica Williams, will screen, followed by a post-film Q&A.
Rooftop Films receives over 3,000 submissions each year, while also scouting film festivals and other events to decide exactly which films will be included in the lineup. Artistic director Dan Nuxoll says that part of the process is matching a film with a venue: something that plays well at a building in the Brooklyn Navy Yard may not play as well at the New Design High School on the Lower East Side, on the roof of the JCC on the Upper West Side, or at a fancy hotel in Williamsburg. It all matters.
“It’s always been our mission to challenge and entertain our audience at the same time,” Nuxoll says. “And by making such fun events and setting them in such unique locations, I think we achieve that goal pretty consistently.”
Check out the Rooftop Films calendar for the ongoing schedule: www.rooftopfilms.com/calendar/
Rooftop Films photos by Emily Hawkes