I have to admit I am not a big movie person, I might see one film a year in a movie theater. I do love picnicking and outdoor movies though. Each summer, I try to go to at least one Bryant Park movie in NYC, and I want to experience outdoor movies in other cities too. So when I was in LA, I was thrilled that Beverly, a friend of my friend Kat, had arranged for us to go to a Hollywood Forever Cemetery Movie Night to see a screening of Purple Rain.
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The movie night was one of a series of screenings that Cinespia puts on in the Hollywood Forever Cemetery each summer. You will need to get tickets in advance, as some movies sell out very quickly. If you plan on driving you will need to also buy a parking pass. If parking passes are sold out, you can take an uber or try to find street parking.
Beverly rounded up a group of 12 of us to go, so we all met at her place to carpool to the cemetery. The traffic en route was lighter than we expected so we got there a little early, unfortunately, once we got there it was a bit of a mess to get in. We waited in the line of cars to enter the cemetery, but when we got to the front of the line they told us we were too early and would have to come back in 30 minutes. We waited in a nearby parking lot and then battled the traffic to get back in. They also made those that had done street parking wait in a long line to get in. They were very strict about the opening time!
Once we parked it was a short walk to the lawn where we would watch the film. We were a bit rushed because we wanted to make sure we got enough space for everyone, so I couldn’t explore the cemetery as much as I would have liked, but I was able to get a few pictures.
The grounds were huge and the graves were more spread out than I have seen at other cemeteries. Some of the graves were crazy elaborate and others were typical of what you might see at other cemeteries. The Hollywood Forever Cemetery was founded in 1899 and more of Hollywood’s elite are buried here than anywhere else on earth. The Hollywood Forever Cemetery is now listed on the National Register of Historic Sites. Visitors come from all over the world to pay respects to Johnny Ramone, Cecil B. DeMille, Jayne Mansfield, Rudolph Valentino, Douglas Fairbanks, and hundreds of other of Hollywood’s greatest stars. I am going to try to make it back here at some point and explore more.
We were able to get a spot just big enough for our group right behind one of the aisles that were marked across the lawn. This was key! It was very crowded, so this allowed us some breathing room and made it easier to get out if anyone needed the bathroom (port-o-potties only) during the movie. I was also wondering how close we would be sitting to graves. There weren’t any by us, but there were a few mausoleums towards the back of the lawn.
One rule they were very strict on is that chairs can not be higher than 6 inches off the ground. Luckily, my friend Kat had these backpack beach chairs that were perfect. It folds up and has straps so you can easily carry it on your back, plus it has space to pack other things that you might need for a day at the beach or picnicking. (Check here for availability and current price) Kat packed towels inside so that we could have blankets once the sun went down and it got cooler. There was also an area where chairs were not allowed.
We weren’t really sure what time the movie would start so we relaxed and enjoyed our picnic. Beverly brought a cute little picnic table (which I ordered for myself!) and we came prepared with lots of food and beverages. You can bring your own beer or wine, just no spirits. If you don’t have time to prepare, don’t worry they had plenty for sale – burgers, tacos, popcorn, and candy. We bought a bag of the kettle corn, which was delicious and tasted more like caramel corn to me. While we were waiting for the movie, there was some fun music playing and the people watching was great. We saw a lot of people dressed up, plenty of purple, and even a few raspberry berets!
Then when the sun had fully set and it was dark, it was about time to start the movie. Since we were in Hollywood, it was only fitting that it should be introduced by celebrities. The first one introduced was DJ Questlove, who would also be the DJ for the Prince dance party that would start after the movie. Also one of the ladies who was in Prince’s band in the movie spoke for a bit. Then around 9:15, it was finally time for the movie.
Purple Rain is the story of Prince during the beginning of his career and he stars in it. I have to admit I fell asleep during the movie. That does not say anything bad about the movie, it is not unusual for me to doze off during a film – remember I am not a movie person. And I was still jet lagged and had been awake since about 4:30 am California time. I do want to try and watch it again at some point when I am not so tired.
It was such a great atmosphere at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery Movie Night. Towards the end of the film, when Prince is performing the crowd got really into it. During the slow songs, people were holding up their fake candles like we used to do with lighters back in the day. Then as the music got more lively, people started to stand up and dance. And then they added a great laser show! So it was smooth transition right into the Prince dance party.
In addition to the movie, they also had a Prince inspired photo booth (lots of smoke) and a memorial. The line for the photo booth was pretty long so we didn’t get to try it. We did visit the memorial and it was touching to see people had brought flowers to place beside it.
I had so much fun at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery Movie Night. Thanks so much to Beverly for organizing. I would definitely do it again. Have you been to any outdoor movie nights? I would love to hear about your experience. More about the rest of my time in LA coming up in future posts….
Expert Tips for Your Hollywood Forever Cemetery Movie Night:
- Buy your tickets early, movies can sell out quickly.
- Try to get a space by the aisle so that you have some breathing room and can get out easily.
- Bring chairs (no higher than 6 inches from the ground) or try to sit in the no chairs section.
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