It’s time to break out the picnic blankets, grab some friends and watch movies in a cemetery. Cinespia is back for another summer film fest.
Last Saturday Cinespia kicked off it’s 15th season of movie screenings at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery. This was my 5th consecutive season attending the outdoor movie nights, but the first time I went on opening day. They started this season with the eighties classic, “Fast Times at Ridgemont High.” Not only is this considered the original high school comedy it stars so many actors who went on to have incredibly fruitful careers. Sean Penn plays the stoner surfer dude, Spicoli. Forrest Whitaker plays a football star. Jennifer Jason Leigh is Stacey, the girl next door gone bad. Judge Reinhold plays her older brother. Pheobe Cates, plays her best friend and gave most boys their first memorable dream girl sequence. Even by today’s oversexed standards, that pool scene is steamy!
There are many outdoor movie screenings in Los Angeles but none of the others take place in such a picturesque historic setting like the Hollywood Forever Cemetery. It’s funny, when I tell people you are watching a movie here they get creeped out, like your laying your picnic blanket on top of graves, between the tombstones. It’s not like that at all. The main lawn is free of any memorials. The movie is projected on to the main building and once you are seated you usually forget about your neighbors resting in peace. I did find it odd that the small smoking section is tucked off to the side among some tombstones. I might be apt to haunt some people if they flicked cigarette ash on to my memorial.
Cinespia has expanded over the years. The photo booth sets get more elaborate with each new season. Tonight’s themed setting was Spicoli’s stoner van complete with dry ice, “smoke” and a blue ocean backdrop. One year I came here for Purple Rain (…sigh…) and they had a full bedroom setup with satin sheets and roses.
Everyone in attendance knows to bring snacks and drinks. You can have a full dinner, wine, beer, anything you can carry. I’ve watched people bring in stacks of pizza boxes, tubs of fried chicken, or simply grocery store sandwiches. While waiting in line to enter I saw I guy get Thai food delivered right there on Santa Monica Blvd. My choices tonight were classic picnic munchies; pita bread, hummos, tomato salad, some cheese and crackers and a delicious edamame and cabbage miso slaw. I also totally had a impulse buy in the check out line of Vons. Staring me in the face was a box of Sriracha Triscuits. I know they put them there just to tempt me and it worked. All of it was washed down with a fun Cupcake Winery Chardonnay and a very dark Gnarly Head Authentic Black.
Although Cinespia doesn’t sell real food (yet.) Their concessions stand has expanded. I saw a large stall selling popcorn, candy, bottled water and soda. They even had wagons in the outer aisles selling these goods. So if you need a sugar fix you don’t even have to walk that far from your blanket. Although they will never sell beer or wine here, even though a bar at a cemetery would make a ton of money. I’m hoping they will expand the food for sale. It would be nice to have a featured vendor or two each week. One that does fresh baked cookies. Maybe one that sells shake-able salads.
The gates open at 6:45 and the movies never start until about 8:30pm so there is always plenty of time to listen to the weekly DJ, chow down on whatever you decide to bring, chat with your friends and share a bottle of wine.
A few tips to consider for your trip to Cinespia.
- Don’t forget your wine & beer opener! I can’t tell you how many times I see people wandering from blanket to blanket asking this question.
- Make sure to bring a large enough picnic blanket for you, your guests and your food spread. It’s crazy how much space the food takes up once you unpack everything.
- Also remember to grab a trash bag. Otherwise you have to lug your trash out to the aisles multiple times. It’s easier to load up a small bag then wait to the end of the movie to dispose of everything at the same time.
- Cinespia allows low backed chairs. No tall camping chairs, but the ones that sit on the ground are okay. If you have a bad back, this is the way to go. Your sitting on your bum for hours. So bring an extra blanket to lean on. I’ve even seen people bring cushions and pillows. If you want to Sherpa it in, go for it.
- PARKING! I highly suggest paying for one of the two $12 secure lots listed online at ticketfly. Purchase it at the same time you buy your ticket. Then you don’t have to think about it. I waited until the day of and the website kept crashing on me. It was an unnecessary stress I won’t have again. There are other pay lots in the area but the prices vary and they are not always secure. Or take an Uber/Lyft then parking is not even an issue.
- Buy your tickets early. The popular films sell out fast. Don’t wait too long or you may miss your chance. Check out the screening schedule and plan ahead.
Cinespia goes all summer long. There is plenty of time to catch your favorites, or see something new. This Saturday they are playing, “Silence of the Lambs.” It is already sold out. But, you can check out the rest of the screening schedule here. Memorial weekend they are playing “Singing in the Rain” which is kind of cool because some of the Hollywood greats are buried in that cemetery. You could visit the cast before the film! Weird…but also kind of awesome. I’ve never known Cinespia to repeat itself, but since we lost The Purple One, they are replaying “Purple Rain” in tribute. I am a huge Prince fan. I’m still reeling over the tragic loss of his talents. I saw “Purple Rain” the first time Cinespia screened it when QuestLove DJ’d the event. It was amazing and perfect. If I went again this time, it would be sad. I just couldn’t sully that first Cinespia memory. Plus tickets are now sold out anyway. The July 3rd celebration will feature fireworks and “Grease!”
More films will be announced as the summer continues. So check out the website www.cinespia.org or follow them on Twitter and Instagram to stay in the know. Then grab your fellow movie lovers to watch a classic flick under the stars, among the stars.