Not just in your living room. 420-friendly movie screenings have finally arrived in LA — and for organizers, they’re a complex feat to pull off.
“Raise your hand if you want a dab!”
Hands shot up for a free hit of cannabis concentrate on the Montalbán Theatre’s rooftop in Hollywood ahead of Sunday’s screening of “The Empire Strikes Back.” Other people smoked joints and ate edibles as they made the rounds at weed brands’ booths, ordered gourmet sandwiches, and swayed along to a DJ’s reggae remixes. At long last: a movie theater where you can smoke weed!
Any cinephile stoner will tell you that cannabis and cinema go together like peanut butter and jelly. Jokes are funnier; visuals pop; and music is transcendent. However, this divine pairing has been largely relegated to smoking bowls in living rooms or popping gum in theater parking lots.
That’s finally changing, particularly in Los Angeles, where a growing, but still very small number of movie screenings are making weed a central part of the experience. A complex legal landscape, arduous regulations, and still-lingering stigma mean that pioneers like Rico Montanez and James Jordan, organizers of the weekly Cannabis & Movies Club at the Montalbán, need to employ a lot of ingenuity and patience to pull it off.
“To create consistency and also find a commercial location that has a big insurance package and is willing to take the risk on this particular idea is extremely hard,” Jordan said. “It’s not that there aren’t entrepreneurs out there that will swing the bat; it’s that they don’t have the legal strategy and framework that we spent a lot of time creating in order to attract the brands, particularly the bigger brands, who will not get involved if there’s no appropriate legal framework.”
There are plenty of one-off cannabis-themed events in Los Angeles, including movie nights. However, these are part of the city’s underground landscape of unpermitted raves and pop-up art shows, the kinds that rise and fall over the course of 24 hours and avoid officials’ eyes in a grid of warehouses. Other events, like the marijuana-themed shorts festival THC Cinema in Sherman Oaks, cheekily tell patrons to “come prepared” as no smoking is allowed on site.
The dab bar at the Cannabis & Movies Club. / David J. Crewe/Courtesy Cannabis & Movies Club
The Cannabis & Movies Club taps a squad of lawyers to confab with the venue and the brands’ attorneys, while Montanez and Jordan rely on the expertise they’ve gained as co-founders of Emerald Market, a cannabis-focused marketing firm.
Nearly three decades after the first medical dispensaries opened in California and six years after the state legalized recreational marijuana, it’s challenging enough to open a retail store, which the state and cities tightly regulate; innovating within the letter of the law offers a whole other level of challenges.