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Up on the Roof

Smoky Hollow’s new Rooftop Cinema Club turns movie-going into a full sensory experience.

Interview by Maureen Kingsley

Rows of beach loungers face a large movie screen on the roof of a parking garage, with a cityscape in the background.
Rooftop Cinema Club occupies the top floor of a parking garage in the Smoky Hollow district of El Segundo.

Whether it’s a unique date night you’re after or a fun family outing with the kids (and even the dog) in tow, Rooftop Cinema Club’s new location in the Smoky Hollow district of El Segundo is worth a visit. Located in the parking structure at 1310 E. Franklin Avenue, the outdoor, rooftop venue offers film screenings complete with personal headphones, cute photo opportunities, comfortable seating, contactless concessions, and additional food and drink for sale. Even better, guests can take in the night sky and the city lights as part of the experience.

Here, The Scene interviews Gerry Cottle, Founder of Rooftop Cinema Club, about the company’s origins and the El Segundo location’s special touches.

The El Segundo Scene (TESS): Can you briefly share the history of Rooftop Cinema Club (RCC)?

Gerry Cottle (GC): I wanted to give movie lovers the chance to relive every second of their favorite films on the big screen, outdoors with friends and a beer in hand. I always wanted the movie-going experience to be more than just the movie. I wanted it to be magical. Rooftop Cinema Club was born at Queen of Hoxton, London, on June 1, 2011, and I’ve never looked back since.

Throughout the company’s growth we’ve stayed true to our mantra: love, peace, and great film. We are all about spreading love through the art of film, even in the toughest of times.

Now that we’re in our 10th season, we are thrilled about the opportunity to quadruple our presence in the U.S. with 20 new rooftop venues and many exciting cinematic events, including drive-ins and open-air screenings projected over the coming three years.

TESS: When and why was the Smoky Hollow district of El Segundo chosen as a new RCC location?

GC: Over the past year we were closely monitoring safety guidelines in Los Angeles with the ultimate goal of reopening our Rooftops safely and with the same experience our guests have come to know and love. This venue in El Segundo allowed us to do just that earlier this spring—reopen with safety and social distancing top of mind, without jeopardizing the Rooftop experience we’ve built over the years. On top of its being an incredible space, the Smoky Hollow district itself is bursting with innovation and creativity—two pillars of our business—so it was a no-brainer to put down roots here.

TESS: What does the El Segundo location have to offer that is unique and special?

GC: This venue is tucked away from the hustle and bustle of the city with mountain views, starry skies, and ocean breezes. It’s a true escape to the cinema where guests can live completely in those movie moments. Earlier this summer we added our first-ever LED screen to the venue, which allows us to screen family-friendly matinees that are open to movie lovers of all ages.

A hand holds a pink cocktail, with a neon RCC sign and decor in the background
Beverages are sold at the RCC bar on site.

TESS: Describe the RCC El Segundo experience.

GC: We encourage guests to get to the Rooftop early to play lawn games, take in the views, and enjoy drinks from our on-site bar, plus delicious eats from our local food partner Thursday through Sunday each week. We offer fan-favorite cinema concessions, including fresh popcorn, all with contactless order and pickup. Movie sound is accessed using personal state-of-the-art wireless headphones, and every seat in the house has a great view of our massive new LED screen. For special events, we often bring additional elements, such as themed decor, photo opportunities, live entertainment, and interactive games. It’s truly a place for social cinema.

TESS: What does the El Segundo location offer for children and teenagers, specifically?

GC: Now that this venue has an LED screen, we’re able to start films before the sun goes down. This upgrade allowed us to add family-friendly matinees with start times between 4:00 and 5:00pm. At these early screenings, we open up our usually 18+ Rooftop venue to younger moviegoers with discounted kids’ tickets for anyone 12 and under. We do recommend only bringing children aged 5 and up to ensure they’re able to tune into the film using our one-size headphones, but it’s a great way for kids to have fun outdoors while the parents enjoy socializing over drinks. Guests can expect to see films like Monsters, Inc., The Parent Trap, The Lion King, and more.

This month we’re also adding Teen Thursdays to our program so that movie fans 13+ can enjoy the ultimate open-air cinema experience with films like Cruella, Mamma Mia!, Grease, and In the Heights during our Thursday-night Prime screenings. And because we know those teen years can be tough, we’re offering free candy to any teen who shows a valid junior-high or high-school ID at concessions during these screenings. As always, we suggest checking out the film’s rating before making plans, as ratings will vary.

A young woman wears wireless earphones while watching an outdoor movie.
Each guest receives a pair of wireless earphones with adjustable volume.

TESS: As we move into Fall and Winter, will RCC El Segundo provide features to keep guests comfortable in the chillier air?

GC: Due to COVID-19 precautions, we haven’t been able to loan out blankets during our screenings, but we highly encourage guests to bring their own. That being said, we’re currently working on bringing back blankets on-site as well as introducing some comforting hot beverages to our concessions menu.

Rooftop Cinema Club El Segundo

1310 E. Franklin Ave.

El Segundo, CA

This story appears in the September 2021 issue of The El Segundo Scene.

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