For those who are nostalgic for the old-school movie going experience, where crowds clapped and cheered, laughed and even sometimes hollered at the screen, those days of total immersion in the movies has not died, it’s gone to Hollywood Forever Cemetery in the form of Cinespia.
Now in its 14th year at the famed resting place of many Hollywood greats, Cinepsia is very much alive and kicking, drawing crowds of thousands to its outdoor movie screening experiences. Movies are projected onto the mausoleum of legendary silent screen actor Rudolph Valentino, and crowds pack the lawn blanket-to-blanket, bringing their picnic baskets and flickering LED candles, and of course their bottles of wine, to enjoy movies as a collaborative experience, where their neighbors, often lying closely by them on propped on pillows or in low back patio chairs, share in the wonder of movie watching alfresco.
At the final screening of the 2015 summer season, Cinespia hosted a 30th anniversary double-feature screening of Back to the Future, followed by Back to the Future II.
Proceeds from the event benefited the Michael J. Fox Foundation, supporting research to find a cure for Parkinson’s, the disease from which the movie’s lead actor suffers. VIPs for the event got commemorative blankets from sponsors ZTE, who were there promoting their SPO2 palm-sized projector, and front row seating on tarps with lounge pillows and an open bar and free popcorn.
As far as the eye could see the lawn was peopled with fans of the modern classic film. After a DJ spun music from the 50s and the crowd noshed on their dinners, finally at 7:30 PM the film was introduced by an emcee to roars and cheers. As the opening scene played on the screen, the audience whooped and whistled. My eight-year-old son and his BFF who came along could tell by the crowd’s reaction they were in for something special.
The appearance of each star on the screen elicited more cheers from the audience. And of course, as the theme song by Huey Lewis and the news cranked up, the crowd broke out in a sing-along of Back in Time.
While this particular screening was extra special because of its celebration of Back to the Future’s anniversary, each Cinespia screening I have attended has had a similar atmosphere. I recall a screening of Break Point, with Keanu Reeves, which had crowds cheering and saying lines in unison with the actors, such as when Reeve’s character introduced himself, “My name is Johnny Utah.”
While many outdoor movie events have popped up across Los Angeles, Cinespia remains the grandfather of them all. At first it might seem creepy to go to a graveyard to watch movies, but once on the lawn movie goers forget they are surrounded by headstones, which in themselves tell tales from the crypt, with their etched portraits of the deceased, and some of the most elaborate memorials, sarcophaguses and mausoleums one might ever see at a cemetery.
It makes sense that Cinespia has shown spooky movies there like Carrie, Dawn of the Dead and other horror flicks, but they have also hosted special events, such as the finale of Breaking Bad, hosted by the stars of the serie;, but mostly the fare is classics that draw hard-core fans who whose love of film makes for a truly Hollywood experience, where the enjoyment of film is pure and shared.
Though the last cemetery screening of the summer has passed, fear not, there are October events coming soon, including Donnie Darko and Rocky Horror Picture Show. For more information go to http://cinespia.org/.