A visit to the movies is tempting in the cold of winter, but big-budget family film options can be lackluster. Why not rediscover the magic of the movies at a children's film festival?
City kids can sit back and enjoy the carefully curated lineup at the BAMkids Film Festival and New York International Children's Film Festival. These showcase international and offbeat shorts and features. You'll also find cool classics every Sunday at Film Forum Jr., as well as a mix of indie and classics at BAM this winter and spring with its BAMkids movie matinee series. Each offers dozens of picks for preschoolers up to tweens. Plus, ticket prices can be less costly—most are less than $15 per person.
Here are details on these festivals, as well as theaters such as the Film Forum known to offer regular indie kid flicks.
Annual Film Festivals for Kids
It's hard to resist animated sushi in the short, Shine On, at BAMkids.
BAMkids Film Festival – Fort Greene, Brooklyn
BAM Rose Cinemas, Peter Jay Sharp Building, 30 Lafayette Avenue, at Ashland Place
Saturday, January 28-Sunday, January 29.
Visit the website for a complete schedule.
$14 for adults, $10 for children younger than 13
BAM is again partnering with the top movie fests in North America to showcase 58 films from 27 countries in 10 different languages. Screenings are organized by children's ages, starting with 3-year-olds, and there are hands-on activities in the Opera House lobby, BAMcafe, and Lepercq Space, including live entertainment, animation workshops, magic shows, face painting, and balloon twisting. Note: Tickets are on sale now and tend to sell out so buying in advance is a must.
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Roald Dahl fans will dig the twisted Revolting Rhymes feature at NYICFF.
New York International Children's Film Festival – Manhattan
Various locations and times. Visit the website for a complete list.
Friday, February 24-Sunday, March 19
$13-$16 depending on the screening
NYC's biggest family film fest celebrates its 20th anniversary in 2016. The NYICFF spans four weekends, multiple Manhattan venues, and features 100 films from every corner of the globe. Programs are organized by age—with offerings for ages 3 and up—and everyone gets ballots to help select festival winners. There are often pre- or post-show Q&As with the artists, and other special events. Tickets go on sale to the general public on Wednesday, January 25 and screenings often sell out quickly. (When you buy tickets to a NYICFF screening, you also can give back to local schools. Just choose an institution from the drop-down list and the fest will donate a portion of the sale to the parents' association.)
Bonus: The NYICFF also offers school-age kids the opportunity to get behind the camera and make their own films with its popular filmmaking camps during school breaks. Participants learn to make live-action, stop-motion, or traditional animated films. These also fill up quickly so booking as early as possible is recommended. Also new-in-2016: Event sponsor Pepperidge Farm is hosting an animation contest concurrent with the festival. Families can create and enter a 60-second video starring Goldfish crackers for a chance to earn prizes.
kidsfilmfest – Williamsburg, Brooklyn
Made in NY Media Center, 30 John Street
Saturday, June 3*
$12 adults, children ages 12 and under are FREE
Part of the Brooklyn Film Festival, this one-day-only mini-fest features G-rated live-action, animated, and documentary shorts. There are also post-screening Q&As and film workshops. *The 2017 details are not yet released, so dates are tentative. The festival is in the process of accepting submissions.
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Ongoing Indie Film Series for Kids
Fall in love with the classic romantic comedy, It Happened One Night at Film Forum Jr.
Film Forum Jr.: Classics For Kids and Their Families – Greenwich Village
Film Forum, 209 West Houston Street, between Varick Street and Sixth Avenue
Sundays at 11am. Visit the website for a complete schedule.
The lauded indie theater screens family classics new and old every Sunday morning from September through June. Most of the matinees sell out, and it's no wonder. The lineup is an eclectic mix of oldies, from Technicolor musicals to newer favorites. To up the fun factor, there are frequently classic shorts preceding the films and special events following them. You never know what special guest might show up. Past visitors have included Ethan Hawke and cast members from An American in Paris. Be sure to browse the entire schedule; there are plenty of gems.
Museum of the Moving Image – Astoria, Queens
36-01 35th Avenue, between 36th and 37th Streets
Schedule varies. Visit the website for a complete schedule.
Museum admission ($15 for adults, $11 for students, $7 for children ages 3-12) includes a ticket to that day's screening, but you may want to purchase tickets in advance to popular movies. Movie purchases can also be used toward museum admission.
True to its name, the Museum of the Moving Image regularly shows films in its state-of-the-art, 267-seat theater. While not all offerings are appropriate for kids, you can filter its calendar to list only family-friendly screenings. Most screenings are free with museum admission and seating is first-come, first-served. Bonus: Old serials are shown in the Red Grooms installation Tut's Fever, which is meant to evoke an old movie palace.
BAMkids Movie Matinees – Fort Greene, Brooklyn
BAM Rose Cinemas, Peter Jay Sharp Building, 30 Lafayette Avenue at Ashland Place
Schedule varies. Visit the website for a complete schedule.
$10 for adults, $7 for children younger than 13
BAM's annual family film fest isn't the only time to catch kid-friendly screenings at this lovely theater. On select Sunday afternoons from fall through spring, the culture spot shows children's classics on the big screen. Upcoming films include Bon Voyage, Charlie Brown (And Don't Come Back), My Uncle, and Babe.
Top image: Catch Jonas and the Sea, a short inspired by a Hemingway novella, at BAMKids. All photos courtesy of the festivals.
This post, originally published in February 2010, is updated annually.