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The Frida Cinema

Though movie theaters are gradually reopening across the country, drive-ins are officially back and remain a safe, socially distanced moviegoing option. The Frida Cinema has now hosted over 100 pop up drive-in events, playing classics and new releases at Mess Hall Market in Tustin, just a few miles away from their Santa Ana main location, providing a safe and fun option for a night out. 

The Frida Cinema Pop-Up Drive-In

The drive-ins are entirely run by volunteers, and the passion for film that each of the volunteers exhibits certainly make it a one of a kind experience. Upon drive up into the parking structure where the screenings take place, you are greeted by a ticket taker and directed to another volunteer who gives you a warm welcome, describing the mission of Frida Cinema, where to get food, how the night will go down, all the important details, and then sends you to a parking spot that has been planned to allow each and every car a good view of the screen. 

The Frida Cinema

The location of the screening is prime, being on the top level of a four floor parking structure. This allows for great views of the city skyline as the sun sets just before the film begins, and eliminates any street sound or light interference. Just downstairs is the Mess Hall Market, a cafeteria style market that includes a bar, a coffee shop, and many other food vendors selling anything you might be craving from fried chicken to Pho. 

Shoplifters of the World

This week I attended their screening of new Smiths-inspired film Shoplifters of the World, starring Ellar Coltrone, Helena Howard, and Joe Manganiello and featuring over 20 songs by The Smiths. Director Stephen Kijak along with Manganiello, who also acted as the film’s producer, made a surprise appearance at the screening to introduce the film and express how excited they were to finally be sharing their passion project with an audience. They described how The Smiths meant so much to them growing up, a sentiment which the audience shared, and talked about how that love for music channeled itself into the film’s creation. Posters signed by the cast and crew were also available at the concessions stand. 

After their introduction the film began, and it was an enjoyable experience from beginning to end. The sound of the film is played over an FM radio station, which each car connects to, and made for crystal clear audio with a volume level you can set yourself. This was definitely a plus, and allowed for each song in the film to be fully enjoyed. The screen, too, was very clear and bright and could be clearly seen even from those of us in the back row. 

The Frida Cinema Shoplifters Of The World

The Frida Cinema does Drive-In events every week this month, with several great films on the docket including a 50th anniversary screening of Selena and an Alien and Aliens double feature. Their location in Santa Ana will also officially open on April 20, kicking off their grand re-opening with a screening of Dazed and Confused. Being an avid film lover, I’ll definitely be back and recommend checking out Frida’s calendar for anyone else longing to experience cinema outside the house and on the big screen once again. 


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Leilani Reyes is a freelance writer, artist, and all-around creative living in Long Beach, CA. After earning a bachelor’s degree from Loyola Marymount University, now she is in search of her next great life adventure.