So editors from Time Out sites across the globe pitched in their picks for the most beautiful outdoor cinemas in the world. We’re not just talking about an open field with The Greatest Showman and Bohemian Rhapsody on repeat: The 40 venues and series we selected show a mix of crowd favorites and deep dives in medieval castles, canyons, palace courtyards, piazzas or right on the water.
While we’re certainly a little bit jealous of some of the international picks on the list, we’re unabashedly boastful that L.A. landed three picks on the list, including Rooftop Cinema Club’s luxurious Hollywood terrace, Cinespia’s cult-favorite cemetery screenings and, in the number one spot, the Hollywood Bowl.
Where do we even begin when it comes to the Bowl, easily L.A.’s most magical performance space? For starters, there’s simply no bad spot in the hillside amphitheater, whether you’re going big in a box or sitting on a bench and spending the difference on wine (the BYOB policy: also pretty magical). Even the approach to the theater, as you climb your way up through the Hollywood Hills, feels unlike any other venue.
Though live albums from the Beatles and Monty Python and annual fixtures like the pyro-filled 1812 Overture top the Bowl’s resume, season regulars know that the venue’s film programming is its comparatively secret strength. Each summer—and yes, including this summer—the LA Phil and the resident Hollywood Bowl Orchestra live score a selection of cinematic favorites. As E.T., for example, and its dialogue play out across a canyon of screens, the orchestra performs the classic John Williams score live and you simply sit there and cry your way through the entire third act (we mentioned the wine, right?).
The Star Wars maestro’s scores are staples of the orchestras’ repertoires, and Williams himself typically conducts a concert each summer to a crowd of thousands of lightsabers. But it’s not just the Jurassic Park and Harry Potter composer: The Princess Bride, Singin’ in the Rain, An American in Paris and Mamma Mia! have all found their way onto the film lineup in recent years. And that’s all in addition to participatory entires like Grease and The Sound of Music sing-alongs, plus one-off star-studded stagings of The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast and Coco with a live voice cast (and, for a few Halloweens, a Danny Elfman-led The Nightmare Before Christmas screening).
In other words, for about the same price as a seat at a multiplex, you can spend a one-of-a-kind evening at the world’s most beautiful outdoor cinema—and we can’t wait to return this summer.