The Magic Behind Cinespia
By Sam Davidson
If you do not live in L.A., then you probably do not know about Cinespia, and that is a crying shame! Cinespia is an organization that hosts screenings of classic films (and the occasional television finale or special) at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery. Sound creepy? Perhaps, but it works I promise you that.
Cinespia launched in 2002, from the genius of John Wyatt, a set designer who was in his mid-twenties at the time. The organization began as an Italian cinema club that Wyatt had with friend Richard Petit at the Crossroads School in Santa Monica. However, several years later when Wyatt and Petit were working for designer Brad Dunning in helping with the restoration of the legendary Hollywood Forever Cemetery, the small Italian film club became something much more.
After Wyatt attended a Valentino birthday party at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery in 2002, he approached the owners through a friend who worked there about arranging a screening of Alfred Hitchcock’s Strangers on a Train. Wyatt got his wish and was able to arrange the screening on July 20, 2002, using two 35mm projectors with a changeover mechanism on the back of a pickup truck. Eighty people showed up for the first screening, and he got such good feedback that they allowed him to do a second screening, which was Sam Fuller’s Pickup on South Street. The second screening for what would one day become Cinespia, brought in an audience of over 1000! It was all downhill from there, and the word started to spread about this awesome organization and experience.
With The Hollywood Forever Cemetery being the burial ground for entertainers, musicians, and some of Hollywood’s elite, it became the perfect place to host these screenings purely because of the beauty and nostalgia the venue holds. Who would have thought that sitting on graves watching movies with a bottle of wine, snacks, and your best friends could be so much fun? The experience of going to see a screening at The Hollywood Forever Cemetery is one that every Los Anglian or entertainment enthusiast should have; it is truly magical.
As it turns out, trekking through tombs and monuments to see your favorite flick is an amazing experience that thousands of LA locals and trendy visitors now enjoy every weekend during the summer. The organization has grown tremendously, and so has the experience you get with a ticket to a screening for only fifteen dollars! Now, in addition to the screening, Cinespia gives its ticketholders a little pre-party with different DJs spinning at the cemetery before every screening. Since it is so popular now, ticket holders must arrive early. However, they make the experience so special that people want to get there early to enjoy the music, beautiful surroundings, and perhaps a couple of drinks (BYOB of course), before the film begins.
Cinespia has appeared in the 2008 Best of L.A. issue in the LA Weekly and was named on the “16 Best Things In LA” by the Los Angeles Magazine. In addition to the many accolades the organization has acquired over the past 13 years, Vanity Fair has said that “Cinespia captures the excitement of a drive-in movie date night of the 1950s but with a decidedly campy twist.”
While Cinespia definitely has an Old Hollywood feel to it by playing some of the classics that movie buffs drool over, they also have something for everyone, not just movie buffs. Cinespia plays an extremely eclectic group of films every summer, ranging from classic horror films to girly comedies. If your favorite movie is Clueless there is no shame in that! The cemetery screenings truly have something for everyone, and the best part is, if you think you are the only person that ever loved a specific flick, you will be proven wrong and will be able to enjoy it with thousands of others.
Here is a very eclectic list of some of the best films played at the cemetery: Pulp Fiction, The Princess Bride, Ghostbusters, Annie Hall, American Psycho, Clueless, The Craft, Cat On A Hot Tin Roof, The Shining, Vertigo, Young Frankenstein, Boogie Nights, All About Eve, The Graduate, Aliens, Back To The Future, The Breakfast Club, Cabaret, Caddyshack, Taxi Driver, Scream, Roman Holiday, Some Like It Hot, Blade Runner, The Birds, Scarface, The Terminator, The Big Lebowski, Sunset Blvd, Hairspray, Chinatown, Jurassic Park, Silence Of The Lambs…the list goes on and on.
Even though Cinespia is almost exclusively in the summers, they do have the occasional event or special during the year. For example, Cinespia hosted an event for the Pretty Little Liars Halloween special last year, and they even had a Breaking Bad finale/screening event! At many of these events, including the regular summer screenings, the stars and the creators of the films and TV shows will actually show up and have a mini panel with the audience.
Hopefully now you too can experience the magic of Cinespia and support this absolutely amazing organization that keeps Old Hollywood alive. Screenings usually begin in May, but keep a look out for other events they may have in the interim, they may well be worth you time. Enjoy film junkies!