Just like the strong smell of night-blooming jasmine, thermometers spiking into 80-degree territory, Dodgers baseball, waterfall hikes that actually end in photogenic cascades, and the availability of fresh strawberry glazed treats at Glendora’s Donut Man, the return of outdoor movie season is an annual signifier that spring has sprung in Southern California. Here are nine places to enjoy films al fresco in Los Angeles.
There’s an old Latin saying, “Life is short, art is forever,” (or vita bervis, ars longa if you're fancy) so it’s incredibly appropriate that LA’s first and longest-running outdoor screening series is held at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery, the final resting place for famous folks like Judy Garland, Rudolph Valentino, and two Ramones. From May to September, guests mingle among the mausoleums while DJs spin and a photo booth themed to that evening’s feature — which can be anything from black-and-white thrillers, ‘90s hits, or cult classics — immortalizes the memories. Picnic near the daisy pushers as bringing in wine, beer, and food is allowed. Tickets are sold online and at the gate.
Founded by a husband-and-wife team in 2012, SFC combines movies, meals and music every Saturday (sometimes at two locations simultaneously) from April through October at parks and golf courses across the Southland including LA State Historic Park, the westdrift Manhattan Beach, and Exposition Park. Feast from a rotating collection of food trucks, play games, and enter costume contests before settling in for a band and recent Best Picture contenders, family-friendly flicks and beloved rom-coms (500 Days of Summer, Say Anything) on a 50-foot inflatable screen. On occasion, they throw an overnight camping experience or a fully immersive Grease prom. Season passes and single event tickets are available online.
Now a global operation with chapters in London, New York, and Houston, the RCC organizes presentations from March to mid-December (holiday hits!) in two LA locations — Level in downtown and Neuehouse in Hollywood. As you can probably surmise from the name, nostalgic hits, award winners, musical sing-a-longs and the occasional brand new release, are screened atop buildings, which means participants also get a front-row seat to the sunset show and twinkling cityscape or Hollywood Sign views. Wireless headphones ensure street noise doesn’t disrupt the dialogue. Relax in a fabric deckchair with bottomless popcorn or snuggle with someone special in a love seat built for two. Student discounts are offered and tickets are sold through the website.
Poolside Cinema at Mr. C Beverly Hills
Feel like a movie mid-week? Head over to Mr. C Beverly Hills on Tuesdays in June, July, and August where hotel guests and locals alike gather on the yacht-inspired pool deck for a show under the stars. Reserve a cozy chaise or couch by booking the corresponding prix-fixe dinner menu comprised of Cipriani specialties like baked white tagliolini with ham, burrata pizza, and prosciutto and melon and summer-inspired bites like guacamole and chips. Add popcorn, boxed candy, wine, or pints of Peroni. Half the dates are cool for kids as they show films like Space Jam or Alice In Wonderland, but the other half of the schedule is far from PG with favorites like Pulp Fiction and Bridesmaids.
The folks behind West Hollywood’s E.P. & L.P. launched their 21-and-older screening series in 2017 on the roof adjacent to the trendy restaurant and bar and overlooking the hills beyond. They take advantage of LA’s awesome weather on Mondays and Wednesdays from April through November presenting modern and classic masterpieces in the vein of La La Land, The Breakfast Club, Casablanca, and The Devil Wears Prada at sunset. Candy, ice cream, popcorn, and cocktails are served. Grab tickets through Eventbrite for a single date or extend the fun and book the three-course Asian fusion dinner-and-a-movie package. It’s the only way to reserve an extra-indulgent beanbag in advance. As events are held in the middle of the city of school nights, the audience is given wireless headphones.
Eat |See| Hear
If the mere thought of leaving your fur baby home alone in order to go watch Home Alone gives you separation anxiety, this is the outdoor option for you as every one of the Saturday screenings from May to September welcomes pets and their people. (They even supply free doggie biscuits at the entrance.) Like Street Food, these gatherings draw big crowds and include food trucks, live music, and celebrity introductions and discussions. ESH boasts the West Coast’s largest inflatable HD screen at three and a half stories tall and 52 feet wide. It's held at venues like the Rose Bowl, Autry Museum, Pasadena City Hall, and Santa Monica High amphitheater. Get tickets through Eventbrite.
Open seven days a week, this historic drive-in in Montclair alternates playing up to eight new releases on four screens. But the best part about going there is the themed property itself. Grass roofs, Polynesian masks, and giant tiki heads pepper the grounds. It also hosts a swap meet during the day Wednesday through Sunday and organizes vintage car and lowrider meet-ups. The Mission isn’t the only drive-in on a, well, mission to save this old-school cinematic experience. Most require a bit of a commute to get to, but Southern California is blessed to be home to several working drive-ins. The Vineland Drive-In plays new flicks through your FM radio in the City of Industry. The Paramount Drive-In recently reopened its two 75-foot screens after a 22-year intermission in Paramount.
Built by namesake actress Beverly Garland and her husband and now run by their son, this reborn Studio City boutique pays homage to its entertainment roots by putting on “dive-in” movies every Friday and Saturday as well as select holidays at the pool. The complimentary activity is limited to hotel guests, who can purchase drinks and food from the bar while watching throwbacks like Mrs. Doubtfire or Finding Nemo. The hotel also features an indoor screening room for when the weather turns dreary or for private events.
Every Tuesday in the summer all are welcome to gather under 200 swaying palms and around the Tropicana Pool at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel for swim-up screenings. The nostalgic hits and cult classics are complimented with movie title tipples (The Big Chill, Cruel Intentions) and appetizers. No room key necessary.