Films al fresco in Bryant Park

Posted by Lia Chang on Tuesday, 20 July 2004.

Films al fresco in Bryant Park

On this perfect summer evening, I've gathered a few fellow cinephiles for an evening picnic in Bryant Park and to watch Grace Kelly and Ray Milland in Alfred Hitchcock's 1954 classic thriller, Dial M for Murder under the stars on the big screen.

Bryant Park is just a few blocks from my apartment, and I come here often. The gardens, gravel paths, carrousel and twin promenades bordered by London plane trees, which I've seen in the Jardin des Tuileries in Paris, give this city park a European air. Situated behind the New York Public Library in midtown Manhattan, between 40th and 42nd Streets and Fifth and Sixth Avenues, a free Monday night film series in this midtown oasis runs for ten weeks during the summer.

Moviegoers of all ages start staking out their space as early as 5pm, laying out blankets and bringing along fun things to eat and drink. The weather forecast for tonight is mostly cloudy with a chance of showers and thunderstorms, but as luck would have it, the rain is holding and it is 75 degrees with a slight breeze. Since it poured the day before, the lawn is closed and much of the 5000 strong audience has settled in green folding chairs around the perimeter of the lawn which is the size of a football field.

I have seen Dial M for Murder countless times on TV, but never on the big screen and it is quite a treat. There is a collective sigh as the luminous Grace Kelly appears on the screen at dusk. Watching movies in Bryant Park can't be beat. The lineup of films for the rest of the summer include Spencer Tracy and Ingrid Bergman in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1941) on August 2, James Stewart in Mr. Smith goes to Washington (1939) on August 9, Charlton Heston in Planet of the Apes (1968) on August 16, and Lauren Bacall and Humphrey Bogart in The Big Sleep (1946) on August 23.

The official website for Bryant Park is and the information hotline (212) 512-5700.