The Queens Drive-In, which became a lifeline for New York film distributors, festival organizers, awards campaigners and cooped-up cinephiles in 2020, has booked an encore for this spring.
Kicking off the 2021 slate will be a screening of Coming 2 America on March 5, the same day the Eddie Murphy sequel will start streaming for Amazon Prime subscribers. The event is free and open to the public with RSVP, and Amazon Studios will provide free food and merchandise.
Screenings at the venue, which can accommodate up to 200 cars, are slated to continue through June. The drive-in news follows word from New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo earlier this week that indoor movie theaters can reopen in the city on March 5, with limited capacity. The coronavirus pandemic has kept theaters shuttered for nearly a year.
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For now, drive-in showings will be offered only to moviegoers inside of vehicles due to Covid-19 precautions. Organizers said they are keeping in touch with city and state authorities about the feasibility and safety of possibly allowing socially distanced walk-up attendees at some point in the coming months.
The plan will be to feature new films, though likely not full commercial runs given the non-profit, community nature of the setup. Last year, premieres and special screenings were held at the Queens Drive-In for films like Borat, Freaky, One Night in Miami, Sound of Metal, Mangrove, Dick Johnson is Dead and The 40 Year Old Version.
Rooftop Films, Museum of the Moving Image and the New York Hall of Science are the three non-profit forces behind the drive-in, which is located in Flushing Meadows Corona Park. The park is known in New York and globally for hosting the annual U.S. Open tennis tournament and two World’s Fairs, including a 1964 edition that featured iconic structures designed by famed architect Philip Johnson. (Many Netflix viewers may also recognize the park’s Queens Museum as a recurring location in the Martin Scorsese-Fran Lebowitz series Pretend It’s a City.)
About 80 screenings were held at the drive-in 2020, including several premieres during the New York Film Festival. Filmmakers and talent like Bill Murray, Sofia Coppola, Spike Lee and David Byrne appeared at the venue, distanced from the audience but able to address attendees via a remote audio and video hookup. Horns honked loudly and often in appreciation.
The drive-in also has a strong community mission and a focus on providing jobs and economic activity for the local area. The 20 free community events held in 2020 raised thousands of dollars for local community organizations and provided work for hundreds of employees and local food vendors. More free events are planned in 2021, with details to be announced at a later date.
A mix of newer and classic films will make up the spring slate, with more than a dozen double features on the docket. Tickets are $35 per vehicle and $45 for a double feature, with discounts available for members of participating organizations. On the schedule are twin-bills like Escape from New York and Robocop; Dazed and Confused and Fast Times at Ridgemont High; Shaft and Boyz n the Hood; martial-arts staples Fist of Fury and Lady Snowblood; Rocky and Creed; Desperately Seeking Susan and Thelma and Louise; and Singin’ in the Rain and Magic Mike XXL.
A portion of public ticket sales from the Queens Drive-In will be donated to Plaza Del Sol Family Health Center, a not-for-profit health care center serving the community in Corona, Queens.
“Coming to America is the quintessential, iconic Queens film, and we are beyond thrilled to host one of the only screenings of its sequel, Coming 2 America, right here in the film’s backyard,” Queens Borough President Donovan Richards, Jr. said. “I am proud to continue the Borough President Office’s tradition of hosting drive-in films in our home borough.”
Other screenings will include a 50th-anniversary presentation of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, a double feature of the Babe films; The Muppets Take Manhattan; David Lynch’s Dune; The Big Lebowski and anime hit Your Name.
In addition to escapist fare, the drive-in is also going to lean into the pandemic by presenting four screenings focused on public health–related themes. The Terry Gilliam-directed dystopian sci-fi outing 12 Monkeys will be preceded by a documentary addressing issues raised by Covid-19 as well as an introduction by a public health expert.
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