Sunsets and movies. It’s what Los Angeles does best. But for years, movie watchers were condemned to darkened rooms lit only by the screen and a few obnoxious cell phones. It wasn’t always so. There was a time when people watched films from their cars, enjoying to some extent being out of doors on warm evenings. Drive-ins are all but gone now but a new trend has emerged in recent years: rooftop movies. Hotels downtown, in Beverly Hills, in West Hollywood, and, appropriately, in Hollywood have been hosting open-air screenings each spring.
On Monday, the historic Montalbán Theatre in Hollywood celebrated the launch of its fifth year of rooftop movies with a screening of “Get Out.” The Vine Street venue, surrounded by the iconic landmarks of this legendary locale, dates back to 1927, the first year that the “talkies” made their debut, just blocks away.
The rooftop experience is superior in many ways to the traditional variety. First, there’s the ambiance (yes, I use the “e” spelling, I’m not a Neanderthal). L.A. nights offer an ideal climate between April and the end of October. It’s a shame to be trapped indoors when it’s 70 degrees out and a jasmine-scented breeze wafts through the air.
Then, there’s the bar. True, many theaters now offer booze, but it’s more of an afterthought; their hearts aren’t in it. The Montalbán’s rooftop oasis offers a housemade sangria, as well as a wide assortment of beers, wine, and a full bar. And unlike my local theater, you don’t have to make a scene when you want to refresh your drink, apologizing as you grind past people’s knees, go down an escalator, ask the employees if someone can get you a refill at the bar, wait for the only one who’s 21 and can serve you, then go back up the escalator, draw everyone’s attention as you open the door and make your way back to your seat during the emotionally climactic scene.
Next, there’s the social aspect. Rooftop patios are an ideal place to spend time talking with friends, so at the end of the night, you feel like you actually “saw” those friends. And what better way to socialize than over food? The Montalbán is partnering with L.A.-favorite Umami Burger this season. They’re also teaming up with Duidough Cookie Lab for snacks. Meanwhile, who mingles in the lobby of a movie theater? And once you’re inside, everything goes dark, so you don’t feel the presence of other people–or, worse, they start behaving like they’re invisible. And don’t get me started on movie theater food…
The Montalbán also has a giant Jenga set, a Simple Booth for selfies, and a hand-selected musical soundtrack on a KV2 Audio System that can be enjoyed via noise-canceling headphones while lounging in an Adirondack chair. As for the viewing experience, the venue features a state-of-the-art projector and a large screen. This week’s movies include: “Get Out,” “Top Gun,” “The Truman Show,” a double feature of “The Big Lebowski” and “The Transporter,” and “Transporter 2.” Rooftop Movies at the Montalbán runs from April 2-Oct. 31.