Stars and Stars: Outdoor Movie Guide

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There's a reason they call the series, Movies with a View.


What is it about New Yorkers and the great outdoors? Once the weather turns even close to bearable we flock to restaurants with patios, bars with backyards and cafes with sidewalk seating. We endure humidity, mosquitoes and flash thunderstorms to shop at open air flea markets, listen to music under the stars, or watch a movie outside. And there are plenty of films to see–nearly every night in July and August there’s an outdoor movie playing somewhere in the city. Grab a chair or bring a blanket, carry a flask (but be discreet), and pack a picnic–there are great shows screening all over Brooklyn this summer.

Chess rock stars from Brooklyn Castle, July 21.

Various nights, Rooftop Films, several locations, next film June 14
Rooftop films, now in its 16th season, shows independent movies and shorts at outdoor locations around the city, including The Old American Can Factory in Gowanus and Automotive High School in Williamsburg. “When a new independent film is screened outdoors, in a fun and unique location, in a social atmosphere, audiences will come see something they wouldn’t otherwise see,” says Mark Elijah Rosenberg, Rooftop’s founder ans artisitic director. “You are willing to take a chance on a film you’ve never heard of when the entire event sounds so much more fun than going to a regular movie theater.” Tickets to Rooftop events start at $12 and many are followed by an afterparty with complimentary drinks and snacks.

Brooklyn Castle (July 21) is one not-to-be-missed Rooftop feature this summer. The film tells the story of the unbelievably talented chess team at IS 318 in Williamsburg. Comprised of students who are mostly from low-income and immigrant homes, this dedicated and naturally talented chess team has won over 26 national chess titles, more than any other junior high school in the U.S. The movie will be shown at the Old American Can Factory and there will be a mini-chess tournament right after the film.

Tuesdays, Red Hook Flicks, Valentino Pier, Red Hook, begins July 10
Located right on the harbor in full view of Lady Liberty, this is definitely one of the most striking spots in the city to catch a movie. This year’s theme is Season of Scary Monsters and Super Freaks, and standouts include The Lost Boys (July 10), Alien (July 31) and Zombieland (August 7).

For the first time this year there will be a different food sponsor every night, and all sales benefit the series, which is a non-profit endeavor organized by Red Hook locals. Confirmed snack sponsors include Pok Pok (which will be at Zombieland), Mile End, Fort Defiance, Good Fork, Ice House and Mark’s Pizza. Popcorn from Home/Made will be $1 and $3 tarts from Steve’s Key Lime Pie will rock your sweet tooth. Sunny’s bar has also sponsored a pre-show reel of old Popeye cartoons. Movies start when it gets dark–usually by 8:30pm.

Wednesdays: Outdoor Cinema at Socrates Sculpture Park, Long Island City, Queens, begins July 4
Although not technically located in Brooklyn, Outdoor Cinema at the Socrates Sculpture Park is very close, and the series is well worth adding to your roster of al fresco films. The program, which is a collaboration Socrates Sculpture Park, the Museum of the Moving Image and Rooftop Films, was established to celebrate the cultural diversity of Queens.

“The Outdoor Cinema program is an opportunity to celebrate our local community and bring more visibility to impressive international films that may not have had wide a distribution in the U.S.,” says Ellen Staller from Socrates Scuplture Park. “You also have the spectacular view of the waterfront and an opportunity to see the exhibitions on view.” Each week an international film is paired with local performance groups and local food vendors.

Food-frenzied Brooklynites should definitely check out Soul Kitchen (July 11)–the story of a young German-Greek diner owner who transforms his scruffy fishstick counter into a haute boho destination in anticipation of the  gentrification of his industrial Hamburg neighborhood. Films draw as many as 2,500 viewers, so plan on arriving between 6:30-7:30pm for optimal seating.

Go ahead, have the time of your life, July 25.

Wednesdays: SummerScreen, McCarren Park, Williamsburg, begins July 11
SummerScreen started seven years ago in McCarren Park pool; now that the pool is reopening as an actual swimming hole rather than the weirdest venue in the city, movies are screened in the park at the corner of the Bedford Avenue and North 12th Street. This is spot you’ll want to bring your dad-style camp chair to–while more comfy than the paint-flaked concrete of the pool, it’s not exactly a lush, grassy field.

To pick their eclectic, culty line-up each summer, the publisher, president and editorial team at The L Magazine lock themselves in a room and go through a few rounds of nominations and vetoes. This year the final film will be audience choice (the list includes Showgirls, The Lost Boys and Empire Records)vote here for your favorite.

Deirdre Hering from SummerScreen sums up the series’ appeal, saying, “Who wants to be inside on a hot summer night when you could be at a free outdoor movie with amazing food and drink and beautiful people?” On-site snacks options include Pizza Moto, V-Spot, Cemitas, Brooklyn Bangers, Little Muenster and Cool Haus, and there’s Sixpoint beer available as well. Also, SummerScreen gives away a lot of stuff for free. You might just win yourself a new bike.

Thursdays: Movies with a View at Brooklyn Bridge Park, DUMBO, begins July 5
This summer marks the 13th season of Brooklyn Bridge Park’s Movies with a View. The cinematic fun gets started every Thursday at 6pm on the Pier 1 Harbor View Lawn (be sure to show up early, this is a popular series and the lawn fills quickly). DJs from Brooklyn Radio kick off the evening, followed by shorts curated by BAMcinématek, and then the feature.

Movies of note include To Kill a Mockingbird (July 12:); Wet Hot American Summer (August 19) and Unforgiven (August 23). The final movie of the summer is selected by public vote. Brooklyn Bridge Park is an ideal spot to bring a picnic to snack on while you watch, or, have ice cream for dinner at Blue Marble, grab a Bark hot dog, or a taco at Calexico. Transportation Alternatives provides a bike valet, so you don’t have to worry about finding a spot to lock up.

Last Thursdays, Bike in Movies, Dekalb Market, Downtown Brooklyn, next film June 28
With its repurposed shipping containers, local food court and modular space, Dekalb Market has quickly become one of the most interesting outdoor venues in Brookyn, hosting dance parties, roller skating, and a monthly movie night. Screenings include the opportunity to shop and snack at the market and DJs will play as well. They’ve only announced half the line-up, Triplets of Belleville (June 28) and Kung Fu Hustle (July 26). The August 30 and September 27 shows just say “special surprise screening” so keep an ear to the ground for details.

Sundays: Habana Outpost, Fort Greene, next film June 17
Habana Outpost, one of Brooklyn’s most ecologically savvy restaurants,  shows free films outdoors on their popular patio on Sundays at 8pm. This year’s program includes Bruce Lee Fist of Fury (June 17), White Man Can’t Jump (July 15), Coming to America (July 29), Billy Elliot (August 26), Pulp Fiction (Sept 30), Who Framed Roger Rabbit (Oct 21) and more. If you can think of a single adjective that describes all the films in this year’s series, leave it in the comments below.

Sign up for details: Forking Tasty and Bike-In-Theater, locations, dates, movies to be announced, kicking off in July
Starting in July, the blog Forking Tasty will host a once-a-month dinner and movie meet-up on a rooftop somewhere in Brooklyn. Now in its fifth year, this summer the series will pair Italian food with classic mobster films and choice bits of Italian cinema. Sign up for Forking Tasty’s newsletter to get details on the dinners and to secure your seat when you see one that strikes your fancy.

Forking Tasty also works with the bicycle fans at Bike-In-Theater (not to be confused with the Bike in Movies at Dekalb Market) to provide snacks for the roaming film festival, which showed movies in a few locations around Brooklyn last summer. This year BIT is expanding to San Francisco as well. Although the organizers wouldn’t divulge films or locations they did say expand on few things you can expect from each screening, “lots of bikers, an old school hit movie and some delicious snacks.” Sign up for the Bike-In-Theater’s newsletter for dates and locations.

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