Los Angeles Film Review: THE 2018 MONTALBÁN SUMMER MOVIE SERIES (The Montalbán Theatre)

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by Tony Frankel on July 2, 2018

in Film,Theater-Los Angeles


Always fun, outdoor cinema hits the summer ether like the smell of fresh cut grass and smoked meat (or is that fresh cut meat and smoked grass?). There’s nothing quite like a balmy evening under the stars to experience that collective joy of watching a movie. And due to the weather and sheer size of our town, Los Angeles has a plethora of outfits from which to choose. But there’s one — The Montalbán near Hollywood and Vine — that offers every element one needs for a festive time.

Situated squarely at ground zero of Hollywood’s gentrification, this mid-sized theater (named after movie star hunk Ricardo Montalbán, best-known as Khan on Star Trek and for TV’s Fantasy Island), has been around since 1927 under different guises for both film and live shows; it was actually the very first Broadway-style legit theater in L.A.

The rooftop, accessible by three flights of stairs only, offers a spectacular view that feels more New York than L.A. Sure, there’s the giant metal neon sign of “The Broadway Hollywood,” but you also get a bird’s-eye view of the hills and the new apartment buildings where residents clearly have no problem being watched as they party. (Well, turnabout is fair play: They’re watching us party, too!)

The series — which runs this year through October 31, 2018 — offers both classic and new pictures, which are shown Tuesdays–Saturdays at 8 (or 10 minutes after sunset in the summer), sometimes two in one night (I saw a Babes with Swords double feature of Kill Bill, Vol. 1 and Wonder Woman). The films — which cover nearly every genre you can think of — are shown beautifully from a new laser Canon projector.

Your ticket gets you a super-comfy canvas beach chair (each with a perfect sight-line), a blanket, and noise-cancelling headphones that work remarkably well without any interference (even if you have to go back down for a bathroom break during the flick, the headphones still work!). Love seats and endless popcorn are also available for a small fee. And so long to stale popcorn — the fresh crunchy delight here is addictive.

To help you make an evening of this as you socialize with your fellow film-lovers, there’s also — beginning at 6pm — a full bar; there, Manager Joel will concoct your desires. He turned me on to his homemade Jalapeño Margaritas, and I’m here to tell you, it’s one of the finest cocktails I’ve ever had; the spiciness isn’t as hot as you’d think, so it’s a jolt of refreshment. Also on hand is the mixologist’s own Sangria.

Right next to the drinks is where you get fare from Umami Burger, the world famous burger joint which has a special relationship with The Montalbán. Everything is made fresh to order, from their signature plant-based Impossible Burger to the melt-in-your-mouth meat-based Truffle Burger. There’s more, including sliders, fries (we loved the Sweet Potato), house-made tater tots filled with sharp cheddar and parmesan, and a dessert that’s a vanilla-maple, ice cream-filled, oatmeal cookie that’s… well, let’s just call it a fried oral orgasm.

To name just a few, celluloid offerings include action (Top Gun), classic (Sunset Boulevard), comedy (Pineapple Express), crime (Jackie Brown), documentary (Amy), drama (Shawshank Redemption), fantasy (Constantine), horror (The Shining), neo-noir (Mulholland Drive), sci-fi (The Fifth Element), thriller (The Usual Suspects), teen/coming of age (Ferris Bueller’s Day Off), western (Tombstone), superhero (The Dark Knight) and LGBTQ-related (Call Me by Your Name).

Parking’s easy (a large multi-level garage is right next door), and there’s a metro stop across the street under the W Hotel. Great for both dates and a group of friends, a capper is the über-friendly employees, who bend over backwards to make sure you’re having fun. See you at the movies!

photos by Lionel Garcia

The 2018 Montalbán Summer Movie Series
The Montalbán Theatre, 1615 Vine Street in Hollywood
runs every Tuesday-Saturday through October 31, 2018
doors open at 6; screenings at 8 (10 minutes after sunset in summer)
for tickets ($10-$25), call 323.461.6999 (Tue-Sat 2-6) or visit Montalbán

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