Cinema Under the Stars: The Top Places in California to Catch an Outdoor Movie

Cinema Under the Stars: The Top Places in California to Catch an Outdoor Movie

By Oliver Jenkyns June 10, 2019

Sweet and salty aromas fill the air as a great movie plays on the big screen and the starry sky twinkles above you: This is one of the best ways to take in California summer nights. You can hang with friends and family, eat delicious food, listen to new music, and see Hollywood classics while appreciating the beauty of the Golden State. While there is no wrong way to watch movies under the stars, we have compiled a list of our favorite spots to see films alfresco all season long, so you don’t have to miss a thing.  

Outdoor Movies in the San Diego Region

California article
Cuddle with your sweetheart as you watch classic films under the evening sky in beautiful San Diego.

Movies on the Beach

Location: Hotel del Coronado, Coronado

Dates: Select Fridays and Saturdays between the end of June and the end of August

Time: Doors open at 7 p.m., movies start at 8 p.m.

Adult price: $20+

Enjoy the bright stars and cool ocean breezes from the white sands outside the iconic Hotel del Coronado. Get there early to settle in with a beach chair or daybed, and spend the rest of the day enjoying a private beach bonfire and roasting s’mores with friends. Most seats are first come, first served, but if you get the VIP Family Movie Package, you can rest easy with two reserved chairs and a daybed (along with guaranteed s’mores). Make sure to dine ahead of time, as no outside food or beverages are allowed.

Liberty Station Outdoor Movies

Location: Gate 1, Liberty Station, San Diego

Dates: The second Saturday of every month between May and October

Time: Movies start at 8 p.m.

Adult price: Free

With Liberty Station Outdoor Movies, you never know what you’re going to get. Surprise pop-up performances and activities accompany every screening, and curated shorts are shown on the big screen before the feature film begins. Bring blankets, cushions, picnics, and snacks for the ultimate movie experience under the stars.

Outdoor Movies in The Los Angeles Region

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Watch beloved movies while enjoying breathtaking city views at one of L.A.'s rooftop theaters.

Melrose Rooftop Theatre

Location: E.P. & L.P., West Hollywood

Dates: Sunday through Thursday, starting at the end of May and continuing through July

Time: Doors open at 6 p.m., movies start at sundown

Adult price: $27.50+

See West Hollywood—and beloved films—in a whole new way: on a rooftop under the stars, in a bean bag chair, with individual wireless headphones to drown out any distractions. Discover new movies and revisit cult classics while noshing on popcorn, candy, ice cream, and more. Take it to another level by purchasing the VIP seated experience to enjoy a three-course meal of modern Asian cuisine before the movie starts. Enter the E.P. & L.P. lobby, head up to the roof, and allow the Melrose Rooftop Theatre to take care of the rest.

Rooftop Cinema Club

Locations: LEVEL, Downtown Los Angeles and NeueHouse, Hollywood

Dates: Various showings between the end of May and the end of June

Time: Doors open at 6:30 p.m., movies start at 8:30 p.m.

Adult price: $18+

The two Rooftop Cinema Club locations immerse guests in the city skylines during golden hour and beyond. Deck chairs with adjustable seat heights help guests get comfortable, while throw pillows, blankets, and personal wireless headphones allow for a relaxed movie-watching experience. Opt for the “Rooftop Love Seats” if it’s date night, and don’t miss out on the bottomless popcorn. You can also get something more substantial—such as the Impossible Burger, the goat cheese–prosciutto flatbread, or the mashed avocado—to savor as you bask in the elegance of rooftop dining.

California article
Soak up the warm summer nights and relaxed Los Angeles vibe at Street Food Cinema or Eat See Hear. 

Street Food Cinema

Locations: A dozen-plus venues throughout L.A., including Griffith Park and Los Angeles State Historic Park

Dates: Saturdays and select Sundays between June and October

Time: Doors open at 5:30 p.m., live music starts at 6:30 p.m., and movies start at 8:30 p.m.

Adult price: $14+

Launched in 2012, Street Food Cinema now shows films at over a dozen venues throughout the Los Angeles area, bringing together three classic summertime activities: outdoor movies, live music, and food trucks. You are welcome to bring your own picnic, but a curated selection of vendors sets up shop during each film to offer everything from doughnuts, to ice cream, to chicken wings, to Caribbean-fusion dishes. Get there early to try a few different food options, listen to the band, and lounge on your blankets. Be sure to pack some sunscreen, too, as the California sun is still ablaze late into the evening.

Eat See Hear

Locations: Rotating venues around L.A., including The Autry Museum of the American West

Dates: Weekly showings between May and September

Time: Doors open at 5:30 p.m., live music starts at 7 p.m., movies start around 8:30 p.m. (except in September, when doors open at 5 p.m. and movies start at 8 p.m.)

Adult price: $14+

Head to one of the Eat See Hear venues to listen to live music, eat incredible food, and watch some tried-and-true favorites. Get a plate (or two) from the numerous food trucks that accompany each film; with 100-plus food trucks to choose from, there is always something new to try. Bring your own water, soda, blankets, and pillows to make yourself comfortable.

California article
Bring a blanket, snacks, and beverages with you so you can fully enjoy your evening outing. 

Cinespia

Location: Fairbanks Lawn, Hollywood Forever Cemetery, Los Angeles

Dates: June through July

Time: Doors open at 7:15 p.m., movies start at 9 p.m.

Adult price: $18+

Seeing a movie at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery is a must-do activity during the summer months. Pack some blankets, pillows, drinks, and a tarp to lay on the grassy field. Come early and stay late to hear the DJs spinning music, making sure to head to the photo booth to commemorate the experience.

Poolside Cinema

Location: Mr. C, Beverly Hills

Dates: Every Tuesday from June through August

Time: Movies start at 7 p.m.

Adult price: $35+

Experience the exclusive Poolside Cinema from the comfort of a lounger on the rooftop pool deck at the Mr. C hotel. Reserve a seat in advance by purchasing the Classic or Signature prix-fixe menu. While the Classic comes with your choice of beverage, popcorn or candy, and an entrée (such as burrata with heirloom tomatoes and basil), the Signature option features more sophisticated starters (like Parmesan chunks with Cerignola olives) as well as more substantial entrées (including the avocado-laden Doge salad and the prosciutto crudo di Parma with melon). Whichever you choose, the Poolside Cinema at Mr. C is sure to delight.

California articleJoin other film buffs on the Fairbanks Lawn of the Hollywood Forever Cemetery, and settle in for an evening of entertainment.

ROOFTOP MOVIES AT THE MONTALBÁN

Location: The Montalbán, Los Angeles

Dates: Select Wednesdays and Sundays from the end of May through the beginning of July

Time: Doors open at 6 p.m., movies start at sundown

Adult price: $18+

Make it dinner and a movie with an Impossible Burger, a game of Jenga Giant, and an outdoor film. While the rooftop venue does not allow any outside food or beverages, you will want for nothing; a full kitchen, gourmet drinks, and freshly popped popcorn are available throughout every screening. Block out the bustle of the streets below with the noise-canceling headphones; snuggle with your date under a blanket, and lay back in a beach chair to take in the chill L.A. summer vibes.

Outdoor Movies In The Central Coast

California article
Outdoor movies can only get better when the pristine California coastline serves as a beautiful backdrop. 

Movies on the Beach

Location: Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, Santa Cruz

Dates: Every Wednesday between June 19 and August 14

Time: Movies start at 9 p.m.

Adult price: Free

Is there a better way to experience California than by watching a movie outside, on the sandy beach with the Pacific Ocean on one side and the famed Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk on the other? Get to the beach early to visit the boardwalk and pick up some sweet-and-salty kettle corn, savory corn dogs, and nostalgic funnel cakes before setting out a blanket for the show.

Outdoor movies in the San Francisco Region

California article
See acclaimed movies such as A Star is Born and Crazy Rich Asians at Waterfront Flicks in Oakland's Jack London Square.

Waterfront Flicks

Location: Jack London Square, Oakland

Dates: Select Thursdays starting at the end of June and running through the first week of September

Time: Movies start at sundown

Adult price: Free

Stake out your spot along the waterfront in Jack London Square to check out blockbusters at Waterfront Flicks. Drive over after work to participate in trivia and giveaways or to savor tasty eats before the main event begins. Bring blankets, lawn chairs, water, and whatever else you need to make yourself comfortable.

Movies on the Square

Location: Courthouse Square, Redwood City

Dates: Every Thursday evening (except July 4th) between June and August

Time: Movies begin at sundown, around 8:45 p.m.

Adult price: Free

Pack up the whole family for Movies on the Square. Grab some popcorn, candy, and water at the snack bar; set out your picnic blanket; and get ready to enjoy an evening under the stars. The outdoor movies shown here are accompanied by surround sound, and you may even be able to snag a table and chairs if you arrive early enough.

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