It wasn’t long after Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux’s design was expanded to its current size in 1873 that filmmakers began to look to Central Park for inspiration. In 1908, Vitagraph Studios, a motion picture studio based in Brooklyn, produced America’s first film adaptation of Romeo and Juliet—and the first on-screen appearance of Central Park. Perhaps inspired by the Shakespearean romance, other early moviemakers, such as the team behind 1949’s talent-packed On the Town, began a love affair with the park, which is still evident today.
Even movie fans who’ve never been to the Big Apple have been, in a way, to Central Park. The park’s 231-plus credits include cult films like Ghostbusters, When Harry Met Sally, and The Royal Tenenbaums, as well as movies which have become iconic to New York City, such as Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Love Story, and Wall Street. Through these and many other films, Central Park sites like the Mall and the Tavern on the Green have become recognizable to audiences all over the world.
Today, the park’s screen cred is at an all-time high thanks to appearances in everything from animated films like Balto and Antz to the video game Grand Theft Auto IV. However, live-action movies remain the star of Central Park, which each summer hosts a week of free evening film screenings. In a twist of fate too good to be scripted, the Central Park Film Festival is New York City’s most picturesque movie night hosted by its most filmed attraction.