New York City has gone nuts for outdoor movies in recent years and with good reason, there's something magical about lying back on a picnic blanket and watching your favorite movie with hundreds of other New Yorkers.
Outdoor films are also the best way for grown ups to go see kid movies because you can just enjoy being out on a nice summer evening even if you aren't that into the movie. And, depending on your kids, it can be a great way to get out to see a grown up movie without spending the college savings on a sitter, as many kids will enjoy the classic films frequently shown or will just enjoy being out at night enough to sit (or sleep) through it. Films begin at dusk which is generally at around 8:30 and many of these series include other entertainment.
Here's a rundown of the best free outdoor movies for kids in NYC this summer:
RiverFlicks in the Hudson River Park is the only kid-only film series. Shown at Pier 45 on Fridays, the 2008 series will be The Wizard of Oz, Bee Movie, E.T., The Iron Giant, The Goonies, the original Willie Wonka and Shrek. Grown-up movies are shown on Wednesdays at Pier 54 and a few, such as La Bamba, Almost Famous and The Blues Brothers could be fun for older kids.
Bryant Park Film Festival shows classic films that many kids will at least tolerate if not enjoy. Not all of them are appropriate, but kids might like The Bride of Frankenstein and Superman. You can buy a picnic dinner at kiosks and the park is a wireless hotspot to help pass the time while reserving your spot. Films are free every Monday starting June 16th.
Movies with a View, at the Empire-Fulton Ferry State Park under the Brooklyn Bridge, has a few family pics this summer including Stand By Me and Wallace and Gromit: Curse Of The Were Rabbit and some big no-nos like The Shining (I am still scared from having seen that movie way too young). The setting is lovely, there's DJ music to entertain you while you wait for the movie to start and child-friendly food from RICE restaurant is available. Free films are on Thursdays in July and August. And this summer, the folks from Transportation Alternatives will provide free valet bike parking.
Celebrate Brooklyn at the Prospect Park Bandshell only has two films this summer, but they are accompanied by live dj and actors which will add an additional level of magic. The films this summer include Bruce Lee's Enter the Dragon and Brave New World, neither of which are kid friendly though might be good for teenagers. The nice thing about this venue is that the screen is so large that you can sit back on the lawn behind the general audience and little kids can run around and play.
Movies Under the Stars - Hoboken are shown in that other Hudson River Park, Hoboken Pier A Park. If you're coming from Manhattan just hop on the PATH train and watch recent films like Juno, Bee Movie, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Surf's Up with Manhattan as your backdrop. Films are shown on Wednesdays beginning June 11th.
Movies Under the Stars - Riverside Park shows films on Wednesdays at Pier 1 in Riverside Park South (72nd St) in July and August. They are going for a political theme this year so they aren't particularly kid-friendly but some of the good ones include The Candidate, Wag The Dog and Election.
Mamalu Friday Nights in Williamsburg begins at 6:30pm and you can expect to see a few shorts and lots of cartoons each night, right now they are showing selections from the Jackson Heights Kids Film Festival and will also be showing the Red Baloon, Beatrix Potter and other kid classics. Call to find out what will be showing that evening. What is unique about their film series is that they provide a drop-off service from 4-9pm where you can leave your children (ages 1-7) with a nanny for $15 an hour while you go out to a local restaurant (and they even offer 10% discount on a few restaurants in the neighborhood). Drop-off service requires 24 hour advance notice and a two hour minimum.
Socrates Sculpture Park every Wed night starting on July 9th, this international film festival focuses on a different culture or country each week and includes regional cuisine from neighborhood restaurants and local musicians or dancers. The most kid-friendly evening is on Aug. 6 when they will show The Red Baloon and Persepolis but the entire line up sounds great and the addition of musicians and the awesome setting will make any night a kid-pleaser.
Movie night in Astoria Park - every Monday night starting July 7th, the line up includes several kid movies including Happy Feet, Mad Hot Ballroom, Ratatouille and Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. And, because it is Astoria, they will also be showing My Big Fat Greek Wedding which is sure to draw a huge crowd.
SummerStarz McCarren Park every Wed. evening starting on July 11th in McCarren Park these evenings begin at 6 with a kids event like music, storytelling or arts and crafts which is followed at 7:30 with a band and then the movie which starts at dusk. August8th is kids night with Opus Ditty and the Hoedown Gang band and Happy Feet. Other films include The Last of the Mohicans, My Cousin Vinny, Lara Croft:Tomb Raider and Raiders of the Lost Arc.
Rooftop Films Shorts - While not free (tickets cost $9 or $6 online) and not necessarily or kids, this film festival which is hosted by IFC and runs every weekend from May 31 - September 27 will feature over 38 screenings of short and feature films throughout the city. Subjects include the rougher side of rural life, the weirder side of work and your best bet for kids, a night of the best new animated short films from around the world on July 25th. Venues include a roof in Gowanus, a roof in the Lower East Side, Automotive High in Williamsburg and Fort Green Park.