This past Sunday I did one of the coolest things I've ever done in New York. I ventured uptown to the United Palace Theatre at 175th street for a screening of the movie West Side Story, featuring a pre-show Q&A Lin-Manuel Miranda and living legend Rita Moreno.
The doors opened at 4pm and I found myself in a line that wrapped around all four exterior walls of the 2,400-seat theater. I started chatting with a lovely couple from New Jersey who "just drove over the bridge." Two teenagers stood in front of me. A young couple in a gown and tux combo (you get free popcorn if you glam up) held hands waiting. It was quite the diverse scene—all these folks coming together to simply watch a movie.
But therein lies the beauty of this new event series "Sunday Movies at the Place with Lin-Manuel Miranda": it's just about coming together. "It's people discovering this amazing space in the heart of uptown," said Miranda. "This is very much a community event. Everyone working on it is doing it for the sake of community. No one's making a fortune here."
And Miranda wants this new monthly movie club to reach families, too, so his opening film in January was The Muppets Take Manhattan. A movie from the 1980s, Miranda loved introducing kids to a classic movie from his childhood. "I don't know when you saw The Muppets Take Manhattan, but I remember being 5 or 6 and my mind exploding when the Sesame Street muppets were at the wedding at the end. Because it was like Oh my God! The muppets know and are friends with the muppets from Sesame Street," exclaimed Miranda. "I got to see that happen for a new generation of kids when we showed that [scene], and kids screaming 'Big Bird!' and losing their mind."
It's incredible how a Sunday afternoon movie can create such a sense of belonging and evoke a sense of nostalgia for yesteryear when Sundays didn't mean racing from soccer practice to ballet to piano lessons to robotics club. Miranda has truly created a home for bonding—communal and familial—especially when he mandates that the theater is a no cell phone zone. "We're out of the habit of putting our phone away for two hours," he said. "We're gonna have this communal experience right now. Be here with us.'"
For those of you who don't live in the New York City area, never fear! The possibilities for creating time to bond within your neighborhood or just your family unit are endless. Here are a couple ideas to get you started:
1. Throw a block party! Drop off flyers in your neighbors' mailboxes inviting them to a block party in your driveway. You can enlist your child's help as you walk up and down the street to distribute the invites (making for some time to chat and exercise together). Let everyone on the block know they should bring a dish—so you don't end up doing all the work. It doesn't have to be elaborate. Throw some chalk and sports gear out on the lawn. Let the adults chat and the kids run around and use their imaginations.
2. Family movie night Take a page out of Miranda's book. You don't need a giant movie house to enjoy an iconic film and a bag of popcorn. Put your cell phones and electronic devices in a basket by the door of your living room so that your kids know this is designated family time. We know you can handle (and maybe even enjoy) two hours hands-free. Check out our list of best movies for kids.
Here are some ideas for healthy snack to eat at your block party or during movie night:
Healthy Snacks: Why Kids Need to Snack
Click here for more information about "Sunday Movies at the Palace with Lin-Manuel Miranda" at the United Palace Theatre.
Photograph: Shutterstock.com/Jeff Thower