When theaters went dark in March, film festivals quickly adapted by curating content online, but let’s face it, summer has come and you’re not about to watch a movie on your laptop, with a desk fan blasting torrents of sweat off your face. Luckily the organizers of the city’s great seasonal film festivals– including Tribeca Films, Rooftop Films, and the Greenpoint Film Festival– have risen to the occasion with pop-up drive-in movie theaters.
Back in May, the only drive-in within a popcorn’s throw of New York City was the Warwick, an hour and a half upstate. Other than that, you basically had to travel to the drive-ins of Florida and Texas to enjoy cinema through fogged-up windows (and even those were forced to close). But now New Yorkers can just drive their Zipcars right down the block, put the seats back, and pray the battery doesn’t die during the big reveal.
Aug. 1 to 9, nightly; parking lot of Broadway Stages, Greenpoint; tickets $20-$40.
You don’t even need to drive in to this drive-in. Come August, when the folks at the Greenpoint Film Festival will set up in the parking lot of the Broadway Stages production studios for the ninth iteration of their annual indie film fest, there’ll be about 50 parking spaces for those who drive and stationary cars provided for those without wheels. Either way, food trucks will serve as the snack bar, and you’re welcome to unfold a lawn chair if your hoopdie’s AC is busted. If you only see one flick, make it Snatchers, by Brooklyn director John Kingman. The sci-fi comedy was pitched on Indiegogo thusly: “Alien pods that look like purple corn get spread through Brooklyn’s hipster food truck scene, commandeering people’s bodies and turning Brooklyn, NY into something closer to Suburbia, USA — unless a rogue FDA agent and a rudderless trust-fund millennial can stop them in time.” The trailer, featuring an appearance by comedian/author/rocker extraordinaire Dave Hill, is as fun as you’d expect. “Everybody is acting weird,” says one character. “And not just Williamsburg weird. Alien weird.”
Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays in July; Hayground School, Bridgehampton; tickets $50 per car.
If you’ve got cash to splash on the $50 entrance fee, then gas up the Range Rover and head out to the Hamptons. Last weekend brought an Alec Baldwin-hosted screening of Assassins, a forthcoming documentary about two women who thought they were signing up for a viral prank and found themselves embroiled in an assassination plot when they were snookered into rubbing a deadly chemical agent on the face of Kim Jong-un’s half-brother. Other films set to be shown on the inflatable screen in a school parking lot are decidedly more crowd-pleaser: Scream, Jurassic Park, Mean Girls, Get Out, and the new Andy Samberg movie, Palm Springs. Sure, you could watch it on Hulu, but then you wouldn’t be able to show off your new Tesla.
Starts July 17, Brooklyn Army Terminal, Sunset Park; tickets $40+ per car.
After sounding the alarm about its future during the start of the Covid crisis and raising over $22,500 in emergency funds, Rooftop Films has managed to come through with its 24th annual Summer Series. True to the fest’s tradition of off-the-beaten-path industrial venues, this year’s films will be screened at the Brooklyn Army Terminal. The social distancing rules are strict at this particular drive-in (don’t even thinking about bringing lawn chairs or popping the convertible top), but the pay-off is quality films like Friday’s opening-night doc about civil rights legend turned congressman John Lewis. Saturday brings the New York debut of Dave (brother of James) Franco’s first feature, The Rental, a thriller about a rental gone wrong that might be described as “ScareBNB.” Stay tuned for more programming announcements as well as details about a forthcoming Queens drive-in.
Through Aug. 2, Orchard Beach in the Bronx and Nickerson Beach in Long Island; tickets free or $26.
In pre-Covid times, Tribeca Films hosted a “Tribeca Drive-In” outside of the Winter Garden. It was really just a cheeky description for a plain ol’ outdoor screening series, but now they’re launching actual drive-ins in the parking lots of Orchard Beach in the Bronx and Nickerson Beach in Long Island. Many of the films are blockbusters perfect for capping off a boozy day at the beach (Wonder Woman, The Fast and the Furious, John Wick) but there are also some cult favorites (Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure, Selena) and some past Tribeca Film Festival picks (Tangled Roots, a short documentary about a Kentucky legislator’s fight to decriminalize Black hair, will play before the screening of Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing). The Orchard Beach screenings are free with an advance ticket, so go ahead and splurge on that car rental.
South Mountain Reservation Archery Field, Orange, NJ; tickets $30 per car.
We normally don’t keep our eyes peeled for New Jersey events, but desperate times call for… just kidding! The folks who put together the annual Montclair Film Festival are fine curators, and the fact that you can actually drop your convertible top or pop your hatchback makes this drive-in worth the, well, drive. This is the burbs, so expect family-friendly fare like The Lego Movie and Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. But, on July 24 and 26, there’s also The Fight, a documentary following four court cases that represent the ACLU’s ongoing efforts to do god’s work. I haven’t seen it, but I’m guessing it’s better than the worst movie I ever saw at a drive-in, Matthew McConaughey’s Ghost of Girlfriends Past. Desperate times, indeed…
Correction: This post initially misstated the number of times Rooftop Films has produced a Summer Series.