July 9, 2016

LA: watch a movie in a cemetery!

My picnic rug is spread out next to Frederick Pagunsan’s grave. He served in WWI and has been resting here since 1978. I have cheese, salami, guacamole and more chips than I will possibly get through. Frederick doesn’t seem to mind.

We picked our spot because the main grassy area was full and laid out our blanket and goodies out, along with 4000 others in the Hollywood Forever Cemetery for the movie. A tall black 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 and I needed to move them. Yikes! I shimmied over a couple of inches and everyone was placated.

Outdoor cinema Hollywood Forever

My spot next to Frederick

I’d heard about these weekly summer outdoor movies in the Hollywood Forever Cemetery a few years ago, but only last weekend it worked out that I was in LA on a Sunday so finally had the opportunity to go.

I’m not freaked out sitting among dead people, but my husband wasn’t overly comfortable as we unloaded the picnic that we’d hastily bought at Trader Joe’s before we Uber‘d over from our hotel in Hollywood to join 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.

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, most of the seating area is not literally among the graves. There is a large lawn spread with blankets by those who got here early and is seating most of tonight’s guests. The rest are scattered between mausoleums and head stones.

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!

Cinespia Hollywood Forever

At least I didn’t insist on dressing up!

Hollywood Forever outdoor movie

VIP seating

Gates opened 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!)

Hollywood Forever air couch

I really need one of these!

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 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.

Tickets cost $16 for GA. If you buy the VIP ticket you don’t have to teeter around the bodies as your rug and chair cushion is provided for you, smack bang on the lawn on front of the screen.

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

About Megan Singleton


Hi, I'm Megan Singleton and I'm the word slinger of this blog as well as on radio every week and a few newspapers and mags from time to time. I set off on this travel blog malarkey 17 years ago and I've pretty much always got a suitcase half packed (or half un-packed!)I'd love you to join me on Facebook or Twitter and sign up for monthly newsletters if you want loads of travel tips, advice and deals!

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