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How to Enjoy Movie Magic in Summer 2020: 4 of the Best Outdoor Cinemas in New York

New York is the most magical city in the world. An oxymoronic wonderland of skyscrapers and sprawling green spaces, it’s a commercial, financial, and cultural center, dotted with iconic landmarks and bright flashing lights.

Everything about the city is a contradiction: neat tree-lined avenues sit alongside overcrowded boroughs; gauche storefronts compete with art galleries full of beautiful antique paintings. However, if there’s something all New Yorkers are united in, it’s their love of cinema.

If there’s one event that’s sure to draw the crowds from their smart townhouses and squashed tenement buildings alike, it’s the promise of watching an iconic film, and the best place to experience such an event is at one of the city’s many outdoor cinemas.

With this in mind, we’ve done our research and found four of the best for you to attend.

Bryant Park


In 2019, there seemed to be a sudden flush of outdoor cinemas springing up. These quickly proved popular, drawing crowds from miles around, and as a result, this trend has continued to snowball in 2020.

For those looking to get in on the action and hoping for a great place to go, Bryant Park is one of our favorite venues, with films beginning at sunset. Visitors are encouraged to bring a blanket, pick a spot, and sit back to enjoy the movie magic happening onscreen.

As a rule, the lawns officially open at 5pm (three to four hours before the film starts), so that attendees can enjoy a picnic before the action commences, with the movies shown all having been picked by popular vote.

Bronx Terminal Market

If you want something a little different from the norm, we also recommend attending the Bronx Rooftop Film Series, which is hosted at the Bronx Terminal Market. Returning for its sixth consecutive year, guests are invited to watch their favorite movies from a uniquely lofty perch – the local rooftops.

A family-friendly event, the series typically begins airing its chosen film at sunset, but the fun begins a little earlier, with prizes, games, popcorn, face painting, and more starting at 7pm. The next movie scheduled is Coco on Tuesday 7th August.

While further information has still to be released, a number of precautions are being put in place to keep attendees safe and ensure they're able to maintain an appropriate distance from other groups. This will be a feature at all outdoor cinemas moving forward, with measures such as additional insurance also being considered.

Hudson River Park

Fancy a riverside setting to go with your favorite flick? Then the screenings hosted by Hudson RiverFlicks are well worth attending. Taking place on Piers 46 and 63, movies are usually played on both Wednesdays and Fridays.

Attendees are urged to bring along a blanket and some snacks so they can settle down in comfort and enjoy the full silver-screen experience. While their 2020 lineup has yet to be released, previous films have included everything from When Harry Met Sally through to The Incredibles and Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation.

The best part is that the fantastic flicks shown onscreen are only a small part of the overall cinematic experience—you’ll also get to enjoy the most perfect and picturesque sunsets from this gorgeous riverside setting.

Socrates Sculpture Park

For a dose of culture to go with your favorite films, there’s the Outdoor Cinema at Socrates Sculpture Park to consider too. Featuring live performances, and with the stunning Manhattan skyline as its backdrop, this really is a wonderful way to broaden your cinematic horizons.

The sorts of films shown tend to veer away from the mainstream, with an emphasis on foreign releases and live entertainment. Most movies are thus preceded with music and dance numbers, while there’s also lots of fantastic cuisine from overseas to sample.

Usually running from July to August, films begin at nightfall.

How to host your own outdoor cinema event

If you're feeling inspired and would quite like to host your own outdoor cinema event in New York City, here are a few things to bear in mind.

Although your event will not require a bricks-and-mortar base, you'll still need to put together a stage and perhaps some food and drink stalls. You may require a specialist contractor to help you do this, and if so, you must make sure they're experienced, reputable, and have appropriate insurance in place, ideally in the form of specialist contractor's cover, such as the policies available here.

You'll also need to market your event. There are lots of ways you can do this, but it's a primarily local audience you'll want to appeal to. Social media platforms are a good way to get the message out. An important factor to also remember is that you'll have to put precautions in place to minimize the ongoing risks and to allow for appropriate social distancing.

Don't forget; you'll want to choose films that appeal to your audience, so have a good think about who your target demographic is in advance.

If you’re looking for something a little different to do this summer, why not consider attending one of these amazing outdoor cinema experiences or even hosting your own? No matter which you choose, you won’t be disappointed!

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