Rooftop Cinema Shows Movies in Downtown Under the Stars

The Rooftop Cinema Club screens films up to five nights a week on the seventh door deck at the Level DTLA residential complex. The space can hold 200 people.

DTLA - Downtown Los Angeles has a long history of outdoor film series. Pershing Square offers a free annual summer showcase, and various programmers set up screens at destinations such as Los Angeles State Historic Park.

[Get DTLA stories in our daily email newsletter.]

There’s no need to wait until summer, however, to catch an al fresco film in the Central City. That’s because the Rooftop Cinema Club recently launched its second season in the heart of Downtown. The lineup is packed, with up to five films a week in the Financial District.

The season launched on April 6 with the Coen Brothers’ ode to Raymond Chandler, bowling and rugs, The Big Lebowski. It continues through October, with a mix of classic cinema, anniversary screenings and newer releases, all taking place on the seventh floor event deck at the Level DTLA residential complex at 888 S. Olive St.

This year features a larger lineup than 2017’s Downtown debut season, according to Rooftop Cinema Club founder Gerry Cottle (the series also operates in Hollywood). Many of the films are only a few months removed from the theaters.

“We’re an open-air cinema,” Cottle said. “We show films that people didn’t get to see or want to watch again a few weeks later. It’s a nice mix of cult classics, some art house movies and new ones.”

This week’s lineup exemplifies the diversity. The 1987 crowd pleaser Dirty Dancing screens on Tuesday, April 17, with the animated family movie Coco on Wednesday and the indie drama Lady Bird on Thursday. Friday and Saturday bring back-to-back showings of the 1982 Blade Runner and the 2017 sequel Blade Runner 2049.

Later screenings include Goodfellas (May 2), It (May 16) and Casablanca (May 24).

Each screening is meant to be an event, with activities beyond just the film, according to Tim Rogerson, the series’ head of programming. Cottle said Rooftop Cinema Club offers an alternative to staying at home and watching a movie on a streaming service.

“Film is about escapism. Don’t get me wrong, I love Netflix, Amazon Prime, all of those things,” Cottle said. “I enjoy watching movies at home, but when you want to go watch a film with friends, you get off the sofa and get out to see a great film.”

Cottle added that there is a social element to each screening. He cast the series as an alternative to the “staleness” of multiplexes, where people get a ticket, buy popcorn, see the film and leave. With Rooftop Cinema Club, he said, there are alcoholic drinks, special guests and games before each film.

The movies are projected on a 20-foot wide screen mounted on the side of Level, according to Ellis Hayes, the building’s business development manager, and the event deck can hold up to 200 people. Another twist is that instead of speakers, each audience member gets a set of wireless headphones that stream the audio, with the goal of not bothering Level residents or neighbors.

Hayes said the series also serves as good promotion for Level. He said that last year, some people booked a few nights around a film or two in the building that offers furnished units.

Movies start at 8 p.m. and tickets are $17, or $20 with popcorn refills. Couples can opt for a $24 deckchair for two.

Rooftop Cinema Club has its origins in London’s Shoreditch neighborhood, where Cottle organized a rooftop screening of Stand By Me in 2011. The event was a success and he expanded, coming to Hollywood and later adding Downtown L.A. There are also Rooftop series in Miami, New York and San Diego.

Rogerson said that Rooftop Cinema Club is still planning its full lineup, and will make some decisions based on audience feedback. He said the aim is to offer some unique pairings or thematic weeks. In addition to this week’s Blade Runner films, the week of May 22 has a throwback lineup, with options including Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and The Godfather.

The lineup also includes Los Angeles-set films, such as La La Land (May 18) and Boyz N The Hood (April 24). Rogerson said Rooftop Cinema Club likes to base its programming around the host city.

“There are lots of really brilliant L.A. films, which makes it easier for me,” he added.

Rogerson said the team plans to have people who worked on the films host nights and answer audience questions. Rather than the stars, he said, the idea is to book behind-the-scenes crew who will shed light the production, such as getting the sound editor for Baby Driver (the date is still being determined).

The Rooftop Cinema Club team noted Downtown lends itself to more contemporary programming than the showings at the Montalban Theater in Hollywood, where the emphasis is on the Golden Age of cinema, with classic westerns and film noir.

The series schedule will be rolled out in two-month increments. Rogerson added that in many cases, there might be repeat screenings of earlier films due to demand.

Rooftop Cinema Club is at Level DTLA, 888 S. Olive St. or

© Los Angeles Downtown News 2018