The event, run by Cinespia—an organization launched by set designer John Wyatt that screens classic films in mostly outdoor settings—began in 2002 in an effort to preserve the final resting places of Golden Age idols like Rudolph Valentino and Tyrone Power, while also promoting favorite films like Back to the Future and Rear Window. Because of their edgy locale—(What did you do Saturday? Oh, saw a movie in a graveyard)—and the retro showcase, the venue draws a crowd that is more casually relaxed hipster than ghoul-seeker. It’s no wonder these have become wildly popular and require a bit of planning both to get in and to get a good spot, once inside.
Although tickets can, and are recommended to, be bought ahead of time, there are no assigned seats, and the screenings are first come, first served. Most groups send delegates to set up camp outside the cemetery a few hours before, usually with board games, reading materials, an umbrella and sunscreen to protect them from boredom and the sun. Once they arrive, friends usually reward these favors with drinks and food—which, along with children, are allowed inside, although dogs and tall chairs are not. The truly determined get there by bicycle.
Still, once the doors open, it can feel like the Oklahoma Land Rush as participants haul their blankets, coolers, bean bag chairs and other necessities along the quarter mile path to the empty plots designated for the screening area. Out of respect for the permanent residents (which helps put the skittish at ease), there is a strict policy against walking along the tombstones—but that doesn’t mean people don’t stop to take a photo of Johnny Ramone’s statue or appreciate the plot for the appropriately named Graves family. While regulars have their favorite locations, this land grab might seem a little over-the-top to the less picky, as the screen is wide and the acoustics solid enough that there are few bad areas.
It is worth it in the end, as the blankets are spread, glasses of crisp white wine or bottles of beer are clinked, and you prepare to watch a classic film with a few hundred neighboring cinephiles.
A native of Southern California, Whitney Friedlander spends her days avoiding Sig Alerts, debating the merits of In-N-Out versus Fatburger and wondering why she doesn't live closer to the ocean. She imagines the KCRW radio hosts to be some of her closest friends.
MORE SUMMER TRAVEL QUESTS
27) Watch a Movie in a Cemetery