HBO Bryant Park Summer Film Festival

Tara and I lead what our church calls a “community group” (other churches call it a connect group, small group, life group, etc.).  Our particular group is for married couples. As we were going into the Summer season, we changed the format from the Spring semester to a more social and less study feel, taking advantage of all the things NY has to offer in the Summer.

We designated one night for going to the HBO Bryant Park Summer Film Festival, which is absolutely free!
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It runs from the middle of June through the middle of August and they show some classic films.  Each week it’s a different film and you can see all the options on their website.  We picked “Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory” because it’s a classic and frankly seemed easier to follow then most of the others.

Here’s how it works.  The green lawn is closed to the public all day until 5PM.  Unlike Shakespeare in the Park, there are NO tickets needed.  Instead, you line up on the gravel surrounding the lawn at 4PM.  Then at 5, they open the lawn and it’s a free for all to make your claim to the best view of the big screen.  People bring blankets and chairs to mark their territory.

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Once again, because of my flexible work schedule, I was designated as our group representative to grab our seats.  Surprisingly enough, with my one blanket, I got us perfect seats.  All that half marathon training paid off in the mad dash.  So cool having the cityscape as your backdrop behind the screen.

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Tara HBO Film Festival spot

The only problem is that you then have to WAIT until 8:30PMish for the sun to go down and the film to begin.  People bring books, mess around on their phones, eat dinner, etc. until the film starts.  In our case, Tara met me there after she got off work and we watched flying cameras and played a few rounds of thumb war (which I dominated..duh).

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Our group mates made their way to finding us before the film started and everything worked out perfectly.  Here are a couple tips:

#1: Try to secure a space as close to the middle of the lawn as possible.  For one, all the speakers are located in the middle so if you’re on the sides, you catch the echo and it’s hard to hear clearly.  Also, if anybody leaves, you’re less likely to have people walk over you being in the middle.  If you’re on the edges, you’re subjected to it all movie long (much like having an aisle seat on a plane).

#2: Bring 2 blankets if securing for a large group.  Looking back, I wish I would’ve brought a second one.  They don’t allow “sheets” so don’t bring those.

#3: Bring an umbrella!  Summer showers in NY are subject to happen at any time and there is no covering on the lawn.  In fact, a slight drizzle DID come down for about 2-3 minutes before the movie started. The nice thing is it cleared out a few folks who did not bring umbrellas, which allowed us to spread out a bit.

#4: You can bring your own food and drink but they do inspect bags again, so don’t bring professional cameras.  There are a couple food places outside of the park that are good and relatively cheap.

#5: Use the restrooms before the film.  It is pitch black once the films start and trying to make your way to a restroom at that point is tough.

They showed a preview and an old school Bugs Bunny cartoon before the film started.

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I forgot how good the original Willy Wonka is.  Gene Wilder is the man!  So glad we picked that one.
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We caught this on the perfect night.  The humidity was extremely low, because of the rain, the temperature actually dropped a bit and we actually had a slight breeze.  All in all, this was a total win!  Highly recommend this in your NYC summer plans!

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