The best outdoor cinemas in Los Angeles
Cinespia, the outdoor cinema at Hollywood Forever Cemetery, is a favourite summer pastime in Los Angeles. (Caroline Pardilla)
While drive-in movie theatres have gone the way of the dodo in California, a new way of enjoying movies al fresco is taking their place in Los Angeles: temporary outdoor screenings.
From city parks to downtown rooftops to cemeteries, Angelenos are unpacking their picnic baskets, setting up lawn chairs and breaking open the wine while enjoying their favourite films under the stars.
Cinespia at Hollywood Forever Cemetery is a favourite summer pastime in the California city, and actually kicked off the outdoor screening craze back in 2002. Every weekend from May through August, more than 3,500 movie-goers walk past the graves of celebrities like 1960s screen siren Jayne Mansfield and rockstar Johnny Ramone to the screening area on the Fairbanks Lawn near the crypts of silver screen stars Douglas Fairbanks Jr and Sr. The films, which are voted on and chosen by Cinespia fans, are digitally projected onto the wall of a mausoleum and DJs play music before and after the movie. Attendees are invited to bring their own picnic and wine.
Barnsdall Art Park Outdoor Movies takes place on a grassy hill adjacent to Frank Lloyd Wright’s Hollyhock House at Barnsdall Art Park, five miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles. The movie series commences in autumn rather than summer (every Saturday in September and October) but still draws a crowd with its showings of popular LA-focussed movies like LA Confidential and LA Story, as well as beer and wine tastings and food truck offerings. Attendees are invited to bring their own picnics, but no outside alcohol is allowed.
Street Food Cinema screens a variety of films -- from the 1985 John Hughes classic Weird Science to the 2008 blockbuster Iron Man -- in Exposition Park by the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum from May through September. This summer series includes live music by up-and-coming LA musicians as well as a constantly rotating line-up of popular food trucks like Ludo Truck, which features Chef Ludo Lefebvre’s famous gourmet fried chicken, and Vietnamese food truck the Nom Nom Truck (guests are also welcome to bring their own picnic). It’s the only outdoor theatre of this group that is dog-friendly.
Oscars Outdoors by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (the people behind the Oscars) just started its own screening series at the Academy’s new outdoor theatre, which as a state-of-the-art screen and sound system on the Academy Hollywood campus. Unlike most of the other outdoor cinemas mentioned here, this one is family-friendly with G- and PG-13-rated movies. Feel free to bring your own picnic, beer and wine, or choose from the variety of food trucks on rotation
Devil’s Night Drive-In is a twist on the classic drive-through experience. Located on the roof of a downtown parking lot it screens crowd favourites suggested on its Facebook page, like Pulp Fiction and Sixteen Candles, and is the only one where attendees can drive up in their cars. An FM transmitter delivers sound through the car’s speakers and car hops will bring over snacks like hot dogs, popcorn and sodas -- just flash your lights to get their attention. Attendees can also bring their own food and alcohol. An Astroturf lawn and speakers are available for those who would rather walk in. Film screenings are monthly year-round and every other week during summer.
LA Movies in the Park brings its inflatable 52ft-wide screen (the largest in the western United States) with full digital, high-definition projection and audio to a variety of outdoor venues all around the city every Saturday night starting in May and running through mid-September. It’s not just a screening, it’s a party with live music by local bands and food trucks galore. Film-goers can sometimes bring their own picnic, but should check each event page first as it depends on the rules of the host venue.
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