Going to the Movies: Novel Screening Choices in SoCal

Genie Davis October 8, 2011 No Comments

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If you’re like me, you’ve probably taken your children to the multi-plex when they were small enough to sleep through the feature. As they’ve grown older, perhaps they’ve been restless in the confines of a theater. Or perhaps they’re tired of the standard kid-friendly fare shown in the sameness of a local chain. Maybe, as your children have grown older, they’ve demanded access to more interesting viewing.

Regardless of the reason, perhaps its time you took your children out of the theater, and certainly away from the television or computer screen – and into a completely different movie going trip.

Cinespia - Hollywood Forever Cemetery

Even from a distance, taking a mid-movie stroll, watching a film at Cinespia in Hollywood is a unique experience.

Cinespia – Hollywood Forever Cemetery

If you live in or are planning a visit to Los Angeles in the summer, one of the most unique film going experiences is found at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery in Hollywood near the Paramount Lot. Cinespia knows how to put on a show – check their schedule for family friendly films like E.T. or Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Picnicking is encouraged on the vast green lawn in front of the large screen, which is suspended on a mausoleum wall. Before the film begins, a dj spins tunes. Small children will love being outdoors in a green space surrounded by pretty white monuments and palm trees. Older kids will be fascinated by the tombs of long-departed celebrities and the off beat setting.

While audiences are respectful, true quiet is not expected. Any restive children can be led outside the grassy viewing area and onto the cemetery road behind it, which is closed to traffic during the screening. Here they can move about and parents can still watch, and hear, the film. But there’s something about the magical and hushed setting that makes everyone fall under a spell of moon light and movie viewing. Be sure and bring your own picnic, there’s no food sold on the premises. Check the Cinespia website for their calendar and tickets.

Drive In Movies

In downtown Los Angeles, there’s Devil’s Night Drive In. Not a real drive in theater but an ersatz recreation on the roof of a hotel parking garage, you can stay in your car and listen to the movie on your car radio while funky car hops bring you fries, chips, or candy snacks. Here too you’ll want to watch the schedule for family friendly films. There’s an astro turf area set up from which you can take in an urban skyline view and stretch your legs or let the kids run around for a bit.

The Vineland Drive In, City of Industry, CA

The Vineland Drive In, City of Industry, CA.

We love a drive-in movie and with so few left in the U.S., we’re always on the look out for a large screen and a good double bill. Although California’s drive ins have dwindled, the Golden State still boasts twenty drive in screens, which is more than you’ll find in other parts of the country. The nearest authentic drive in to Los Angeles city is located in the suburb of the City of Industry. The Vineland was recently expanded and now has four screens and the capacity to house fifteen hundred cars. This massive outdoor four plex draws large crowds and is open throughout the year. Each screen shows a double feature and the projection quality is stellar. Best of all for family’s on a budget: children under the age of eleven are free. There’s a playground on site as well, and a full stocked snack bar.

If you happen to be in the middle of the state, you’ll enjoy an enormous screen and an intimate viewing experience in Kings County, midway between the agricultural hubs of Bakersfield and Fresno. King’s Drive In has a one hundred foot wide screen, but what will really wow the kids is the fact that this is a single screen operating for only three hundred cars. You’ll have an amazingly large scale and personal view of the screen here. Interestingly, the theater has been in continuous operation since 1948. They offer a double bill of current films March through October. Unlike LA, the farm belt gets a little chilly in the winter months.

Other Unique Movie Venues

Sticking close to Los Angeles, you’ll find some other unique venues for film going. Summer time finds monthly film screenings at City Walk plaza at Universal Studios. Sitting near a giant neon King Kong sign adds to the Hollywood glamour. The beach city communities just south of the airport, Hermosa Beach and El Segundo offer outdoor flicks projected on large outdoor screens set up on the grass or on the sand. These film offerings are almost uniformly family ventures, but seeing Happy Feet on a big screen with a full moon behind the projection area makes it feel fresh all over again.

And speaking of the beach cities, El Segundo houses the Old Tyme Music Hall (140 Richmond St), a silent-era film theater with, we have to admit, remarkably uncomfortable seats. But the kids will thrill to the live organ concert and sing along before the show and during intermission, and the whole family will enjoy seeing classic silents and early comedies with Charlie Chaplin, W.C. Fields and the like. More contemporary films are also shown, all second run. It’s a family friendly atmosphere and no one will look askance if you need to take your tot out to the candy stand which doubles as the box office just outside the front door of the theater.  Popcorn only costs a $1, too.

So the next time you’re in the mood for a movie, and you know your children are hankering for a film experience too, give them a real experience, outside the multi-plex and the family Blue-Ray.

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Genie Davis is a multi-published fiction author, screen and TV writer, and travel writer. If it was possible, she'd like to spend every day traveling. www.geniedavis.com

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