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Year in Review: Queens’ top entertainment stories of 2021

QWFF introduces filmmakers
Queens World Film Festival gathered with filmmakers, volunteers, and sponsors in Flushing Meadows Corona Park on May 22. (Photo by Gabriele Holtermann)

After a series of canceled events last year due to COVID-19 and transitioning to virtual programming, cultural arts institutions and entertainment venues across Queens were able to return this year hosting in-person events, such as art exhibitions, movie screenings and the popular Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival at Flushing Meadows Corona Park. 

QNS is taking a look back at some of this year’s events that brought back some sense of normalcy for people amid the ongoing pandemic. 

Here are some of the top entertainment stories of 2021: 

‘Coming 2 America’ premieres at Flushing Meadows Corona Park 

“Coming 2 America” makes its world premiere in Flushing Meadows Corona Park next week as Queens Drive-In kicks off its second season at the New York Hall of Science. (QNS/File)

The long-awaited sequel to the Eddie Murphy comedy classic “Coming 2 America” premiered at the New York Hall of Science in Flushing Meadows Corona Park in March. 

Queens Borough President Donovan Richards made an introduction during the “Coming 2 America” screening as Queens Drive-In kicked off its second season at the New York Hall of Science. The movie premiere was free and open to the public with an RSVP, and participants received free food and merchandise courtesy of Amazon Studios.

“’Coming to America’ is the quintessential, iconic Queens film, and we are beyond thrilled to host one of the only screenings of its sequels, ‘Coming 2 America,’ right here in the film’s backyard,” Richards said. “I am proud to continue the borough president office’s tradition of hosting drive-in films in our home borough.”

Queens World Film Festival returns to Museum of Moving Image 

The crew and cast of “Mouse” attend the opening of the 11th annual Queens World Film Festival opens at the Museum of the Moving Image. (Photo by Gabriele Holtermann)

After a year of going virtual, the 11th Queens World Film Festival (QWFF) returned this year with a hybrid of live viewings and online streaming of 198 indie movies from 33 nations. For the first time since its inception, QWFF screened 133 films at five venues, including at the Museum of the Moving Image, The Local NY, Culture Lab, the United Sherpa Association and Queens Theatre. 

“Step and Repeat” fun on opening night of the 11th annual Queens World Film Festival at the Museum of the Moving Image. (Photo by Gabriele Holtermann)

“We’ve never screened anything in Queens Theatre before, so that’s new,” said Katha Cato, executive director and board president of QWFF. “We’re the first event to open them up after they were closed due to the pandemic.”

The 11-day celebration featured 20 filmmakers from Queens, 24 from Brooklyn, 22 from Manhattan, one from the Bronx and one from Staten Island.

Queens Night Market reopens to the public

Queens Night Market will host a Halloween event on Saturday, Oct. 30. (Photo by Sarah Choi)

The Queens Night Market at Flushing Meadows Corona Park opened in July with free and open entry to the public.

In June, the open-air market returned for its sixth season at reduced capacity for its first three weekends and required that patrons purchase tickets in advance or at the door. The event pledged 20% of net ticket proceeds to initiatives promoting racial equity and to COVID-19 relief and recovery efforts. In three weeks, the pledge yielded nearly $10,000. 

Scenes from the Queens Night Market opening weekend. (Photo by Sharon Medina)

On its opening night, Queens Borough President Donovan Richards issued a proclamation declaring June 19 “Queens Night Market Day.” Over the first five seasons, the market welcomed over 1 million visitors, helped launch over 300 new businesses in New York and represented over 90 countries through its diverse vendors and their food.

Construction of new UBS Arena in Elmont is complete

UBS Arena in Elmont is now open to the public. (Photo courtesy of Kevin P. Coughlin/Office of the Governor)

The newly constructed $1.1 billion UBS Arena, located at Belmont Park in Elmont, was nearing completion in July in time for the Islanders’ 2021-2022 NHL season. The 19,000-seat state-of-the-art venue, developed in partnership with Oak View Group (OVG), the New York Islanders and Sterling Project Development (SPD), is also a world-class home for the more than 150 concerts and festivals the arena plans to host every year.

The arena’s design is inspired by iconic New York landmarks, including Central Park, Ebbets Field, Grand Central Terminal, Park Avenue Armory and the Prospect Park Boathouse. There are two outdoor terraces open to all guests, eight bars with a full view of the action on the ice, and more restrooms per person than any area in Metro New York.

Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival returns to Flushing Meadows Corona Park

Eighteen teams competed in the scaled down dragon races. (Photo by Gabriele Holtermann)

After the event was canceled last year due to the COVID-pandemic, the Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival returned to Flushing Meadows Corona Park in August, but on a much smaller scale. 

The event usually takes place in two days with over 120 boats and thousands of spectators. This year, only those who were fully vaccinated or showed proof of a negative COVID test within 72 hours of the event were allowed to attend the free sporting and multicultural festival. Eighteen teams competed in the morning and afternoon sessions for trophies and cash. The team representing the Queens borough president’s office, “Queens Rising,” and the team representing the mayor’s office, “City Hall Dragons,” competed in a special race for bragging rights, with “Queens Rising” emerging victorious.

Eighteen teams competed in the scaled down dragon boat races. (Photo by Gabriele Holtermann)

Elmhurst Hospital outdoor art exhibit celebrates healthcare workers

(From l. to r.) Pierre Pham and Mamie McIndoe from NYC Health + Hospitals/Elmhurst with Eliona Cela and Shayna McClelland, Pictures For Elmhurst co-founders.

An outdoor exhibit titled, “Art is Healing,” opened in September in the Frank D. O’Connor Playground and NYC Health + Hospitals/Elmhurst to celebrate the staff who continue to fight COVID-19, and the community of artists who came together to support the hospital. 

The exhibition was presented by Pictures for Elmhurst, a small group of New Yorkers who work in the creative industry, and features work from more than 20 photographers. NYC Health + Hospitals/Elmhurst was the “epicenter of the epicenter” of the COVID-19 outbreak in early 2020, and 95% of the hospital’s operations were dedicated to COVID-19 patients. 

Astoria Kaufman studios sold to West Coast team

Kaufman Astoria Studios has been sold to the same West Coast group of investors that acquired Silvercup Studios in Long Island City last year. (Photo courtesy of KAS)

Kaufman Astoria Studios was sold to Los Angeles-based investors that acquired Silvercup Studios in Long Island City last year. 

Hackman Capital Partners and Square Mile Capital Management announced the purchase of the Kaufman Astoria Studios. Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but when bids came in for Kaufman Astoria Studios last March, it was believed to be around $600 million for its more than 500,000 square feet of production space, including 11 sound stages and New York City’s only studio backlot.

Built in 1920, Kaufman Astoria Studios was the original home of Paramount Pictures and has grown into one of the largest and most sophisticated film and television production facilities on the East Coast.

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