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.
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. Yes, you can see a movie in a Hollywood cemetery! Let me tell you more about the experience.
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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 at the cemetery sell out very quickly. Do not try to buy Cinespia tickets from a third party. They may not be valid and you will not be able to get a refund.
If you plan on driving to the Hollywood Cemetery movies, you will need to also buy a parking pass. If parking passes are sold out, additional parking is available at the Hollywood Production Center Lot at 1149 N Gower and the Van Ness Lot at 900 N. Van Ness (entrance on Lemon Grove). You could also take an uber. Cinespia asks that you don’t park in the surrounding neighborhoods.
Getting to Hollywood Forever Movie Night
Beverly rounded up a group of 12 of us to go, so we all met at her place to carpool to the Hollywood 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 parked offsite wait in a long line to get in. They were very strict about the opening time!
There is no Hollywood Forever Cemetery parking lot, everyone just parked along the roads inside the cemetery. 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.
Visiting the Hollywood Forever Cemetery
The grounds were huge and the graves were more spread out than I have seen at other cemeteries. The Hollywood Forever Cemetery, originally called the Hollywood Cemetery, was founded in 1899 and more of Hollywood’s elite are buried here than anywhere else on earth. Some of the graves were crazy elaborate and others were typical of what you might see at other cemeteries.
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. It’s one of the top things to do in LA. I am going to try to make it back here at some point and maybe even take a walking tour of Hollywood Forever Cemetery. (Note: You can book a Hollywood Forever Cemetery tour through Viator. Click here to check price and availability.)
Everyone having a great time waiting for the sun to go down so the movie can start.
Waiting for our Hollywood Forever Cemetery Movie to Start
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 for the movies in Hollywood Cemetery was that chairs could 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 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. You could also just bring a picnic blanket, but in that case, you might want to also bring a tarp in case the lawn is wet.
If you don’t have time to prepare, don’t worry they had plenty of food 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. They also sell picnic blankets.
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!
Time for Our Hollywood Cemetery Movie
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 the movie should be introduced by celebrities. The first celebrity to take the stage 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 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! It was a smooth transition from Hollywood movie night 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. Thanks so much to Beverly for organizing. I would love to see more Hollywood Forever movies! Have you been to any cemetery screenings or 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 Cemetery Movie Night
- Cinespia tickets sell out quickly. Buy your tickets for the Hollywood Forever Cemetery movies (and parking passes) early!
- 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.
- If you are interested in learning more, consider taking a Hollywood Cemetery tour like this one.
- If you are visiting LA for the first time, here’s a list of other must-sees in Los Angeles.
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