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Cinespia – Film screening at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery

LOS ANGELES, CA (BDCi) — To my great surprise, seated deep within the crowded streets of Hollywood in Los Angeles is a longstanding grassy and blooming cemetery unique among many in the world.

Founded in 1899, the Hollywood Forever Cemetery is one of the oldest cemeteries in Los Angeles and is the resting place for many of the men and women who have played an important part in Hollywood’s development and film history.

Not just the burial grounds for musicians, entertainers and some of Hollywood’s most elite, the cemetery hosts live concerts, community festivals and film screenings. Of these events, few are as popular as Cinespia, an outdoor screening of films held at the cemetery that attracts thousands every summer on Saturday nights.

Started by former set-designer John Wyatt in 2002, Cinespia is an organization that screens films at different landmark locations around Los Angeles.  “This is a place where a lot of famous people are buried, a lot of people in the industry who made the films, some of them amazing films. And it just has a certain history that nowhere else has,” said Wyatt, 39, after screening “Caddyshack”, on a sold-out show Saturday.

Seeing outdoor classic and noir films have become somewhat of an annual tradition for many Angelenos on summer nights. “It’s such a cool L.A. thing to do. Everyone comes out, it’s really fun, and you can bring your own beer, your own food, bring whatever you want, and it’s just a great event to come see”, said Drew Dorenfest, 28, from Chicago.

Walking through tombs and monuments to such Hollywood stars as Mel Blanc, Cecile B. DeMille and Victor Fleming, crowds of people ramble along the cemetery carrying chairs, blankets, wine and coolers to secure a seating place on the Fairbanks Lawn, named after silent-era movie star Douglas Fairbanks.

“It’s so cool to see a movie in a cemetery but it doesn’t feel weird because you’re not amongst the dead people, amongst the headstones, but it’s really an awesome event and I’m glad they do it every week,” added Dorenfest.

“People are respectful, calm, tame, at peace,” said Joey Armario, from Eagle Rock, who is part of the staff at Cinespia. “As for me, I’d be happy to have so many happy people here, so many happy spirits where I’m at, in my final resting place.”

DJ’s from around the world are invited to play during the summer event and celebrities and guests regularly introduce some films. Moviegoers gather to wait in long lines and dress up in costumes from whatever film is being screened to take pictures on a wall and photo-booth with themes from the film. “People keep coming to movies but they want to see them together in a big group,” continued Wyatt. “I think it’s some basic, human need to be entertained together. Films are meant to be seen on a big screen with a big crowd and that’s how we present them. It works.”

Many locals found it incredible that such an essential Los Angeles experience could have escaped their knowledge, myself included, mainly because Cinespia is now over a decade old. “Been in L.A. for five years and it’s the first time I’ve ever been out here. Anybody that’s coming through LA should do this, absolutely,” said J.R. Ringer, 26.

“I think it’s great for visitors just to see all of the different kinds of people who live in L.A,” added Wyatt, below the vast white wall onto which the golf comedy classic “Caddyshack” was projected to the thousands who had gathered Saturday night. “You have people from all walks of life here and to see what L.A. is made of, it’s nice.”

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