Oscar Campaigners Flock To Queens Drive-In As In-Person Screenings Resume Citywide Ahead Of Ballot Deadline

EXCLUSIVE: With New York City gradually emerging from the worst of the coronavirus pandemic, one film-biz sign of life is a series of Oscar-nominated movies hitting the city’s big screens.

Megaplexes and arthouses alike have been in reopening mode over the past month. In-person screenings for Zoomed-out Academy members and press are now possible for the first time since February 2020. With the April 20 deadline for Oscar ballots looming, bookings are on the rise, even at one newer spot in the awards-season mix: the Queens Drive-In.

“Anything that reminds people of the communal experience, we’re all for it,” one Oscar consultant told Deadline. “We have all been stuck inside, so now even if we have to get creative and deal with safety restrictions, it’s totally worth it to try to break through and make a connection.”

The Paris Theatre on 58th Street, which was rescued by Netflix just before Covid-19 struck, had a soft opening last month with a novel series of paired screenings. In support of Mank, the company has shown the film along with Citizen Kane. Due to The Trial of the Chicago 7 director Aaron Sorkin’s esteem for Dog Day Afternoon, it screened his film alongside the Sidney Lumet classic.

Searchlight’s Nomadland, nominated for six Oscars including Cinematography, Director and Best Picture, will light up the Imax auditorium at the AMC Kips Bay 15 on Monday. Safety protocols will cap attendance at just 15 people. Distanced thought they will be, those handfuls of viewers are apt to have takeaways that are different from those from taking in the film on Hulu or other streaming means.

The Queens Drive-In, which hit many cinephiles’ radar last fall as a screening hub during the New York Film Festival, has attracted interest from numerous distributors. With a capacity of 200 cars, the space is programmed by Rooftop Films and the Museum of the Moving Image, with support from the New York Hall of Science, on whose land the drive-in sits.

Weather is another variable. There have also been a few cancellations, and high winds and thunderstorms are always threats. And the venue’s spring opener on March 5 with Amazon Prime Video’s Coming 2 America saw temperatures plunge into the 20s. “We’ve been lucky that the worst weather hasn’t hit our biggest screenings,” Nuxoll said.

Pete Hammond contributed to this report.

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