The Summer's Coolest Outdoor Screenings For You to Attend Across the Country
From silent films being live-scored to watching 'Jaws' from an inner tube, the summer is for cinephiles.
Often free and always fun, cinema hits the summer ether like the smell of fresh cut grass and barbecues. That’s because there’s nothing quite like a balmy July evening on a blanket under the stars to experience that collective joy of watching a movie. While many summer screenings are oriented towards families and kids, there are organizers dedicated to screening great films from new indie filmmakers and older, forgotten gems. No self-respecting filmmaker should go without at least one of these summer screenings!
No Film School has compiled a great list of events for unusual films old and new in classic theaters, art museums, and outdoorpop-upss. Take a look at this list for a screening near you!
A true dedication to the iconic cinema of yore, this year's Classic Film Series will span different eras of musicals, Westerns, screwball comedies, and foreign favorites at the Paramount and Stateside Theater. The full lineup will be announced this month, and will kick off in June with a jump into the deep end for 1979 Apocalypse Now Redux.
Baton Rouge, Louisiana
You have to hand it to BREC's City Park: for two decades, they've brought silent films to life for the residents of Baton Rouge. Their schtick? Invite some of the best local, contemporary bands to perform a live, never-before-heard score to the film projected on a huge inflatable outdoor screen. Please spread this idea around.
The historic Alabama Theatre was built in 1927 by Paramount Studios, and inside this gorgeous interior you can gain respite from the humid Alabama heat and watch such gems as Dial M for Murder and Edward Scissorhands.
Of the many Boston film screenings this summer, the free monthly series screened on the Museum’s Huntington Avenue lawn stands out for its collection of classy titles, from Black Panther to JR and Agnès Varda’s Faces Places to Hayao Miyazaki’s 1984 sci-fi epic Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind.
Run by The Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE) on the parks’ of the Great Lawn below a 40-foot LED screen, this year’s films include titles like Get Out and Hairspray, and features a locally-produced “ChicagoMade Short” before each feature. Now that’s a cool trend that needs to come back to more theatrical screenings!
Hosted by the super cool, filmmaker-friendly Denver Film Society, Film on the Rocks screens two films a month from May–August in the scenic Red Rocks Ampitheater. This year, there will be titles like Heathers and The Grand Budapest Hotel, as well as Denver native Rian Johnson’s latest Star Wars offering.
Harrisburg's independent art house theater screens a collection of free films all summer in the Midtown Cinema parking lot, featuring titles like GODZILLA VS MEGALON accompanied with comedy riffing by a local Improv group and a opening band, and a Grease sing-a-long (it’s the film's 40th anniversary, after all).
Hosted by The Indianapolis Museum of Art on its 152-acre campus, this sunset series features some seriously worthy gems that you just don’t see enough of, like But I’m a Cheerleader and An American Werewolf in London.
Iowa City, Iowa
Screening on an inflatable screen in an outdoor theater, this series happens on the University of Iowa Pentacrest outside of Macbride Hall at sunset, featuring titles like Hidden Figures and Pretty in Pink. Did we mention it's free?
As part of the Mississippi Museum of Art and Crossroads Film Festival, the Museum offers After Hours outdoor movies for free every third Thursday, including an eclectic mix of classics like Smokey and the Bandit and Beetlejuice.
Kansas City, Missouri
Want to watch movies on the rooftop of a library? Head to the Kansas City Central Library for this free screening series featuring a fun playlist of music-themed movies, from CB4 to Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist. Plus free popcorn, and good beer for those of age!
Laconia, New Hampshire
Where are all the good old-fashioned drive-in theaters? Closed down for good, most of them. That’s what also nearly happened to the iconic Weirs Drive In, when a development deal went awry and gave the drive-in a stay of execution for at least one more season, making this its 69th. Titles are standard summer blockbusters, and if you don’t care to watch from your car, the end of June also features a week to watch from your bike!
Las Vegas, Nevada
If you need a break from the overstimulation of the Las Vegas Strip (and heat), then jump in the Cosmopolitan’s Boulevard Pool on Monday nights and watch a movie from the water. Order a White Russian poolside if you happen to be there for the next screening of The Big Lebowski.
This summer classic has been going on since 2003, and this year features a fantastic line up of iconic classic cinema, from a Marx Brothers double feature of Duck Soup and Horse Feathers to Francis Ford Coppola's The Godfather Part II.
Little Rock, Arkansas
This laidback free series is hosted by the Arkansas Cinema Society (whose mission is to build a film community in Arkansas for film lovers and filmmakers) featuring food trucks and the recently screened Ghostbusters (with more summer events to be posted on their Facebook page.)
Los Angeles, California
There’s more than one screening on a given summer day in the quaint little town of Los Angeles (here's a super comprehensive list) but Cinespia at the Hollywood Forever Cemetary has got to be one of the best. Now in its 17th year, the summer series welcomes Angelenos into the iconic cemetery with blankets and picnic baskets and some pretty cool titles, this year ranging from Drive to To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar. I watched my first Jodorowsky film there some years ago, for a confusing and brilliant screening of The Holy Mountain.
Fridays in June at the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art mean the 13th season of Rooftop Cinema, which boasts a handful of unsual or undergournd collection of films from the 1968 Symbiopsychotaxiplasm to more recent INAATE/SE/ [it shines a certain way. to a certain place./it flies. falls./].
Miami is actually just one stop on the Adult Swim tour, which features a one-night festival celebration of all things Williams Street, like a screening of “Things You May Have Never Seen” as well as unaired Adult Swim episodes.
The roaming screening series travels to more than 30 parks throughout the summer, includes a partnership with the Twin Cities Black Film Festival, and screens different titles from Dodgeball to West Side Story.
The Kenworthy Performing Arts has been screening films since 1926, and they’ve learned a thing or two in that time. In addition to having a Memorial Day Wes Anderson Marathon (yes please) this month, all summer long they host Saturday Market Cartoons from 9am to 12pm.
Nevada City, California
The Nevada City Film Festival (NCFF) screens this outdoor cinema series at the Pioneer Park Bandshell with comedic classics this year like Christopher Guest’s Best in Show and John Hughes’ The Great Outdoors.
New York City, NY
There are tons of things going on in NYC as one can imagine (and as one can read in this Parks edition of 2018 free summer movies) but one of the best summer screening series has most definitely got to be Rooftop Films, which takes place in unique outdoor venues every weekend throughout the summer. Kicking off its 22nd Summer Series in Brooklyn’s Green-Wood Cemetery with a focus on great international shorts, This Is What We Mean By Short Films, the summer lineup also includes a dozen more carefully curated programs, such as the New York Nonfiction, Net Positive, a program of internet-related short films co-presented with The Mozilla Foundation. A great feature film lineup rounds things out with recent indie breakouts like Damsel, Nancy, and Hearts Beat Loud. Each screening has accompanying live musical performances and after-parties with fancy stuff like sponsors and signature drinks. Fun!
Park City, Utah
Who in Utah could program a good summer screening series? If you guessed Sundance, you guessed right. This free outdoor screening series featutres Sundance Film Festival favorites in Salt Lake City, Park City, Ogden, and Kamas, with food, special guests, and fun activities, not to mention a few 20th anniversary surprises in 2018!
To help Oregon Film celebrate its 50th anniversary, this series at the Hollywood Theater will showcase a ton of great films shot in the state, including a 35mm screening of the Salem-shot One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, accompanied by artifacts and stories provided by the Museum about the shoot.
Raleigh, North Carolina
For over 20 years, the NCMA has screened movie magic under the stars, this year screening great titles like Ladybird and Yellow Submarine to an event titled Wakanda Forever: Black Panther Movie Party.
Salt Lake City, Utah
This year, the Salt Lake Film Society reminds us that it's not all ski bums and Mormon Tabernacle Choir in the great Beehive state, with an eclectic assortment of gems from Idiocracy to The Love Witch, with lots of unusual outrageous acts and music thrown in-between.
San Francisco, California
Taking place in parks like Union Square and Dolores Park, Film Night in the Park is a free screening series from June to September. They haven’t announced the 2018 lineup yet, but, being run by The San Francisco Neighborhood Theater Foundation, they are always sure to have some grown-up classics mixed in with family-friendly nights.
Formerly known as the Fremont Outdoor Cinema, this 21+ screening is now free! It starts with a 25th anniversary celebration of Jurassic Park and continues monthly for a Night Market series in South Lake Union where you can add food trucks to this “good old fashioned weird summer fun.”
In its 18th year, Cinema La Placita will host a summer series for a hundred or so Tucsonans every Thursday, specializing in classics like Orson Welles’ The Stranger and Stanley Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove. Three bucks gets you a movie and popcorn!
Located in DC’s vibrant NoMa neighborhood next to Capitol Hill, this year’s NoMa Summer Screen will feature films from the theme: Wonder Woman. Titles include movies with strong female leads such as classic Thelma & Louise to Mad Max: Fury Road. Oh, and Wonder Woman too, of course.
What are we missing? If you know of a worthy summer film event happening in a different town (or country) please share it below!