5 of the best places to watch movies this summer + new local films to see

grand river drive in

Cold take: summer is the best time for movies. You can watch them inside and outside, the biggest hits of the year are often released and it’s a great activity on days it’s just too hot to do anything else. So, grab your popcorn and dive into our guide on the best places to catch a film this summer. 

1. Grand River Drive In

grand river drive in
Our advice: roll up in an SUV or truck so you have plenty of room to watch. Photo via Bham Now

Grand River Drive-In is hands down one of the most popular places to see an outdoor movie. Now, with the addition of The Backyard, an outdoor hangout space with food, drinks and games, it’s an ideal spot for a summer Saturday night.

2. Sidewalk Cinema

Sidewalk welcomes Sundance Film Festival
Sidewalk Cinema at the Pizitz. Photo by Matthew Niblett

If you want a great movie in a cool location, the popular Sidewalk Cinema is currently showing movies inside The Pizitz in downtown Birmingham. Two of the many things that set this movie theater apart from your usual strip mall setup is the location and the full bar inside.

3. Sidewalk Film Festival

Birmingham, Sidewalk Film Festival
Grab your snacks and enjoy the show. Photo via Matthew Niblett for Bham Now

It’s baaaack! Magic City’s favorite film festival returns this year in-person, with a hot new lineup of movies to see. The 2021 Sidewalk Film Festival runs August 23-29, and this year it returns to its original location in Birmingham’s historic theater district.

4. Alabama Theatre

You know it, you love it, it’s the iconic Alabama Theatre. Located in the heart of downtown Birmingham, the Alabama Theatre has had a tough time with the pandemic. But we are thrilled to say summer movies are back at the Alabama!

This summer’s line-up starts in July with a Grease Sing-Along and runs through August 1, with titles like 9 to 5, Steel Magnolias and more.

5. Birmingham Botanical Gardens

What sounds more summery than watching movies in a garden? Nothing? Okay me too. The Birmingham Botanical Gardens is bringing back Flicks Among the Flowers this year, with details finalizing soon. Bring your chairs, a picnic basket and settle in for a film surrounded by beautiful blooms on a summer evening.

6. Southern Exposure Films at the Birmingham Public Library

Southern Exposure
Learn more about Alabama’s ecology. Photo via the Southern Exposure Film Series

Looking for a specific film? The Birmingham Public Library has hundreds of movies to rent if you’re looking to set up your own at-home cinema. Recently, thanks to a donation from the Alabama Rivers Alliance (ARA) and Black Warrior Riverkeeper (BWR), each branch of the BPL now has copies of the 2020 and 2019 Southern Exposure documentaries. The Libraries also have past editions of Southern Exposures because of donations from ARA and BWR.

Southern Exposures is an award-winning documentary series about Alabama’s precious natural resources. Last week, two Southern Exposure films, A Fisher’s Right to Know and Barriers to Barges, won awards at the EarthxFilm Festival in Dallas, Texas. Now, everyone can watch and learn from these shorts via the Birmingham Public Library.

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Claire Hancock
Claire Hancock
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