The Nation's Best Summer Film Festivals

Catch a classic or a pop movie for summer fun.

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Movies are lighting up the silver screen in theaters and outdoor venues this summer. At Atlanta's Fox Theater, the 2016 Coca-Cola Film Festival kicks off on May 14 with a showing of Purple Rain in memory of the late artist Prince. Moviegoers will receive free purple glow sticks while supplies last. 

Dreamworks Animation Summer Film Festival

Dreamworks Animation Summer Film Festival

This year, Shrek makes its appearance on the lineup of the Dreamworks Animation Summer Film Festival. 

Photo by: Dreamworks Animation

Dreamworks Animation

The Fox Theater in Atlanta, Georgia

The Fox Theater in Atlanta, Georgia

The Fox Theater in Atlanta, Georgia is home to the Coca-Cola film festival each summer. 

Photo by: Brian Hall

Brian Hall

The June line-up includes Breakfast at Tiffany’s, celebrating its 55th anniversary, and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, which debuted 30 years ago. The Shining and Shrek follow in July, and Citizen Kane, released 75 years ago, is slated for August. Some showings will include a sing-along and vintage cartoon; see the website for details.

Then check out our sampler of other great summer flicks around the country: 

Traverse City Film Festival, Grand Traverse Bay, MI

This festival’s motto is “just great movies.” Films will play in venues around town from July 26 to 31, and there’s a free classic shown every night that week on a giant, inflatable screen in Open Space Park. Bring your chair or blanket, if you go. There are also free flicks at indoor locations. Visit the website, which will be updated soon with times and movies. 

Each year, New Yorkers flock to Bryant Park to catch movies under the stars. The lawn “opens” at 5 p.m., so don't forget your lawn chair or blanket (no plastic ground coverings are allowed.) You can also bring food, although bags and other items are subject to inspection. Movies will be announced on the website in mid-May. 

Seattle International Film Festival, Seattle, WA May 19 to June 12 

Seattle’s film festival opens on May 19 with writer/director Woody Allen’s latest, Café Society, and closes on June 12. There’s a genre for almost everyone, from horror, politics, romance and sci-fi to social issues. Movies are shown at the Kirkland Performance Center, Lincoln Square Cinemas, Marion Olive Mccaw Hall, and many other venues. See the website for details.

Brooklyn Film Festival, Brooklyn, NY 

Fans will have over 100 movies to choose from at the 2016 Brooklyn Film Festival, which runs from June 3-12. This international competition puts a spotlight on indie filmmakers. Categories include narratives and documentaries, experimental films and animation. A $100 festival pass admits you to all programs, parties and events, or you can purchase single tickets. Look for the calendar of events on the site.

Screening Under the Stars, Delaware River Waterfront, Philadelphia, PA

The Great Plaza at Penn’s Landing, on the Delaware River Waterfront, is the site for this year’s Screening Under the Stars. Movies will play every Thursday from June 30 to August 25, and include favorites like Star Wars: The Force; Beetlejuice; and Creed. If you don’t like to drive, arrive via bike, Riverlink Ferry, the Philly Phlash (public transportation to key area sites), rail or SEPTA bus. Check the website for show times.

Citizen Kane's 75th Anniversary

Citizen Kane's 75th Anniversary

Citizen Kane played in the Coca-Cola film festival this summer, celebrating the 75th anniversary of its release. 

Photo by: Warner Home Video

Warner Home Video

Come rain or shine, the Central Park Conservancy will host a week of free movies; check the site, which will be updated by the end of May, for a list of films and show times. Last year, the festival was held between Sheep Meadow and 72nd Street Terrance Drive, and featured movies like Airplane and Raging Bull. Moviegoers were welcome to bring picnics and blankets, but again, check the site before you go for updates for 2016. Also see New York City Parks to find other parks hosting free movies this summer.

DC Outdoor Films, Washington, D.C. metro area 

Take in a free outdoor movie in the Washington, D.C. metro area, which includes venues in Virginia and Maryland. Unlike a few other series, this one may change its schedules without notice if the weather's bad, so check the official site before you go. You'll find movies for all interests, such as Purple Rain, Guardians of the Galaxy, Apollo 13, Jurassic Park and Star Wars episodes I through VII.

Street Food Cinema, Los Angeles, CA and Phoenix, AZ

This series offers more than outdoor movies on giant screens. It’s an experience with a capital "E," compete with food trucks and other gourmet street food and progressive music. In 2015, it offered over 50 events at 11 locations that ranged from the Pacific Palisades to Pasadena. Look for classics like Casablanca, to newer flicks like The Devil Wears Prada and Bridesmaids. Check each website for show times and dates throughout the summer. 

Eat|See|Hear, Los Angeles, CA

L.A.'s original outdoor movie, music and food truck series, Eat|See|Hear, is presented by ShowTime Networks. Look for classic, cult and lesser-known films every Thursday night at Laemmel Theaters; check the site for listings. Other popular films, including The Princess Bride and Alfred Hitchcock's North By Northwest, play throughout the summer at venues around the area. Don't miss a special, one-night-only showing of Ang Lee's Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. The movie will be screened at the historic Million Dollar Theater in downtown L.A. on Friday, May 20, for L.A. Asian Pacific American Heritage Month.

Little Italy, Fell’s Point and other Baltimore neighborhoods host outdoor film festivals each year from July through September. Bring a picnic or order carryout from local restaurants. You can also catch free flicks at the American Visionary Art Museum (AVAM), on Federal Hill, every Thursday in July and August. AVAM movies are shown in the Hughes Family Outdoor Theater, a natural amphitheater that seats more than a thousand guests. Visit the website for films and times.

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