Summer season is upon us, which means, thankfully, that I can once again participate in one of New York City’s very best activities: outdoor movies. While I wouldn’t call myself a movie buff, nor do I rush out to see every blockbuster that hits the theaters (aside from Pitch Perfect 2, that is), I do love revisiting classic films in a picturesque setting. Also, if it’s at all possible that I can throw in a nice, crisp bottle of Rosé to go along with my movie, then that’s just what I’ll do.
I take great joy in loading up my picnic basket with light bites, charcuterie, cheese, and wine, and grabbing a cozy blanket to watch flicks like Barefoot in the Park or Rosemary’s Baby in a number of the City’s countless venues. For many years, NYC has been offering movie lovers free ways to see films al fresco, in venues like Bryant Park. In recent summers, people could even watch outdoor movies on the deck of the legendary Intrepid on the West Side, or venture to Riverside Park for their “Summer on the Hudson” film series. Additionally, even the Tribeca Film Festival got on the outdoor movie bandwagon this year, showing Lady and the Tramp.
In the case of “freebies,” the important thing you must do is get there early. One person in your party must act like parents scoring their teenage girls N*SYNC tickets in the mid ‘90s and camp out on what will inevitably become a very long line. Trust me, I speak from experience. Last summer, we lined up to see Top Gun on the Intrepid (“I’ve got the need for speed,” anyone?), and after waiting over an hour with picnic basket in hand, we were turned away at the door. It behooves New Yorkers who like free things to bite the bullet and stand on the damn line.
On the flip side, boutique hotels and entertainment companies are now offering more luxury experiences where all you need to do is show up and pay the ticket price; they’ll take care of the chairs, the food, and the drink. London-based Rooftop Film Club has literally taken their show on the road — setting up shop at NYC’s YOTEL on the West Side — offering movie tickets that include food and drink. Death Ave Estiatorio is yet another upscale venue that provides reservation-only rooftop movies beginning in May. They run a cool $88 per couple that includes the likes of cheese boards and bottle service.
Ultimately, it depends on what you’re looking for in an outdoor movie experience. For those with an adventurous spirit who like to plan and don’t mind packing up a picnic basket, try a free movie. For those who believe time is money and would much rather enjoy an all-inclusive experience, pay the ticket price, sit back, and relax. Either way, you’re making the most of the summer in the concrete jungle, no matter which road you travel down.
My Budget Pick:
Call me sentimental, but my favorite place to watch an outdoor movie is still Bryant Park. I have fond memories of my very close friends and I, who attempted for two summers in a row to go to as many Bryant Park movies as possible. They are hosted every Monday beginning on June 22, and run through August 24. The lawn opens at 5 p.m. on the dot where regulars and excited tourists take to the Grand Lawn to claim their stake. While this is more art than science, here are a few pointers: Bring several large thick blankets that can withstand water, grass and the occasional wine spillage. Have one or two brave soldiers claim the real estate. At this point, the ringleader can send a group text to the latecomers to let them know where they’ve landed. Also, pick a spot closer to the perimeter of the lawn. It’s much easier to jump over other people to make your way to the one bathroom located all the way in the back (remember some of the classics can be quite long!)
My Bougie Pick:
Rooftop Film Club
Price: $15 general admission; $25 admission plus food and drink
The Rooftop Film Club hosts its outdoor movie outings at YOTEL New York on 10th Avenue. Their season begins this June and goes through September, offering a roster of classic films like Back to the Future, Dirty Dancing, and Casablanca, to name a few. General admission will get you a seat for $15. The doors open at 6 p.m., when you’ll be able to choose your seat, grab your headphones and blankets, and settle in for the evening. The upgraded package costs $25 including food and drink, and you can buy tickets directly through Time Out New York. Interestingly, TONY magazine will be picking the “movie of the night” once every month throughout the season. They have only released the roster for the June films thus far, so be sure to check in to see what July, August, and September have in store for film lovers.