The Bronx Independent Cinema Center to host outdoor film screening Thursday

junk food popcorn soda drink ready for movie watching at open air cinema
Photo courtesy Getty Images

If you’re feeling a movie night this week, ditch the herds at the big-budget blockbusters and opt for something more unique — not to mention free.

At 8:30 p.m. on Thursday, the nonprofit Bronx Independent Cinema Center will host the first of three outdoor film screenings at Joyce Kilmer Park at the Grand Concourse (facing the courthouse).

No tickets are required — just show up, said Gregory Hernandez, the center’s president.

“Bring your picnic blanket, your lawn chair, bring some snacks, and just come out and watch two movies,” he added.

The center plans to offer this screening series annually going forward.

First in the lineup is a short film called “Ro & The Stardust,” written and directed by award-winning Bronx native filmmaker Eunice Levis. At 16 minutes long, “Ro & The Stardust” is the story of an imaginative teenager who fulfills her dying grandmother’s wish of building a rocketship to propel her into space. 

Levis, who now lives in Philadelphia and is a film professor, told the Bronx Times that the film was shot in Brooklyn and Queens, and all the actors are Afro-Latina New Yorkers. She said the story is meant to “inspire people to live beyond what you see in your immediate surroundings.”

Thursday’s feature film is “Black Girl” (1966), directed by Senegalese author and filmmaker Osumane Sembène. The film tells the story of a young Senegalese woman who moves to Paris to work for a wealthy white family, only to become a spectacle — and something like a prisoner — under their roof. 

The landmarked and defunct Loew’s Paradise Theatre sits empty on the Grand Concourse, and plans to purchase the property fell through in April. Photo ET Rodriguez

Hernandez told the Bronx Times that with these carefully-curated selections, the center, which launched in 2022,  aims to “showcase films that are not the Marvel or Disney movies. These are thought-provoking, independent, arthouse, and foreign films,” he said, noting that “Black Girl” was chosen in connection with the borough’s large African community.  

Thursday’s screening is just the beginning of what the center plans to accomplish. Initially, one of the goals was to raise money to purchase the landmark Loew’s Paradise Theatre at 2417 Grand Concourse, but that fell through in April when the owner of the property, Gerald Lieblich, notified Hernandez that he was not interested in selling or renting the theater.

The plans now are focused on launching a fundraising campaign in September with a target of $3 million by 2025. But first, Hernandez wants to hit a $250,000 benchmark and use those funds “to acquire a storefront space in the Fordham area” by 2024. The hope is to turn the center into an incubator for budding filmmakers to learn the business side of the industry, while also pursuing further existing partnerships with local organizations and elected officials.

The center is banking on Bronxites’ desire for something beyond what big-box theaters and streaming can offer. The Bronx only has two big box movie theaters and no consistent venue for showing films like those screening Thursday. Hernandez said that City Island’s Cinema on the Sound and the Bronx Documentary Center have had similar offerings but not on a consistent basis, whereas the nonprofit looks to establish something more lasting.

The forecast looks great for Thursday — finally! — so grab your friends head to the park to see these one-of-a-kind films.

Visit the center’s website or on Instagram @bronxcinema for updates on future screenings and other programming. 

This article was updated on July 6 at 1:03 p.m.

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