Photo Courtesy of Skyline Drive-In
While the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted many New York City institutions and even forced some historic businesses to close their doors for good, it has also ushered in the unlikely return of a seemingly forgotten pastime: drive-in movies! While we here at Untapped have already compiled a list of drive-in movie theaters outside of New York City that are open for business, there are now a number of drive-in experiences that have recently opened right here in the five boroughs. So grab a friend, buckle up, and join us as we countdown eight new drive-in movie experiences in New York City.
1. Skyline Drive-In, Brooklyn
While most drive-in movie theaters want viewers to focus on the screen, a new drive-in theater in Greenpoint gives its quests something else to feast their eyes on: an amazing view of the Manhattan skyline! The Skyline Drive-In in New York City is a unique cinematic experience, offering a drive-in movie experience in an unparalleled location. Located at 1 Oak Street in Greenpoint, the theater is situated along the East River across from Manhattan, a view that might even be more cinematic than the movies.
The theater has a robust list of screenings scheduled for the year, including many new and recent releases. Tickets can be reserved online well in advance on the Skyline Drive-In website. Additionally, if you do not own a car or if you prefer walking or biking to the theater, the Skyline Drive-In also offers outdoor seating options to accommodate your needs. All spots are first come first serve though, so make sure to arrive on time.
2. Juicy Lucy BBQ Drive-In, Staten Island
Photo Courtesy of Juicy Lucy BBQ
Juicy Lucy BBQ in Staten Island, one of the city’s most renowned BBQ restaurants, has recently converted its parking lot into a drive-in movie theater. The establishment is hosting special “A Flick & A Feast” events throughout the remainder of the summer where customers can enjoy a movie and a meal all from the comfort of their cars.
Reservations for the event can be found on Juicy Lucy’s website, where a list of future screenings is also available (new showtimes are added each week). On movie night, the restaurant’s staff uses the reservation data to arrange vehicles, making sure that everyone can enjoy a view of the screen. In addition to the screenings, Juicy Lucy’s is also open for outdoor dining and delivery within any 4-mile of the restaurant.
3. Drive-In Movie Theater at the Brooklyn Army Terminal
In addition to the Queens Drive-In Theatre, the nonprofit organization Rooftop Films also recently opened another drive-in location at the historic Brooklyn Army Terminal in Sunset Park. Situated on the Army Terminal’s waterfront pier, the Brooklyn drive-in will offer outdoor screenings of new films throughout the summer and fall of 2020.
The Brooklyn Army Terminal entrance is located at 80 58th St. and from there signs and Rooftop Films staff members will direct visitors to the pier. Tickets are $45 per car and the staff will organize parking as to put shorter vehicles closer to the screen. The first screening at the Brooklyn Terminal was held last month and featured a timely premiere of the new film John Lewis: Good Trouble, which chronicles the life and career of the recently deceased civil rights advocate, Congressman John Lewis.
4. Bel-Aire Diner Transforms into Drive-In
One of the wonders of a drive-in movie theater is that it can be located practically anywhere. Such is the case with the new Bel-Aire Diner in the Astoria neighborhood of Queens. The historic restaurant converted its wrap-around parking lot into a drive-in movie theater this past May and has since hosted a number of very successful and well-attended screenings. Located on Broadway and 21st Street, the Bel-Aire Drive-In sits directly in the heart of Astoria, making it unique from the open spaces and minimal surroundings of traditional drive-in theaters.
The Bel-Aire diner also uses its functioning kitchen to add to the experience. Food, drinks, and popcorn are served from a special “Drive-In Menu” which includes dish names inspired by the films being screened. For example, when Dirty Dancing was shown one dish was called “I’ve Had the Time of My Life…” and another was called “Nobody Puts Baby in the Corner!”
5. Queens Drive-In Theater in Flushing-Meadows-Corona Park
Rendering courtesy of Rooftop Films
Now returning for its 24th summer season, non-profit organization Rooftop Films, in partnership with the Museum of the Moving Image and the New York Hall of Science, announced the opening of the Queens Drive-In on the grounds of the New York Hall of Science. The new outdoor theater will present films throughout the summer and fall of 2020, showcasing new projects by filmmakers from a diverse range of backgrounds.
The New York Hall of Science and the Museum of the Moving Image will also be planning screenings of science presentations and films. This includes a special screening of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey that will be accompanied by a panel conversation of experts discussing the film’s themes and lasting relevance to issues such as climate change. In addition to the educational value of the planned screenings, a portion of all public ticket sales will be donated to Elmcor, a long-standing youth and adult social services organization that services the Elmhurst and Corona neighborhoods of Queens.
6. Uptown Drive-In Experience at Yankee Stadium
The Bel-Aire Diner isn’t the only unusual space to be converted into a drive-through movie theater. Yankee Stadium, the home of the Bronx Bombers, is also being converted into a drive-in theater for select showings in July and August. Titled the Uptown Drive-In Experience, the converted Yankee stadium will host a drive-in festival throughout the summer where people can enjoy a night at the movies in a socially distanced environment.
The event will be put on by MASC Hospitality Group, which is responsible for the Bronx Night Market and the Bronx Beer Fest. According to partner Marco Shalma, the Uptown Drive-In Experience will feature performances by local artists, raffles, and live interactive games from the comfort of visitor’s cars. In the spirit of drive-in theaters, the festival will also include a feature presentation, and performers and hosts will stream from a PA system to car radios.
7. Movies in Your Car, Queens
Photo Courtesy of Movies in Your Car
Located at York College‘s Milton G. Bassin Performing Arts Center in Jamaica, Queens, Movies in Your Car is yet another new take on the drive-in experience. The new theater is a black-owned business and offers a reimagined drive-in experience that features a curated list of Black American films. Through this, the theater hopes to offer entertainment to the diverse communities of Jamaica that have been affected by the pandemic.
Tickets start at $40 per car with a $60 VIP option which includes popcorn, candy, Red Bull, and a guaranteed parking spot in the first three rows. However, even if you do not splurge for the VIP option all visitors are allowed (and encouraged!) to bring their own snacks. All tickets must be reserved ahead of time on the Movies in Your Car website.
8. Greenpoint Film Festival
Still from before, during, after courtesy of Sicily Publicity
Now in its ninth year, the Greenpoint Film Festival is set to run from August 1 to August 9th. However, the festival will be held at a drive-in location this year rather than inside a traditional movie house. Films will be screened at the parking lot on Meserole Ave. and Jewel, hosted by Broadway Stages and The Foundry LIC. For viewers who do not own cars, the festival has also arranged a row of parked, stationary cars with a dedicated cleaning crew that will sanitize the vehicle between each screening.
As is always the case with the Greenpoint Film Festival, a great number of diverse films will be screened. The line up includes a screening of the official Chuck Berry documentary Chuck Berry, the world premiere of before/during/after written by and starring Orange is the New Black’s Finnerty Steeves, and the short film American Marriage from Academy Award-winning Call Me By Your Name writer James Ivory.
Bonus: Newark Moonlight Cinema, New Jersey
Newark Moonlight Cinema Photo Courtesy of Conrad Captures
While outside the five- boroughs, the Newark Moonlight Cinema in Newark, New Jersey is one of the most interesting new pop-up movie experiences to come out of the pandemic. Launched at the end of July, the drive-in is owned by Newark-based filmmaker Ayanna Stafford-Morris and her husband, real estate developer Siree Morris. The couple is working hard to screen movies that feature films with predominantly black or people of color casts, including Girls Trip, Creed II, and the 2007 remake of Hairspray.
Drive-in movie theaters, including the many new ones that are opening during this pandemic, are known for screening relatively unknown films. While the term ‘cult-classic’ is thrown around a lot, the owners of the Newark Moonlight Cinema want to extend the term to a more diverse audience. “We want to be able to change the narrative,” said Stafford-Morris. “When we say cult classic, it shouldn’t just be assumed that it’s a white film.”
Next, check out 15 Drive-In Theaters Across New York State