If you’re looking for what to do in Los Angeles and you’ve visited the City of Angels a gazillion times before, you’re probably looking for something new to do, and if you want the weirdest most fun thing to do in LA in summer, this is it!
But it’s not as freaky as it sounds, seeing an outdoor movie in a cemetery! Especially when everyone joins in for a massive sing song…
I’d heard about these weekly summer outdoor movies by Cinespia in the Hollywood Forever Cemetery a few years ago, and finally it worked out that I was in LA on a Sunday so finally had the opportunity to go.
We had bought our tickets online before we arrived in LA so popped into a nearby Trader Joes for a picnic, then to Walgreens for $5 picnic rugs, hailed an Uber and off we went…
My polar fleece picnic rug is spread out next to Frederick Pagunsan’s grave. He served in WWI and has been resting here since 1978. I know this because as I laid out my cheese, salami, guacamole and more chips than I will possibly get through, I read his plaque.
We picked this spot because the main grassy area in front of the big white crematorium wall that would serve as the screen was full with VIP blankets and people who had arrived hours earlier, so we laid out our blanket and goodies, along with 4000 others among the tombstones and mausoleums. A tall burly security guard with a movie star voice pointed out that my rug was actually ON Mr Pagunsan’s head stone and that my feet were in fact on his body (under the grass) and I needed to move them. Yikes! I shimmied over a couple of inches and everyone was placated.
I’m not freaked out sitting among dead people, but my husband wasn’t overly comfortable as we unloaded the picnic among the madding crowd. Others had beach chairs, pillows and even little tables laden with cake and grapes and I suspect there was more cheese among the masses than what was left in the grocery stores within a five mile radius. There were also a few food kiosks, but I’d recommend bringing your own in to save lining up for ages.
People kept piling in and several walked on and over Frederick. I started to get annoyed by their lack of respect. My security guard mate had put a huge wheelie bin in front to protect his honour. Several moved it aside and just walked on over.
To be honest, it’s only us late-comers literally among the graves. The rest are on that large lawn where the party is clearly under way.
We’re here to see Grease. I hadn’t told the husband that this was the movie until only yesterday lest he poo poo the experience. You know how they can be!
It was a rollicking good night. At the first song the crowd were cheering and by Greased Lightening we were all aha-ing and clapping as if Olivia and John were in the house! Oh and as it was 4th of July weekend it ended with an awesome fireworks display. Then 4000 people filed out and grabbed an Uber…
Sprawling 25 hectares on Santa Monica Boulevard, Hollywood Forever cemetery opened in 1899 and has its own tales of drama and financial skulduggery leading to almost ruin and disrepair, but today its graves have been restored and since 2002 outdoor movies have been played on Sunday nights in summer by a company called Cinespia to the crowds on the bright white enormous marble wall of the Cathedral Mausoleum.
What to know and what to bring
Tickets are $16 for GA. Get here early to get a good spot so you can actually see the movie.
Gates open for early birders from 6.30pm and everyone else started pouring in from 7.30. The movie was set to start at 9 and while we waited for it to get dark, music played, people looked for spaces between dead people, and others lined up for tacos, burgers and wine from the stands located around.
They’re pretty relaxed on what you can bring in – yes alcohol is allowed. Blankets, beach chairs, beanbags are all welcome and for $15 you can hire one of these air-filled couches. (You just need to find the space to run with it to fill it up!)
Click here to see what’s on this summer at Hollywood Forever Cemetery’s outdoor movies.
Frederick Pagunsan, I hope you enjoy your rest.
If you’re in LA for a Sunday in summer, have a look at what’s playing – but be in early, tickets sell out fast! Go to www.cinespia.org