Cinespia Duo John Wyatt and Alia Penner Talk Best Moments from the Outdoor Movie Series' Summer

by Flaunt Intern

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A couple of years ago I was at Cinespia’s screening of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off at The Hollywood Forever Cemetery. When we got to the iconic parade scene and Ferris began belting out "Twist and Shout," 4000 guests, and I’m guessing a few skeletons too, got to their feet en masse, unsolicited, and broke into the twist along with Ferris, all against the back drop of lush palm trees and a sea of head stones. It’s one of the coolest memories I have in my 13 plus years of living in Los Angeles. 

It’s these random moments of synergy between audience and screen, this unbridled love for movies that has come to define Cinespia. The duo behind it all is John Wyatt and Alia Penner. Committed cinephiles, they are masterful at turning a screening into an event, curating DJ’s, photo booths, VIP’s and naturally, the perfect flick.

Cinespia will kick off their Downtown LA series October 28 at the Los Angeles Theater, presiding over their annual Halloween Masquerade Ball, which along with live music, magic shows, and other ghoulish delights, will screen the 1986 Jim Henson cult classic, Labyrinth.

This has been a banner year and with just a few shows left I asked Wyatt and Penner to pick some standout moments from the ’17 season. 



John: “Our DJs are so great, it’s hard to choose. DJ Daniel at Romy and Michelle’s High School Reunion started a huge dance party in The Palace Theatre. Questlove got hundreds of people dancing at Coming to America then kept on going at the after party at Zebulon. Chris Holmes and Daisy O’Dell also always do fun and interesting sets themed to the movies.” 


Alia: “The Wizard of Oz. It was Judy Garland’s birthday and the day her new resting place at Hollywood Forever was unveiled. I had hundreds of red and orange poppies brought in to recreate the scene from the movie. It was amazing to see people in this surreal landscape, everyone loves the movie and for a moment they were part of it.” 

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John: “Alicia Silverstone for Clueless and Luc Besson, Milla Jovovich and Chris Tucker for The Fifth Element. They surprised the crowd and the fans went nuts. The talent loves it too, it shows them how much their work has endured over the years.” 


Alia: “Selena was one of the most festive and emotional screenings we have ever had at the Cinespia. We created an altar at the front of the field for everyone to visit and take photos. People left thousands of flowers and took a moment to think about Selena. Everyone was dancing to the DJ and having the best time before the movie started. Once it was up on the screen the audience was all in-- singing, cheering and crying. It’s so special when a movie can bring everyone together to celebrate life.” 

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Alia: “Some Like It Hot was one of our favorites this year. It was a packed house and it’s so exciting to see the magic of a great movie as it takes hold of the crowd and makes them laugh. When it ended there was a roar of applause. Nothing quite like Marilyn Monroe on the silver screen under the stars.” 

John: “Romeo+Juliet was electric. The whole crowd was applauding, cheering and crying. When the (spoiler alert) lovers died, you could hear a pin drop in a crowd of 4,000 people. It shows what a clever adaptation of Shakespeare that movie truly is, and how powerful his words still are. A great way to end the Summer.” 


Alia: “Our July 4th Fireworks show is something we always look forward to. The fireworks are right above in beautiful patterns that feel like they are falling all around you. We work with the same team every year and it keeps getting more and more spectacular.”

Written by Brendan Pollecutt