Movies Under the Stars, Surrounded by Tombs

At sunset, nearly the entire lawn at the rear of the cemetery's main mausoleum is covered i i

hide captionAt sunset, nearly the entire lawn at the rear of the cemetery's main mausoleum is covered with eager film fans.

Ina Jaffe, NPR
At sunset, nearly the entire lawn at the rear of the cemetery's main mausoleum is covered

At sunset, nearly the entire lawn at the rear of the cemetery's main mausoleum is covered with eager film fans.

Ina Jaffe, NPR
Gisella Centanaro and her yorkie-chihuahua mix Mr. T on her inflatable loveseat i i

hide captionGisella Centanaro and her yorkie-chihuahua mix Mr. T on her inflatable loveseat with built-in beverage holders.

Ina Jaffe, NPR
Gisella Centanaro and her yorkie-chihuahua mix Mr. T on her inflatable loveseat

Gisella Centanaro and her yorkie-chihuahua mix Mr. T on her inflatable loveseat with built-in beverage holders.

Ina Jaffe, NPR
Annettes Mesa was first in line at the gates this night -- she always tries to be first. i i

hide captionNumber-one fan: Annettes Mesa was first in line at the gates this night — she always tries to be first. She and her friends got there at 4 P.M., but the gates don't open until three hours later.

Ina Jaffe, NPR
Annettes Mesa was first in line at the gates this night -- she always tries to be first.

Number-one fan: Annettes Mesa was first in line at the gates this night — she always tries to be first. She and her friends got there at 4 P.M., but the gates don't open until three hours later.

Ina Jaffe, NPR
Tommy and Valerie Krause wait outside the gates with a few hundred others.

hide captionTommy and Valerie Krause wait outside the gates with a few hundred others. The screenings have become a very popular destination on Saturday nights during the summer.

Ina Jaffe, NPR

On summer Saturday nights in Los Angeles, film fans flock to see classic cinema at a most unusual venue: surrounded by crypts at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery.

The green oasis in the middle of a gritty section of Santa Monica Boulevard is the final resting place of many movie greats, going all the way back to Valentino.

Hundreds of fans line up at the gates well before the venue opens to the public at 7:30 P.M.

By the time it's dark enough to project the film on the side of the cemetery's huge white main mausoleum, about 2,700 cinema fans have found a seat on the lawn.

Most bring snacks and drinks and lounge on blankets or in beach chairs, bundled up against the night's chill.

John Wyatt and his organization, called Cinespia, have been showing classic movies here for five years. He doesn't believe that the showings are disrespectful to the dead that surround the crowd.

It seems right.

"I feel that this cemetery is so connected to Hollywood's past — there's so many historical figures buried here," Wyatt says.

"I feel like people coming here to see these films, and be entertained by these films, becomes almost a celebration of Hollywood film. It's very lively and very much amongst the living that these events take place."

On the lawn the mood is indeed one of celebration. Between the picnics, cocktails and laughter, the cemetery briefly becomes one of the only places in Los Angeles where friends and family get together for what seems an impromptu gathering of like-minded cinema fans.

"I think the dead need company," says moviegoer Mark Zecca.

"They're very lonely here. It's nice that that we all come and celebrate with them, and watch a good movie together."

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Correction Aug. 25, 2006

The audio for this story indicates that Hattie McDaniel is buried at Hollywood Forever Cemetery. Her body actually lies elsewhere; a marker at the cemetery pays tribute to McDaniel.

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