By now, lots of Angelenos have spent a Saturday evening watching movies in Hollywood Forever Cemetery. For 10 years, from May through September, movie lovers with blankets, picnic baskets and wine bottles in hand have flocked to the Cinespia series to watch classic films among Tinsletown's resting celebrities. But if you've ever snuggled on the grass with a favorite snuggler and wondered what it would be like to spend the whole night there, this Saturday is your big chance.
This weekend, Cinespia's Movies til Dawn invites guests to grab their sleeping bags and experience an all-night psychedelic-themed movie extravaganza. The event celebrates Cinespia's 10th anniversary and kicks off with the seminal concert film "Monterey Pop," featuring performances by Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, the Who and many others. Prolific L.A.-based music producer DJ Carlos Niño will spin before and after the screening.
The film will be followed by the documentary "Jimi Hendrix," which includes concert footage and interviews with the rock star as well as with those who knew him. Co-director Gary Weis and Hendrix's longtime engineer and producer, Eddie Kramer, will be on hand to chat about the film and answer audience questions. The rest of the night will be nonstop psychedelia with concert performance footage, animation and short films.
Since its launch in 2002, Cinespia has made lying in an expanse of grass and watching films projected onto a mausoleum's white marble wall seem absolutely natural.
"These [movies] are meant to be seen with a lot of people," says Cinespia's founder and programmer John Wyatt. "They're meant to be communal events. It transforms the viewing experience."
Wyatt's vision for the ultimate movie-watching event was inspired after he attended a 2001 tribute to silent film star Rudolph Valentino at the cemetery. In his first collaboration with Hollywood Forever, Wyatt screened Hitchcock's "Strangers on a Train" and, by word of mouth alone, drew a considerable turnout that led to a regular screening series.
The cemetery screenings now draw an average of 3,000 guests every weekend. It's not uncommon for the tail end of the long line snaking its way down Santa Monica Boulevard to be turned away. In an effort to streamline the event and reduce anxiety, Cinespia has only recently instituted online sales of tickets and parking passes.
Movies til Dawn has been in the works for several years. Wyatt and Jay Boileau, executive vice president of Hollywood Forever, both sensed that crowds were reluctant to go home after screenings, lingering long into the night. Boileau tested the all-night concept in 2009 when indie-folk band Bon Iver performed a sunrise concert at the cemetery. After spending six hours dozing off and enjoying events curated by the band, the crowd was awakened by chanting Buddhist monks followed by a dawn show that Boileu describes as a "mystical experience" best experienced at first light. Boileau says the concert ran "like clockwork" and began planning for future all-night events.
This Saturday's all-nighter will pair music-themed films with more avant-garde fare. "What I'm trying to do is show stuff from the '60s including experimental and artist films, to take them out of the academic world and bring them to the broader world," Wyatt said.
The rest of this summer's screenings will continue through September and include "The Jerk" starring Steve Martin and Alfred Hitchcock's "Psycho." Rock band Bright Eyes is scheduled to perform in the cemetery, and its on-site Masonic Lodge will host indie darlings Patrick Wolf, Laura Marling and Jens Lekman.
As for this weekend, taking advantage of the new online ticketing system is highly recommended. Last Saturday's screening of "Breakfast at Tiffany's" had guests without tickets waiting anxiously hoping to make it into the screening. But despite the wait and uncertainty, they all seemed to agree it was a cool event. "I like the whole experience being very L.A.," said regular attendee Pauline Tran, 28, as she sat in line surrounded by chatty friends, "What other city is going to have a cemetery screening with all these celebrities that are around, on a big screen, while drinking and eating and picnicking under the stars?"
Movies til Dawn
Where: Hollywood Forever Cemetery, 6000 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.
When: Gates open at 7:30 p.m.; screenings at 9 p.m. Sat. to 6 a.m. Sun.
Price: $10; parking $10
Info: (323) 469-1181; cinespia.org