Open air movies have long been a summer passion for New Yorkers, with crowds annually flocking to places like Bryant Park and Brooklyn’s Rooftop Films. This year, however, with indoor theaters closed since March due to Coronavirus restrictions, New Yorkers are more eager than ever for outdoor (socially distanced, of course) theater. Now that Cuomo is allowing drive-ins, the options for outdoor movie theaters are multiplying all over New York City, Long Island, New Jersey, and upstate New York: Restaurants are transforming their parking lots and drive-in relics are adding extra screens. It’s setting up to be the summer of outdoor film because, well, who doesn’t need a break from their couch?
Tips for the Best Outdoor Movie Theater Experience
- Bring blankets and pillows to make the car comfortable.
- Bring your own snacks and drinks to avoid long lines or contact with others.
- Go early—these events will be crowded, and you want a good parking spot with a prime view.
- Bring something for the kids to do (books, games, drawing supplies or a screen) while you wait for the film.
- Bring small flashlights, especially for kids, for finding the restroom after dark.
- Know how to turn your lights off both inside and outside the car (especially if you plan to have a door or hatch open during the film.)
Outdoor Movie Theaters in New York City
Uptown Drive-In Experience at Yankee Stadium, The Bronx
From the folks who brought us the Bronx Night Market and the Bronx Beer Fest comes a drive-in festival with live performances, movies, and (mostly Bronx-located) food vendors which will open in parking lots around Yankee Stadium this summer. The “socially distancing playground” will feature both family-friendly brunch and date-nights. Sign up for more information and to get on a waitlist here.
The Bel Aire Diner, Astoria
This beloved 55-year-old Astoria diner has transformed itself (and its parking lot) into a drive-in—and tickets are selling like crazy. Forty cars at a time are permitted and customers can order online their grilled cheese and other diner staples—which are then delivered to their cars. The season appropriately launched with Grease and due to the event’s popularity, there will be two screenings each week. Tickets are sold on the website.
Bay Terrace Shopping Center, Bay Terrace
Bay Terrace Shopping Center is kicking off a series of drive-in movies on June 19, presented with Cord Meyer Development, the Queens Camber of Commerce, and Movies in the Moonlight. The first screening will be Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. To ensure social distancing, space is limited and spots are first-come, first-served, so you can register in advance at Eventbrite.
Outdoor Movie Theaters on Long Island
Coach Meeting House, Oyster Bay
This drive-in theater launched on May 16 with a sold-out showing of The Goonies. Viewers can order food from the restaurant’s full menu to be delivered to their cars.
Pop Up Drive In, Sayville
In Sayville, where the hamlet's movie theater remains closed due to the pandemic, a pop-up drive-in is set to open in June at a still-undisclosed location.
The Great Neck Park District, Kings Point and Great Neck
This brand-new drive-in movie series will take place at either Kings Point Park (Redbrook Side) or Allenwood Park. Cars will be 10-15 feet apart and no food or beverages will be sold at the event, though restrooms will be available.
The Town of North Hempstead, Port Washington and New Hyde Park
Throughout the summer, screenings will take place on Saturdays and Sunday evenings at parks in Port Washington and New Hyde Park, where social distancing protocols will be enforced. There won’t be any food for sale, but residents are encouraged to bring their own snacks, and there will be public restrooms available.
The NYCB Live, home of the Nassau Coliseum, Uniondale
Nassau Coliseum will also be hosting a drive-in series this summer beginning on May 29 with Trolls. The screenings will happen Friday (7pm), as well as Saturday and Sunday (4pm and 7pm) in the Ford parking lot on a LED wall facing Hempstead turnpike. Food trucks (Mister Softee and The Big Cheese) will provide refreshments and all guests will be asked to wear a mask when out of their cars. The lot will open 60 minutes before the film.
Outdoor Movie Theaters in New Jersey
The Delsea Drive, Delsea
This popular drive-in was once the only one in New Jersey.
Demarest Farms, Demarest
This market in Bergen County will be showing movies every Wednesday through Saturday night, beginning June 11. Concessions will be sold from a stand.
Boxcar Movie Theater, Various locations
This outdoor movie theater also just opened with screens in Franklin Lakes, Montville, Madison, Boonton Township, and Bernardsville and is partnering with local restaurants to provide car-side delivery of dinner specials and snacks.
Outdoor Movie Theaters in Upstate New York
Warwick Drive-In, Warwick
This upstate staple now has several screens—along with some new restrictions. Masks are required when out of the car and the snack bar only sells pre-packaged food. The New York Times wrote about its packed opening night when despite the rainstorm, attendees were thrilled to be out of their homes and saw hope for a return to normalcy.
The Four Brothers Drive-In, Amenia
Four Brothers Pizza has their own drive-in theater which now shows new releases, throwback classes and a few indie films every day of the week. “We bring people together in a responsible way where they can enjoy themselves in dim times,” says the owner John Stephanapolous. Covid19 restrictions will be observed but movie-goers will be able to order the restaurant’s pizza and Greek specials from their cars.
By Shana Liebman from NYMetroParents