To celebrate Fourth of July weekend and our full immersion into the summer season, I took a few good friends to see a Cinespia screening at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery.
That's right. CEMETERY. An actual cemetery. Where people are buried.
By now, I'm sure you've gathered that I have an affinity for all things unique, and I treasure any opportunity that allows me to have a special, most commonly categorized as weird, experience. I attended my first Cinespia screening last year, so I had to introduce some of my hip pals to this new summer tradition of mine. I'm not sure they entirely picked up on the cemetery part until we were literally walking amongst the graves on our way to secure a picnic spot.
In true Americana fashion, Cinespia was showing a screening of the classic Dirty Dancing, with a full fireworks show afterwards. I don't normally do much on the 4th of July, minus watching fireworks erupt all around my Long Beach home, so I felt that this outing was a holiday celebration I could get behind, while still avoiding any over-the-top red, white and blue spectacles.
That being said, I knew something I wouldn't avoid: hipsters. The crowd during both Cinespia screenings I attended was heavily composed of hip, Hollywood types sporting Chelsea boots, crop tops and high-waisted pants. I will admit, I am the first to be intimidated by these effortlessly indifferent trendsetters, but by the end of the night it didn't matter who was hip and who wasn't.
Even though it was my second screening, I still feel that we arrived late. Gates were scheduled to open at 7:15PM; unfortunately we pulled up around 7PM, meaning we had to drive/circle a bit and come back! I had opted for on-site parking, so I couldn't just park in a nearby lot. Looking back, I still find this to be a catch-22: without on-site parking, I was potentially facing a long-ish trek burdened by picnic baskets, blankets, and whatever else we had chosen to bring. However, with on-site parking, I couldn't arrive earlier than 7:15PM.
The good news is we finally made our way in (after driving down Santa Monica Blvd, doubling back around and then waiting in an eternal line of cars). We got a little spot for our picnic right on the back of the lawn; I have to admit, this wasn't the most ideal spot, but I did enjoy not having to maneuver my way in and out of the crowd. Even though we had planned and put thought into our timing, I felt like the entire crowd had arrived before us. The lawn was FILLED by the time we got there, so I'm glad we still got a decent spot. You can see us in the photo below, towards the middle of the back!
PRO TIP: BE AWARE THAT THE AVAILABLE RESTROOMS THERE ARE PORT-A-POTTIES. PLAN ACCORDINGLY.
Before the movie, there was a DJ playing tunes to get us in the groove - most of the music was dated to the 1960's and created an atmosphere that got our toes tapping but still left some energy for the movie screening. Since we had a bit of time to kill, I suggested we head to the photobooth.
I need to take a minute here to give credit where it's due. I absolutely adore the photobooths Cinespia puts together. The creativity, details and quality are truly to be admired. The ticket fee may seem steep until you find yourself posing with props in a photobooth resembling a scene from the movie you are watching. Cinespia always posts the photos on their website afterwards too.
PRO TIP: DON'T SKIP ON PURCHASING A PHOTO. YOU CAN TAKE MORE THAN ONE PHOTO IN THE BOOTH, BUT THEY WILL ONLY POST ONE, AND IT MAY NOT BE YOUR FAVORITE!
We took some fun photos (yes, my shirt says, "I CARRIED A WATERMELON"), picked up a couple prints and headed back to our picnic spot.
PRO TIP: DON'T BE AFRAID TO ASK THE PEOPLE NEXT TO YOU TO KEEP AN EYE ON YOUR PICNIC SPOT WHILE YOU TAKE PHOTOS.
The sun was setting, we were well into our homemade snacks, and the Hollywood sky changed colors behind Seussian palm trees watching over our cemetery space. Around 9PM, the movie began. There were a couple previews for upcoming Cinespia screenings, but then we got to the main attraction: Dirty Dancing. Two of our group hadn't seen the movie, so I was thrilled to share that first-time experience with them.
Dirty Dancing isn't my favorite film by any means, but now that I've seen it a few times, I've grown to appreciate it more and more. It's a timeless tale of growing up, standing up for yourself, and learning to be passionate about your potential and your life. Its cast is irreplaceable, and so many of its moments have become iconic for a reason. Many of us in the audience were already fans of the film, so there was ample cheering, laughter and many cat calls at Patrick Swayze.
The highlight for me was not only the spectacular fireworks show after the screening, but the last scene of the film. I speculated that some people would dance during the movie, but I couldn't have expected what actually happened. Baby and Johnny were triumphantly dancing, shouts of support and joy erupted from the crowd, and suddenly there was one person after another standing to dance. Arms were in the air, one person became two, a group of bobbing heads became a hundred. Before we were even half way through the scene, the entirety of the crowd was on its feet, dancing along to the film's iconic song, rooting for its underdog duo. This was hard to capture with my camera, but hopefully you can see a little bit of this in my photos below.
There was something so refreshing and fun about a group of strangers letting go of their inhibitions and dancing along to a well-known song in a classic film. I'm not generally a fan of the summer season, but feeling the cool air around us, picnic blankets everywhere, with our shoes off and toes tapping, I suddenly understood the hype.
We ended our evening with a fireworks display that lit up the sky above the cemetery, then we parted ways. I was grateful to not have gotten lost among the graves as I had done previously. Overall, it was a wonderful summer night and I would highly recommend stopping by a screening this year!
An event calendar, photos, and ticket sales can be found on the Cinespia website.
Until next time,