At the beginning of the summer, when oldest nephew came up for a visit, I talked him and lil' sis into seeing a movie with me at the cemetery. Yes, if you've seen "Valentine's Day," that's exactly what I'm talking about.
It was one of those L.A. things that I've been wanting to do since I first heard about the Cinespa Cemetery Screenings last year when E*starLA and Caroline on Crack tweeted about lobbing water bottles at an obnoxious guy who came 10 minutes before the movie started, plopped down on a tall chair, and refused to move. Man! Those ladies were serious! I made sure not to bring any chairs at all! :P
The cemetery screenings started a decade ago and my excuse for not knowing about them before is that I'm old and just don't get out as much as I used to. :P The movie was a classic so my third cousin came up to join us for the occasion.
Then I realized that because she's related to me on both sides of my family, she's also related to oldest nephew too. We're third cousins on my dad's side, but on my mom's side, her mom's uncle is my cousin's husband. It got really convoluted when I tried to explain how my third cousin was related to oldest nephew, who is technically my cousin's kid but calls me "auntie." So basically, her great-uncle married his aunt. Ha! Did you figure that out? And it's a big deal only because oldest nephew's family is the pretty much the only family I have on my mom's side in the U.S.
Anyway, lil' sis was freaked out about the cemetery part so she and nephew packed some liquid courage for the evening. It's a cemetery, not a park, so alcohol is permitted! After preparing our picnic, grabbing all my quilts, and a pit stop at Scoops, we got to the Hollywood Forever Cemetery hours ahead of time.
Taking heed of Caroline's Hollywood Forever Cemetery Dos and Don'ts, and of the many suggestions on Yelp to arrive early, we got there around 6 p.m. Gates opened at 7:30 p.m. The movie was supposed to start at 8:30 p.m., but it really didn't start until after 9 p.m.
Even then, people were already lined up. We spread out a blanket and joined them.
Then, after counting up our cash, realized we were a few dollars short of the $10 "donation" we needed to get in. I'm not sure of the technicalities of why they can't just say it's the ticket price and not a donation, but that "donation" is not negotiable.
I shouldn't have stopped at Scoops - Los Angeles beforehand. Oh, but we couldn't have missed that, said third cousin who loved it so much she asked me to take her there every time she comes up.
Maybe I should've skipped parking in the building across the street for $5? But then, we weren't looking forward to schlepping back to the car with our picnic supplies and blankets in tow...
So lil' sis and nephew walked up and down Santa Monica Boulevard until they found an ATM. Only to realize after we got through the gates that there was one inside. Just an FYI.
Even though I thought we were pretty far in front of the line, by the time we walked to the lawn beside the mausoleum, we were faaaar in the back.
I spread a plastic sheet down first and then a blanket on top. I just didn't want my blanket to get dirty, but it proved lucky because the lawn got damp as the night went on so the plastic kept the moisture from soaking through.
Let's see, I packed Sangria with Red Wine, the thermos is filled with straight vodka, a bottle of Semler Malibu Estate 2004 cabernet sauvignon (As in Lisa Semler, former Playboy Playmate Miss September 1980. I got the bottle as part of a goody bag at a Los Angeles Magazine cooking demo last year.), Pesto Pasta, Baked Chicken with Salt, Pepper, and Lemon, Insalata Caprese (Italian Capri Salad - Tomato, Basil, Mozzarella), sliced mangoes, Bruschetta al Pomodoro (Italian Tomato Bruschetta), and instant baked brownie bites.
A DJ spins live while we waited for the movie to start. The others walked around a bit when they went to the restroom, but I decided to hold down the fort. As it was, people continued to pour in until the entire lawn was full and they sat on the lawn on the other side of the road. So get there early because I would not have wanted to wait for hours, paid $10 each, only to be faaaaaaarther back than we already were.
Hollywood Forever Cemetery was founded in 1899 so a lot of old Hollywood is buried here such as Rudolph Valentino, Douglas Fairbanks and Douglas Fairbanks Jr., and Fay Wray. Even Bugsy Siegel is buried here.
We're sitting on the lawn, not any gravestones. The movies get projected onto the side of the mausoleum. Nonetheless, it did get a little creepy as it got dark.
Finally! The movie started. Can you guess which one?
"Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine."
"Play it, Sam. Play 'As Time Goes By.'"
You know, I had never watched "Casablanca" all the way through? I remember my freshman year of college, some students in the dorm rented it, but I fell asleep and only woke up near the end. I never realized just how many of the quotes have slipped into pop culture.
Lil' sis, still creeped out by being in a cemetery, opted to nap the whole time, but oldest nephew, third cousin, and I liked the movie. Well, it made interesting discussion anyway. Did she really love him? Or was she really good at being duplicitous? I guess the answer depends on how you feel about love in general at the moment.
The quilts came in handy because it did get chilly outside, even for L.A. A big blanket was handy because people kept encroaching on our space. I was nice and let them sit on my blanket since the only had a beach towel, but that didn't mean they could put their dirty shoes on my blanket! Grrr! Oh yeah, and people will smoke legal and illegal substances, so if that bothers you, be forewarned.
After the movie let out, I was so thankful I paid the $5 to park across the street. People were still walking for blocks back to their cars. Also, there were people who came too late to get into the movie and ended up picnicking on the grass in front of the cemetery. So get there early or you might not even make it in, much less get a decent spot.
Would I do it again? Perhaps. Depends on the movie. Just be prepared to block off the whole evening for it. I'm glad I experienced it just once, but I'm not sure I have the patience to do it very often.
Who else watched old movies at Hollywood Forever Cemetery?
Caroline on Crack has an excellent list of things to do and don't at the screenings.
E*starLA was roused at sunrise by Bon Iver.
Other things to do can be found in Explore SoCal, including other picnics too.
Cinespa's Cemetery Screenings
Hollywood Forever Cemetery
6000 Santa Monica Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90038
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