Just last week, New York’s cinema scene looked like, well, something out of a horror movie. Movie theaters had been dark since March, and– even as New York City’s casinos, gyms, and massage parlors were allowed to operate– cinephiles had to drive to Long Island or New Jersey to watch a movie the old-fashioned style, making for a virtually unprecedented reverse bridge-and-tunnel situation.
On Monday, however, New York’s embattled governor announced that the city’s movie theaters can finally join those in the rest of the state, and can open at 25-percent capacity starting March 5. Today brings more good news: The Queens Drive-In, one of the very few silver linings of the pandemic when it opened last summer, will return March 5 with a free screening of the long-awaited sequel Coming 2 America.
You’ll recall that Rooftop Films, which programs the beloved Summer Series of outdoor screenings every year, rebounded from financial peril by launching two drive-in theaters last season, including the Queens Drive-In at the New York Hall of Science. (Representatives had “nothing to share yet” about the current status of the Brooklyn Drive-In.) Among the programming highlights last season were screenings of John Carpenter’s The Thing and Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, and the directors will again be represented via screenings of Escape From New York and The Shining. Currently back in theaters for its 30th anniversary, Boyz n the Hood will be screened alongside the original Shaft, which turns 50 this year. Other cult classics hitting the big inflatable screen include The Big Lebowski, Labyrinth, and David Lynch’s Dune, being screened before the Denis Villeneuve remake comes out later this year.
Last summer, some drive-ins outside of New York City let attendees watch from lawn chairs. But the Queens Drive-In will continue to require that attendees watch from enclosed vehicles when they’re not hitting the port-a-potties or concession stands (CBao will serve Asian buns and Dilena’s Dolcini will serve popcorn and other snacks.) That means no bicycles or tailgating. However, a press release informs that Rooftop, along with its partner Museum of the Moving Image, will “remain in conversation with the City and State agencies to determine whether in the future it will be safe and legal to adapt the event spaces to accommodate socially distanced walk-up attendees.”
In the meantime, you can check out the Queens Drive-In’s March and April slate, and purchase tickets ($35-$45 per carload), here. While the screening of Coming 2 America is currently sold out, more free screenings will soon be announced.