Last Sunday night, I watched L.A. Confidential on the roof of the former CBS building in Hollywood, because that’s a thing you can do in Los Angeles. This particular rooftop movie experience was through Rooftop Cinema Club, a company that creates rooftop movie experiences at venues in multiple cities.
When I’m left to dig up my own entertainment, I tend to wind up in a garden or bookstore. Or a movie theater at 9:30 a.m. on a weekday, when being there makes me feel like I’m probably blowing people’s minds with my reckless disregard for society’s cookie-cutter expectations that movies are for nighttime. This is why I need other people in my life to suggest outings that involve noise and strangers and actual novelty.
In this case, the suggester was Andy, a friend and fellow comedy writer who has recently come down from Canada to start building her career in L.A. When I met her at Filifera for pre-movie drinks, she was hardcore feeling Los Angeles. She leapt from her chair. “Oh my god, you have to sit here,” she said. “It’s the better view. You can see the Hollywood sign. I’ve just been taking it all in.”
Filifera is a rooftop lounge with an admittedly stellar view of Hollywood and patrons who are Hollywood-beautiful. About a block away, the W glowed red and throbbed with dance music, a couple searchlights winding their beams at the sky.
Andy caught me up on all her latest projects and gushed about LA. “I want to die here!” she said. “But only after I live here.”
I always want visitors to say that to me, and they never do. Her energy caught me by surprise at first, then made total sense when I thought about it, because Andy—much like L.A.—is an entity brimming with possibility.
I think possibility . . . hope, anticipation, optimism . . . these are the defining characteristics of the city. They are also the things that make it feel like too much sometimes. Possibility is an incredible feeling when it’s nice and vague, like when you’re standing on a rooftop with fingers of wind in your hair, thinking about how there’s a whole life stretching out before you and it could be anything.
But when you want something specific, when you hope for a concrete outcome, it feels more like embracing a pinless grenade some stranger swears is deactivated.
This is, of course, the philosophizing of exactly the type of person who frequents gardens. This is why people like me need people like Andy who insist you sit in the seat with the view so you can see the true size of the world you live in . . . the world you’ve been trying to keep very small.
Andy and I left the rooftop of Filifera for the third-floor terrace of NeueHouse. It was dark now. Soft air. I was drunk on both a Hibiscus G&T and my friend’s unceasing wonder at all the promise the city holds. I thought it might be nice to be like this more often. Not the alcohol-drunk part, but the other stuff.
She snagged a couple seats for us and I wandered the perimeter of the roof. I watched the sidewalks below, twentysomethings clustering at doorways that probably led to someplace sexy and important-feeling. I looked at the high-rises with luxury condos that always leave me wondering why someone would pay so much to live in this part of town. But I suppose none of us gets to choose what we find intoxicating. And maybe I don’t give enough credit to the ambiance of pulsing lights and youthful voices.
I sat down next to Andy. A man passed out blankets, and we each took one. Andy and I shared fries and had a conversation I don’t quite remember, but I remember it was so engaging I was a little disappointed to see the movie start. We put on our headphones and adjusted the volume. I relaxed fully into a deckchair that was miraculously comfortable from opening to closing credits. The air cooled off and I unrolled my complimentary blanket. About halfway through the movie I realized people wore their headphones to and from the bathroom. So I did, too.
I watched a film on a rooftop in an over-excited city and felt like I was cozied up in a friend’s backyard. I got up to pee during a movie and missed nothing. I felt my city both expand and shrink for me over the course of an evening.
Mine is a world of possibility. And I suppose I’ll even take the doubtful grenades.
Rooftop Cinema Club screens iconic films every night of the week. You can reserve your ticket online. Prices start at $18 for a single lounge chair, $21 if you want to add bottomless popcorn (you heard me), or $25 for a love seat ticket and bottomless popcorn. There is no assigned seating.