Cemetery streaming and screaming: ‘I Know What You Did Last Summer’ at Cinespia
The what: Cinespia
The when: Summer and fall
XP high: A movie night with thousands of other Angelenos makes it seem like we are not alone in a city of almost 4 million people
XP low: Parking issues, long lines for concessions
It all started with an email: “Free Cemetery Screening of ‘I Know What You Did Last Summer.’” It was from Cinespia, a Los Angeles-based organization that screens films at iconic venues. I immediately registered for two tickets.
Then, I rallied my friends.
They said they preferred their events “indoors” and “comfy” with “no bugs.” Need new friends. Noted. Luckily, I was able to con — ahem, convince my friend C to go. As a recent transplant to L.A., she was an easy mark. Two other friends jumped on board and we were ready to set off on our movie adventure.
How to describe Cinespia? It’s like a sleepover-campout-picnic-screening in a cemetery with about 3,500 of your closest friends.
How to describe Cinespia? It’s like a sleepover-campout-picnic-screening in a cemetery with about 3,500 of your closest friends. Started in 2002 by John Wyatt, it currently hosts outdoor movie screenings at Hollywood Forever Cemetery during the summer and fall months. And at other venues around L.A. throughout the rest of the year.
Amazon Studios is Cinespia’s presenting partner, so it made sense that Amazon Prime was hosting this free screening of the 1997 slasher “I Know What You Did Last Summer.” The movie was followed by the first episode of the new rebooted TV series by the same name.
The day of, C and I packed up pillows, blankets, warm jackets and a cooler and headed for Trader Joe’s. We proceeded to buy half the store and a box of their best Cabernet Sauvignon. It wouldn’t be a true L.A. experience if you didn’t try to get there early to stand in line, so we were aiming for a 4 p.m. arrival, doors at 5 p.m., movie at 7:15 p.m.
But first, parking.
We spent about 20 minutes driving around, trying to find a spot, before eventually parking about 12 minutes away. Despite being midway through October, which in some spheres of the world is actual autumn, it was 86 degrees. So we hauled our stuff in one of those rolly shopping baskets and a giant IKEA bag all the way to the gates of the cemetery. By this point, we were late. We were hot. We were sweaty. We were not, as the kids say, having a good time.
Living in L.A. sometimes reminds me of the title of David Foster Wallace’s essay, “A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again.” Theoretically, you’re always supposed to be having the time of your life. Realistically, you’re dragging a studio apartment’s worth of blankets and pillows down Santa Monica Boulevard during rush hour in oppressive heat.
Note to producers:
Some sort of hop-on, hop-off shuttle situation would have been a welcome addition to the experience. We weren’t down to pay $30 for an onsite spot, more than the cost of the experience itself.
We rolled up to the line around 5:14 p.m. When the doors finally opened, we were handed a punch card to redeem various treats and a swag bag containing an insulated tumbler branded with Amazon Prime’s “Now Screaming” logo and a 3.25 ounce bag of Cheetos.
After a short walk, we staked out a spot on the grass of the Fairbanks Lawn like so many homesteaders in the Oklahoma land rush. Then it was time for boxed wine, cheese, crackers and song with DJ Daisy O’Dell spinning all the ’90s hits our Millennial hearts and ears could desire. Track after track was a bop. I stood in line to get my free donut and popcorn but skipped the line for free Coolhaus ice cream, which stretched as far as the eye could see.
Cemetery-goers more chic than us set up small tables (with tablecloth), candles and real wine glasses. The woman behind us inflated a queen-sized air mattress with matching inflatable pillows.
Then it got dark.
Founder John Wyatt introduced the move and four of the stars from the new Amazon Prime series. They, in turn, introduced surprise guest Ryan Phillippe, who starred in the original. Don’t tell Ryan, but my friend C asked, “Is that Joshua Jackson?”
None of us had seen the 1997 movie before, so despite the campiness of the original, we were still jolted by some of the scarier moments. The audience whooped and cheered when Jennifer Love Hewitt’s mousy, meek character screams at the sky, “WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR, HUH?” in one of the most iconic moments of the film.
There’s nothing quite like watching a campy horror flick from the ’90s with thousands of other people … It speaks to the best kind of experiences, the ones that remind us that we are not alone in a city of almost 4 million people.
There’s nothing quite like watching a campy horror flick from the ’90s with thousands of other people. Everyone screamed and laughed and react like it was both the first and the 100th time they’ve it.
It speaks to the best kind of experiences, the ones that remind us that we are not alone in a city of almost four million people.
Even as we left, my friend and I discussed what we would do differently next time. Not pack quite so many blankets and snacks. I promised myself not to stress out next time, although I most certainly will.
I can’t wait to do it again.