We hopped out of our Lyft in the heart of Hollywood, and walked into an empty theater. An attendant directed us up five flights of stairs attached to the side of the building. At the top- a moment of hesitation, and then we were drawn in by the soft thump of bass through the metal chain fence, where we found the most unlikely of movie theaters in this city of stars.
The rooftop was covered in green turf and summer blue adirondack chairs. Signs on old-timey stands advertised food and drinks, and a giant popcorn box hid the projector displaying a giant screen against a cloud and spotlight clad wall, while an artist painted logos of the night’s sponsors: San Pellegrino and Umami Burger. This is Rooftop Cinema Club at the Montalban Theatre.
We arrived when the sun was still shining bright above the Hollywood Hills, so we had time to admire the surreal view of Art Deco hotels contrasted by the giant red Westin “W”. We also sampled some of the delicious food from Umami Burger- perfectly rare hamburgers, shoestring fries with homemade ketchup, sweet potato fries with garlic aioli, and crispy and crunchy fried chicken sliders. We didn’t get the chance to try their vegan Impossible Burger because the ravenous crowds eventually showed up and scooped them before we could get our hands on one.
As the sun began to set and we sipped on delicious tall boy Modern Times beers, we settled back with our blankets and cushioned headphones- the feature film for the night was the classic The Big Lebowski. The program began at sunset (L.A. for fashionably late, presumably) with some fascinating ramblings from none other than Jeff Dowd, producer and activist who was the inspiration for the movie’s main character. And then the string lights hung over the roof were switched off while the neon lights over Hollywood Boulevard glowed, and the opening scenes began to play.
The Rooftop Cinema Club is truly unique among the many outdoor movie screening experiences offered in Los Angeles. Of course, you can’t beat the setting, or the awesome selection of beer, wine, spirits, and street food available before and during the movie. But I think what makes this truly special is the intimacy. This is a ticketed event, and they don’t appear to sell more tickets than they have chairs, so you are guaranteed a good view and a place to sit. Furthermore, every attendee gets to use comfortably padded wireless headphones so you won’t miss a line. Of course, this is Los Angeles, so expect nippy weather when the sun sets. And it’s worth noting that the only restrooms are on the first floor of the building- although if you have to make this trek, you can keep your headphones on so you won’t miss too much of the experience!
In addition to the Montalban, there is also a Rooftop Cinema Club at Level in Downtown Los Angeles. Tickets can be purchased online here and are available now- in fact, some shows are already sold out, so pick a movie out and book it today!