A Greater Escape

Can the Movie Theater Be Saved? While Hollywood sticks with the same old ideas–bigger, pricier blockbusters–these outsiders are making real changes.

A Greater Escape
Hadrian Belove Cofounder and executive director, Cinefamily (left) John Wyatt Founder, Cinespia [Photo by Nathanael Turner]

Hadrian Belove

Cofounder and executive director, Cinefamily (left)


John Wyatt

Founder, Cinespia

The longtime friends are creating inventive moviegoing events in Los Angeles. At Cinespia, which is set at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery, DJs spin as thousands picnic under the stars. At Cinefamily, crowds come for obscure movies and stay for beer.

The Showmen

Belove: Movie theaters need to build communities. They can’t complain about DVDs or Netflix or whatever because those subscribers aren’t leaving the house. But if somebody wants to go out and they don’t go to your theater, you’ve failed in some way.

Wyatt: People think you can show whatever you want and viewers will just come. It’s not true.

Belove: I like to say that I don’t program the movies; I program the audience. You build audience in a million little ways, by tailored invites, by social media, by copresenters. I try to find the movie that brings them in. Then I get them on the email list and can show them a trailer of a more obscure movie.

Wyatt: You have to build in a social component. It was obvious when I did my first outdoor screening 13 years ago that everyone wanted to get together and hang out, to be in a space that’s semipublic but that’s not a mall or a parking lot. People in L.A. are just waiting to be brought together.


Belove: If a theater doesn’t have a thought-out space for people to interact, it’s missing the point. Half of the reason to go to Cinespia is to be out on the lawn before the film starts.

Wyatt: Some people are coming just for our recurring photo booth, because it’s rad. People wait in line to dress in costume and take a photo. The one for The Graduate was ridiculous! People posed in a replica of a bad hotel room with a mannequin leg.

Belove: It’s about being more. Cinefamily has built a reputation as a place where you might see a movie–and a zebra.

Wyatt: We really did have a zebra after a film.

Fast Talk: Can the Movie Theater Be Saved?