Summer nights in California are the best thing since sliced bread. Every Saturday, and the occasional Sunday, from May- August, the Hollywood Forever Cemetery, map here, shows some of the best classic movies of the 1930’s to the 1990’s right under the stars. These movies are projected against the West wall of the Cathedral Mausoleum, which houses the crypt of Rudolph Valentino among many others. Creepy? Maybe a little. Awesome experience that everyone should try? Without a doubt.
This phenomenon, called Cinespia, debuted in 2008 and attracts up to 3,500 patrons per screening! They have shown movies like American Psycho, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, The Big Lebowski, Blade Runner and this incredible list goes on. Last year we were lucky enough to get tickets to the screening of True Romance just weeks after Tony Scott‘s passing. Actress Patricia Arquette made an appearance and spoke of her experience working with this world-class director.
In anticipation of the 2013 season, I singed up for the Cinespia mailing list so I would be notified the instant it was up and running again. When I finally got my 1st email, I was THRILLED to see my ultimate fave, 1995 hit, Clueless on the calendar! I bought my $12 ticket without even knowing if anyone else would be able to join me. I didn’t care, as long as I got to hangout with Cher and Dionne I was happy! Luckily, one of my best childhood friends was able to join making the experience even more epic. We couldn’t believe that we would be watching the movie that marked our adolescence in the actual city where it was filmed!
A few things to know about Cinespia to ensure an incredible experience:
Tickets: Buy your tickets online beforehand. Just about every screening will sell out of their online tickets about a week before the actual screening. Cinespia will have a handful of tickets available the day of, but if you are counting on getting your hands on one of these, be sure to arrive no later than 5:00pm, depending on the popularity of the movie being featured. You can either print out your tickets or pull them up on your phone to be scanned once the gates open.
Picnic Supplies: You don’t want to be drooling all over the incredible spread your neighbors packed, so be sure to pack an awesome picnic, loaded with all of your favorites. Most people opt for an assortment of cold cuts, fruit, cheese, crackers and wine, while others will bring in pies of pizza from the nearby Little Caesars or, for the foodies, from the famous Pizzeria Mozza. Wine and beer are permitted so don’t hesitate to pack that cooler (don’t forget the wine and beer openers). Totally forgot to pack snacks and drinks? Don’t worry, just walk 4 minutes West down Santa Monica Boulevard to the P & J Liquor store, they’ll get you covered with the basics.
Note: Dogs or BBQ’s are not permitted.
The Set-Up: You will definitely want to bring a big blanket or sheet to mark your territory/lay on. We’ve never done this, but some people will pack a tarp to place under it as well. Make sure to bring additional blankets and hoodies for warmth, plus pillows to prop your heads up once the movie starts. You can also bring chairs that are low to the ground- we want to be courteous of those trying to see the screen behind us. And depending on how fancy you want to get, some people will bring these adorable, low tables and candles to add some ambiance to the spread.
Oh! And dress up! Show your Hollywood spirit and wear something film appropriate, you will not be the only one. For Clueless I rocked my midriff top, while hundreds of others wore knee high socks and someone even dressed up as the adorkable Miss Geist.
Parking: If you aren’t up for walking with all of your gear, you can purchase a parking pass for $15 online when you purchase your ticket. This gives you a guaranteed spot onsite, but everyone in the car must have a ticket if the screening is sold out. For a cheaper option, additional parking is available right around the corner at the Paramount parking structure, map here, for $8. Or, if you want to take your chance and search for free street parking, you can usually find some on the neighborhood streets nearby, we do this every time.
Arrival Time: A line begins to form on the grassy knoll just outside the gates at 4pm. At this time you can set up a temporary camp and begin to nosh and cheers to your heart’s desire. Being one of the first people in line means you will be able to set up camp right behind the VIP seating. The first time we went, we arrived at 4:30 and got a great spot. This more recent time, we arrived at 5:30 and were still able to score a pretty decent spot, but our party was much smaller this time. If you have a large party I recommend arriving earlier rather then later; with smaller parties (1-3 people) it’s easier to squeeze your way in between blankets and lock in a spot closer to the front.
The gates of the cemetery don’t open until 7pm, but by 5:45, there was already a mile long line down Santa Monica Boulevard!
Show Time: Just before 7, people start to pack up their gear and the line begins to move as the Cinespians scan in everyone’s tickets. Once you are inside the gates, some people will run to lock in a spot, just make sure to stay off the grass! We do not want to stir up the likes of Alfred Hitchcock and Vito Scotti.
Once you set up camp you are free to roam around, listen to the live band, take photos in the photo booth inspired by the film that is being featured that evening, visit the porto-potties or just mingle with the thousands of other Los Angeleans who are sharing this awesome event with you.
The movie generally starts around 8:30pm, once the sun goes down. This screening of Clueless was dedicated to the late Brittany Murphy, who plays Tai. Everyone cheered as soon as the film came up on the “screen”/mausoleum, and every time there was a scene with the young and dreamy Paul Rudd, who played Josh. One of my favorite things about watching Cinespia movies is the other movie goers; everyone was laughing, cheering, reciting lines of the movie together, some making hilarious, yet sometimes inappropriate, shout outs lol.
The movie was done around 10:30pm and you have the choice to either book it or hang out a little while longer as the crowd trickles out.