With the heat wave finally over and the weekend soon upon us, how does watching Wes Anderson’s Rushmore atop a Downtown parking garage sound? A little unusual, probably, but that’s the charm of Devil’s Night Drive In, one of Los Angeles’ more unique film venues.
To find a classic drive-in near Los Angeles, you need to commute 17 miles east to the City of Industry’s Vineland Drive-In Movie Theater — a long trek for a little nostalgia. But once per month (twice during summer), Devil’s Night offers the fond memories and fun, car hops included, just 10 minutes from campus.
Founder Morgan Higby Night began Devil’s Night in 2007 as the event Angel City Drive-In.
“I’m a big fan of the [Hollywood Forever] Cemetery screenings and drive-in movies — kind of ‘retro’ culture in general — as well as Downtown,” Night said. “Those three things combined made me think of doing it.”
He held the first three screenings in a parking lot next to The Alexandria hotel on Sixth and Main streets, and quickly decided to find a new location.
“It was in a transition between being a crack house and a nice apartment building and we’d have people throwing their trash out the window on our patrons,” Night said. “They just didn’t want us there.”
Finding an ideal location for the Devil’s Night Drive In proved difficult. Night needed an open space large enough to fit the 24-foot inflatable screen and the audience as well as easy access to electricity. Those features also attract competitors from a different branch of the film industry — production teams — ones that often book lots at the last minute and can pay more for them.
On the corners of West Fourth Street and South Broadway, Night discovered a two-story parking garage with a clearance poorly suited for production trucks — the perfect spot for a Downtown drive-in.
“My favorite thing about the lot that we’re at now is just the fact that we’re on a roof, so there’s no distractions from the street downstairs,” Night said. “You don’t get people watching it from on the street. It’s really private. I can’t imagine doing it anywhere else.”
Devil’s Night Drive In mostly caters to cult films, like Evil Dead or The Big Lebowski, though that doesn’t limit the selection. Past films include romances (Say Anything), so-bad-they-are-good laughers (Showgirls), classics both old (Rear Window) and new (Pulp Fiction), as well as family-friendly films (Big).
Night even occasionally takes suggestions from the audience, one of which, The Dark Side of Oz — a version of The Wizard of Oz with Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of The Moon played over it — became a personal favorite.
“I never thought people would go for that, but they chose it and it was really cool to see it like that,” Night said.
Each screening costs $10, while designated family-friendly films cost $5. As a bonus, buying a presold ticket to one of the screenings guarantees a parking spot on the rooftop, where an FM transmitter broadcasts the movie’s soundtrack into your car.
Drive-in fans who miss the presale deadline or decide to go at the last minute can purchase a walk-in ticket at the gate. The entire downstairs of the garage doubles as parking for walk-ins, who can then picnic in the Astroturf section and listen to the movie through speakers.
Unlike most movie theatres, the food options at the drive-in are easier on moviegoers’ wallets. For just $6, Devil’s Night Drive In’s “Chef Boyardouche” grills specialty burgers for each screening, like Showgirl’s “Saved by the Bell Burger” and Up in Smoke’s “Cheech and Chong Burger.” Nachos, hot dogs, candy and soda run cheaper than concessions at other theaters and so moviegoers don’t miss anything, car hops come by on roller skates when you flash your lights to help with refills.
But the best bit comes post-picture. At the end of the show, after enjoying a unique, retro, affordable movie night, attendees do not have to wander a vast parking lot trying to remember where they left their car.
Devil’s Night Drive-In is located at 240 West Fourth Street in Downtown Los Angeles. Doors open Saturday at 8 p.m. for a screening of Rushmore. Visit www.devilsnight.com/drivein.htm for more information and a schedule of screenings.