Where to find Manhattan’s outdoor film screenings

Gansevoort screening
photo by Mettie Ostrowski, courtesy of Rooftop Films

When summer hits, so does the urge to kick back and watch the silver screen outdoors. Now Manhattan may not have the classic drive-in movie theater experience like some of the outer boroughs, but it does have a bounty of other types of outdoor screenings — both in-park and on-rooftop. 

Whether you’re looking for family fun, a night out with your significant other or just want to catch a new movie, there are several different options to choose from. AmNY has cultivated a list of some of the choice screenings happening around Manhattan. 

Bryant Park Movie Nights

Website: https://bryantpark.org/activities/movie-nights

Located in the heart of Midtown, Bryant Park claims the mantle of the longest running outdoor movie series in New York City. It’s not hard to see why. Nestled between skyscrapers, the park contains one of the most iconic and well manicured lawns in the city — a perfect place to plop down and get absorbed into a motion pictured on a crisp summer night.

The privately run park’s annual outdoor film series will return on June 10 with a screening of six-time Academy Award winner and classic, “Forrest Gump,” celebrating its 30th anniversary. Movies will screen every Monday night through August 12, showcasing selections from the Paramount film collection curated by Vulture. 

This summer’s lineup includes a variety of films from blockbusters like “Gladiator” and “Titanic” to cinema classics like “Cinema Paradiso” and the Audrey Hepburn musical “Funny Face.” There’s a film for all different stripes — and that’s what attracts the program’s die-hard fans, who will reportedly stick it out for screenings even in the event of rain. Movie nights are almost always on — rain or shine, with the exception of thunderstorms.

Attendees are encouraged to bring a breathable blanket (no tarps, or plastic coverings that would hurt the lawn), some food, and friends—but be sure to arrive early, since folks start staking out spots well before screenings begin.

Hester Street Fair curates a variety of food vendors on the Fountain Terrace, and beer and wine available on the eastern end of the lawn beginning at 5 p.m.

“They are welcome to bring their own picnics, but we have food and beverage available from a wide variety of vendors on those evenings,” said Irene Vagianos Whelan, the park’s vice president of events. “So you can come completely unprepared and, and just pick up stuff on your way to the lawn.

The Rooftop @ Pier 17

Website: https://theseaport.nyc/seaport-cinema/

Located on the edge of the financial district’s South Street Seaport, The Rooftop at Pier 17 has offered up its massive rooftop venue to host Seaport Cinema each summer on since 2018.  

This year all the movie screenings share a running theme of something musical. The season will next host a “Mamma Mia” sing-along on June 10. One thing that separates this screening is that its selection is audience-chosen. The Seaport’s team put together a short list of movies tied to a theme and then fans voted on Instagram for the final line up. Other films will include “A Star Is Born,” the animated feature “Sing” and “Barbie.”

“I love that all of the movies are tied to music themes this year. I’m especially excited about School of Rock later this summer,” said Ellie Chamberland, vice president of marketing.

The organizers advise filmgoers to bring a blanket to sit on. The Rooftop has turf but there are no chairs, so attendees should plan on wearing something comfortable. For drinks, the Rooftop has got attendees covered. It doesn’t allow outside beverages but there are lots of options available for purchase.

For food, attendees can also bring their own – but Rooftop also offers a menu that changes throughout the season. The first movie night had hot dogs, tater tots, chicken tenders and, of course, popcorn. Doors open at 6:30 and the movie starts at 7:30 p.m.

photo courtesy The Rooftop @ Pier 17

Rooftop Films

Website: https://rooftopfilms.com/calendar/

While it’s not a traditional film program and often located in Brooklyn, the nomadic Rooftop Films program has prepared some very unique outdoor film screening experiences for the Big Apple’s central borough this summer.

Started 28 years ago on a rooftop in Bushwick, Rooftop Films serves as an outlet for new independent films in addition to hosting outdoor screenings of film favorites. This summer it will host a series of screenings in Gansevoort Plaza in the Meatpacking District and in Tompkins Square Park. 

“It’s not just that we are showing a bunch of great films on the weekend.  We’re an extended celebration of cinema, and we love getting people together and having a good time in outdoor venues,” said Adnaan Wasey, the organization’s executive director.

The Gansevoort summer screenings will kick off with “Gaga Chromatic Ball,” a concert film of Lady Gaga’s performance at Los Angeles’s Dodger Stadium during her 2022 Chromatica Ball Tour that HBO is about to release.

Wasey added that the nonprofit aims to put on site-specific events that play off the neighborhood in which they are shown. The other screenings at Gansevoort will include “Crossing,” a drama by Swedish filmmaker of Georgian descent and a night of original short films.

Randall’s Island Film Screenings

Website: https://randallsisland.org/events/

Though not in Manhattan (though technically in New York County), Randall’s Island has been hosting a summer outdoors movie night that largely serves residents of Gotham. 

The Randall’s Island Park Alliance is hosting three movie screenings this summer for the whole family. Attendees are encouraged to bring a blanket to enjoy a movie while overlooking the Hell Gate Bridge and city skyline. The screenings are happening at Field 62, one of the soccer fields located on the southern end. 

At the July 13th screening of “Barbie,” organizers encourage attendees to plan their screening adventure along with a full day of programming along the waterfront, including yoga and dance, kayaking, cooking demonstrations and pickleball.

NYC Parks’ Movies Under the Stars

Website: https://www.nycgovparks.org/events/movies-under-the-stars

Of course we would be remiss not to mention the “Movies Under the Stars” through which the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment and NYC Parks bring more than 150 film screenings to parks throughout the five boroughs over the summer. 

These screenings are happening across dozens of parks throughout Manhattan, mostly on a one-off basis. They tend to stick with kids-friendly movies, but selection can range from the Marvel arena like “Black Adam” happening at Kips Bay Bellevue South Park to the Public’s Free Shakespeare in the Park productions of “Much Ado About Nothing.”