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‘Magic Is Important’: Debbie Allen on Bringing Her ‘Hot Chocolate Nutcracker’ to Netflix

The Nutcracker is a staple of Christmas entertainment. You’ve either been dragged to a performance or danced in a role as a kid, and you’ve definitely heard the familiar music at the mall or in commercials. Though one company in Atlanta recently managed to stage a socially distanced version, all live shows this year have been cancelled due to the pandemic. The Debbie Allen Dance Academy’s Hot Chocolate Nutcracker, however, is keeping the holiday tradition alive thanks to Netflix’s new Dance Dreams: Hot Chocolate Nutcracker, which looks at the choreographer-founder’s vision of the classic ballet and the history behind her L.A. school.

Among her many credits, the Tony-nominated and Emmy- and Golden Globe-winning Allen has directed, produced, and acted in the long-running ABC drama Grey’s Anatomy, in addition to other Shonda Rhimes dramas. In 2016, Grey’s Anatomy director and director of photography Oliver Bokelberg, whose daughter attends DADA, began documenting rehearsals for Hot Chocolate Nutcracker, one of the academy’s biggest annual fundraisers. (It’s estimated that the ballet accounts for some 40 percent of dance companies’ annual revenues.) After more than two years of shooting, executive producer Rhimes, another DADA parent, saw potential for a film in the 100-plus hours of footage. The documentary captures Allen, her instructors, and nearly 200 dancers, from toddlers to adults, preparing for the yearly production.

First staged in 1892, The Nutcracker is based on E.T.A. Hoffmann’s story The Nutcracker and the Mouse King, with a score by Tchaikovsky and choreography by Marius Petipa. You know the plot: A young girl named Clara (or Marie, depending on the ballet) gets a nutcracker for Christmas. The Nutcracker turns into a prince, who fights an army of mice. The two are then whisked away to the Land of Sweets, where the Sugar Plum Fairy and candies from other lands, including Russia, China, Spain and Arabia, entertain them. After George Balanchine adapted the show for the New York City Ballet in 1954, The Nutcracker became a fan hit—a ballet for people who don’t like ballet. Despite being a Russian import, the show is now synonymous with American Christmas.

Over the years there have been hundreds of interpretations of both the dance element and the score: jazz, klezmer, hip-hop, rock, heavy metal, even burlesque. Some stagings have had predominantly black or diverse casts, the most famous being Donald Byrd’s 1996 The Harlem Nutcracker, based on music by Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn. Mark Morris’s 1991 The Hard Nut included dancers in gender-swapped roles. And last year, for the first time, the NYC Ballet cast a biracial dancer to play young Marie.

Allen wanted to modernize the story, so she debuted Hot Chocolate Nutcracker in 2009 at UCLA’s Royce Hall. “I took my son, when he was four years old, and my daughter, to see a traditional Nutcracker,” remembers Allen. “In the middle of the show, he screamed out, ‘Mom! When is the rat coming? And I thought, ‘OK, these guys wanna see a rat, not a mouse king.’ So that gave me an idea. The rats in our show are like The Three Stooges. They‘re the narrators and they guide the journey. That’s what distinguishes us from anything else. It shows different ways of doing things. We added different lands.”

In Allen’s retelling, Kara and the Hot Chocolate Nutcracker travel from the South Pole to both real and imagined places, where the dancers, most of whom are people of color, perform a mix of ballet, modern, jazz, tap, hip-hop, flamenco, and Bollywood dance. Allen works with several choreographers, including Savion Glover, and instead of Tchaikovsky’s score, she uses original compositions by Arturo Sandoval, James Ingram, and Thump (her son, Norm Nixon, Jr.), among others, as well as Mariah Carey’s ubiquitous “All I Want for Christmas Is You.”

Growing up in racially segregated Houston, Allen appeared in a church production of The Nutcracker, but never saw the actual ballet. “I loved the music,” Allen recalls. “I loved the idea of the Sugar Plum Fairy. I was always intrigued with her.”

After graduating from the Houston Ballet School, Allen became a Broadway, TV and film legend—she’s choreographed the Oscars ten times—though most fans know her as a director and as the taskmaster-dance teacher from the ‘80s TV performing arts drama Fame. “I knew what it was like for me as a young girl to have an opportunity in the arts,” says Allen. “Houston did a lot for me. There were a lot of challenges, but there was opportunity.” This year, she also choreographed and directed the Dolly Parton Netflix Christmas musical Christmas on the Square.

Her daughter, Vivian Nixon, attended the prestigious Kirov Ballet Academy, but found the rigor of Russian-style ballet constricting and alienating. Allen wanted to run her own school that would be all-embracing, so in 2000 she opened DADA, which this year celebrates its 20th anniversary. The academy accepts students of all shapes and sizes and awards scholarships to 75 percent of its dancers.

“The ballet world could be non-inclusive,” says Allen. “It’s not the world we’re living in now. We don’t have to just be one thing. In my Nutcracker, we have an Egyptian doll and we’ve had different dancers do that role. It isn’t about a body type.”

So why does Allen think The Nutcracker is such a perennial family favorite? “It’s magical and that’s what makes it special,” says Allen, who, along with the school’s other teachers, is currently leading virtual dance classes on Instagram Live. “It has a fairytale story that takes you to different places and people. Magic is important.”

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Morning Brief: Pasadena Adds Restrictions to Ongoing Outdoor Dining

» Pasadena has put new restrictions on outdoor dining, citing, in part, an influx of visitors from other parts of the county packing the city’s establishments. Restaurant dining will now be capped at six people per table, and all must reside in the same household. Four Pasadena restaurants were shut down in the past week due to failures to comply with COVID protocols. [KTLA]

» COVID-19 hospitalizations in California have broken records for the fourth consecutive day–and experts expect that number to dramatically increase due to those who became infected over Thanksgiving. L.A. County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer described the situation as “horrifying.”  [Los Angeles Times]

» O.C. Rep Katie Porter took Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin to task over pandemic relief funds. Hundreds of billions of dollars intended to back emergency lending programs were reportedly transferred into Treasury’s general fund at Mnuchin’s order.  [Vanity Fair]

» L.A. food service workers, including those at trucks and stands, will be eligible to receive $800 relief payments. The one-time disbursements will come from the Mayor’s Fund.  [Los Angeles Times]

» Latino neighborhoods in the San Fernando Valley have been hit particularly hard by the pandemic. The neighborhoods, which have infection rates up to twice that of the county average, are home to large numbers of essential workers who travel across the county for their jobs and frequently interact with the public. [Los Angeles Times]


» Judge Orders L.A. County Authorities to Show Evidence for Outdoor Dining Ban Public health officials will return to court next week to explain the science

» A Redondo Beach Restaurant Is Defying the County’s Outdoor Dining Shutdown COVID-19 cases may be spiking, but it’s business as usual at Eat at Joe’s

» The Academy Says to Expect an In-Person Oscars Ceremony in 2021 Virtual proceedings apparently won’t do for Hollywood’s big night


mr jingles christmas tree lot best place where to buy christmas tree in la

The Best Places to Buy a Live Christmas Tree in L.A.

We could all use a little cheer as we wrap up 2020, and many are turning to holiday decorations to provide a little light and fun in these dark times. And you it doesn’t get better than a great big Christmas tree all decked out in twinkling lights.


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Los Angeles Residents ‘Ordered to Remain in Their Homes’ Due to COVID-19 Surge

An emergency order issued Wednesday night moves L.A. a step closer to the strict stay-at-home status experienced last spring. According to the new order, unless participating in an exempted activity, Angelenos are to remain at their homes and minimize contact with others. The order, which matches L.A.’s city-level order to the health officer order already in place from Los Angeles County, went into effect immediately.

“Subject only to the exceptions outlined in this Order, all persons living within the City of Los Angeles are hereby ordered to remain in their homes,” the document reads. “Residents of the City of Los Angeles who are experiencing homelessness are exempt from this requirement.”

The list of exempted activities is similar to the spring order, with the addition of some business sectors which have since reopened and will be allowed to continue operations, including in-store retail shopping, outdoor gyms, and personal care services.

While previous orders have relied largely on voluntary self-compliance, this order states that any failure to comply may be treated as a misdemeanor offense, subject to fines or imprisonment, and calls on the Los Angeles Police Department to “vigorously enforce.” Additional enforcement mechanisms, including utility shutoffs, will also continue to be used against businesses found to be out of compliance.

A previously-enacted 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. business curfew remains in effect where applicable.

 Exempt activities still allowed under the emergency stay-at-home order include, but are not limited to:

  • Healthcare operations and home-based caregiving
  • Grocery stores and small food shops
  • Filming and productions that are complying with health protocols
  • Gas stations and automotive service providers
  • Banks and financial institutions
  • Hardware and building supply retailers and nurseries
  • Plumbers, electricians, and other personal safety, sanitation, and operations professionals
  • Mailing and shipping services
  • Education and childcare
  • Laundromats and dry cleaners
  • Restaurants for delivery and pick-up only
  • Breweries and wineries for pick-up and delivery, 20 percent capacity cap for indoor retail operations
  • Airlines
  • Taxis, ride share, and car rental
  • Hotels and short-term rentals
  • Retail stores and shopping malls with an in-store capacity cap of 20 percent
  • Religious services held outdoors
  • City-operated parks and trails for “passive recreational activities” and “permissible active recreational activities” (playgrounds closed)
  • Outdoor youth sports programs at city parks (but no other recreation and cultural programming)
  • Public golf, tennis, and pickleball facilities
  • City-operated beaches (piers closed)
  • Other outdoor recreation and cultural facilities, including outdoor museums, gardens, archery ranges, and equestrian centers
  • Personal care services, with a capacity cap of 20 percent
  • Outdoor gyms, with a capacity cap of 50 percent
  • Libraries, with a capacity cap of 20 percent

The order comes as Los Angeles has seen day after day of record-shattering numbers of new COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations. Public health officials have warned that the current surge could cause local health care facilities to be overwhelmed within weeks.

“The way to avoid that dreaded scenario is clear,” Mayor Garcetti writes in the emergency order. “We must minimize contact with others as much as possible. Even if you believe that the virus does not present a particular threat to you, consider the impact that your choices have on others.”

RELATED: Here’s What L.A.’s ‘Targeted Stay-at-Home Order’ Really Means

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There’s a Critical Democratic Election on Thursday That You May Not Know About

UPDATE, DEC. 3, 8:30 a.m.: On Thursday morning, New York Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney defeated California Rep. Tony Cárdenas to lead the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

Dec. 2, 7 p.m.: It was a blow. Given Donald Trump’s documented lies and disruptions—not to mention polls showing a landslide for former Vice President Joe Biden—the Democratic party was startled to find how many tens of millions of voters still sided with the sitting President in the November 3 election. Worse still was the gut-wrenching loss of several Congressional seats, including four in California and the seat vacated by disgraced San Diego Republican Duncan Hunter Jr. As of Sunday, November 29, Democrats still held a slim majority in the incoming 117th House of Representatives with 222 Democrats to 211 Republicans and two seats yet to be called.

What happened and who’s going to fix it before 2022? Democrats hope to find the answer on Thursday, December 3, with the election of a new chair for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), the arm of the national Democratic Party that recruits, supports, and elects congressional candidates. The new leader, selected by members of the Congressional House Democratic Caucus, will also be tasked with unifying a party divided over how to proceed.

Vying for the task are California Rep. Tony Cárdenas and New York Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, both in their 50s, both elected in 2012 in centrist and conservative districts, Cárdenas in the central San Fernando Valley and Maloney in New York’s lower Hudson Valley.

Cárdenas touts his service as chair of the Hispanic Caucus’ BOLD PAC, raising more than $31 million in six years, endorsing over 150 non-Hispanic and over 60 Hispanic candidates, and picking sides in primaries, according to CNN. “I think that slogans that your opponents use more often than you use them, at the end of the day are probably not a smart way to communicate,” Cárdenas told CNN regarding the “defund the police” messaging many believe hurt Democrats. Cárdenas also believes the DCCC failed to be culturally competent in their use of digital media, either disseminating a “one size fits all” message or treating Latino voters as a monolith.

Maloney garnered national attention for his astute questioning during the impeachment hearings last year. He stresses his intention, if elected, to conduct an autopsy of what happened, as he did in 2016—”after Democrats picked up just six House seats despite predicting far larger gains—and says he can’t precisely spot broader problems until there’s more data,” Politico reports. “People really feel like we need to dig into what happened, because there’s obviously a debate going in the caucus about the causes of that,” Maloney told Politico. “I like to say, ‘If you’re not God, bring data’… I can find out what happened because I’ve done it before.”

Maloney actually has a huge Southern California fan base, including Orange County Rep. Linda Sánchez, who’s on his campaign team; newly elected out San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria; and Samuel Garrett-Pate, an out Democratic strategist and former aide to Maloney who helped organize a letter from nearly 150 LGBTQ elected officials, community leaders, and Democratic donors.

“It’s clearer than ever that we need someone running the DCCC who knows what it takes to win tough races. As an openly gay man with an interracial family running in a Trump district, Rep. Maloney has consistently demonstrated his ability to win while standing up for our Democratic values—affordable healthcare, an economy that works for working people, reproductive freedom, racial justice and LGBTQ equality,” Garrett-Pate tells Los Angeles. “He is uniquely qualified to help House Democrats defy history and not just protect their majority in 2022, but expand it.”

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Judge Orders L.A. County Authorities to Show Evidence for Outdoor Dining Ban

A Los Angeles County Superior Court judge has ordered public health officials to present additional data and science to support the recent closure of outdoor dining at restaurants. For now, dining patios will remain closed, pending a second hearing.

On November 22, L.A. County health officers announced an order which would prevent local establishments from providing on-premises table service from November 25 to December 16. That order, which is stricter than the state’s minimum requirements for Purple Tier counties, was met with resistance and lawsuits, including one submitted by a downtown L.A. restaurant, Engine Co. No. 28, and one filed by the California Restaurant Association, a large industry trade group representing restaurant owners.

In his order, the Los Angeles Times reports, Judge James Chalfant noted that counties wishing to enact rules that are more restrictive than state guidelines are required to demonstrate a risk-benefit analysis that justifies the move.

“You have to do a risk-benefit analysis for public health. You don’t just talk about the risk of spreading disease. You have to talk about the benefit of keeping restaurants open,” the judge stated.

Amnon Siegel, representing the county, noted the increased risk associated with an activity where people from multiple households share a space, effective distancing is impossible to maintain, and many people do not wear masks.

According to a CDC study released on November 24, “full-service restaurants were associated with the greatest increase in infections in re-opening scenarios.” A previous CDC study found that adults who test positive for COVID-19 are twice as likely to report having dined at a restaurant than those who test negative.

Because both CDC studies were conducted nationally, the data does not specifically break-out indoor versus outdoor dining. In Los Angeles County, where only outdoor dining has been permitted, health officers have reported recently that since allowing outdoor dining to reopen, incidents of workplace COVID-19 outbreaks among restaurant staff have tripled.

Siegel noted that the county does take concerns about economic consequences into consideration when developing public health policy.

“We understand the pain and hardship that people have gone through over the last nine months and that does absolutely play a role,” he said.

County representatives will return to court on Tuesday to provide additional data, specifically about any potential relationship between the operation of restaurants and the likelihood that local health care facilities will soon be overwhelmed, a situation that is projected to occur in the near future.

“There will likely be shortages in hospital beds and especially ICU beds in the next two weeks,” Dr. Christina Ghaly, director of L.A. County’s Department of Health Services, which oversees hospitals, noted at a briefing last week.

Today’s ruling comes as Santa Clara County, hard hit by the virus, announces that hospitals there are nearly full due largely to the COVID-19 surge, with five or fewer beds currently available at every hospital in that county.

RELATED: Outdoor Dining at Restaurants in L.A. County Suspended Starting on Wednesday

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The Reagans Used the Tools of Hollywood to Craft a Political Narrative–and Pave the Way for Today’s Conservative Media Circus

In The Reagans, journalist and documentary filmmaker Matt Tyrnauer peels back the carefully cultivated public image of Ronald and Nancy Reagan. Over the course of the four episodes, now airing on Showtime, viewers go inside how the duo invented their Golden Age Hollywood personae and used them to advance a radically conservative agenda. The documentary looks at how their manipulation of the American media provided a playbook for Donald Trump–one that will likely be used again by ambitious conservatives in the future.

“For years, I’ve thought that the Reagans were under-examined, and were so brilliant at creating a mythology around themselves and tending to that image and shaping it, and really editing their own story,” Tyrnauer says in a conversation from his Los Angeles home. “The media soaked up that narrative and never really took the time to tell the real story of exactly who these people were, what their motives were, and how they operated.”

Tyrnauer, previously the director of documentaries including Scotty and the Secret History of Hollywood, Studio 54, and last year’s Where’s My Roy Cohn?, and a special correspondent and editor-at-large for Vanity Fair, credits some of his interest in the couple to a 1983 Gore Vidal essay, “Ronnie and Nancy: A Life in Pictures.” However, his earliest connection to the Reagans dates back to childhood.

“I am an L.A. native and, it so happens, grew up one canyon away from where the Reagans lived pre-presidency, off of Amalfi Drive in the Pacific Palisades. When he was perpetually running for the presidency, all through the 1970s, I was in preschool, grade school.” Tyrnauer recalls. “There was something about that era that, as a kid in Southern California, I just remember being somewhat scarring, with the hangover of the harsh 1960s gubernatorial years. The law-and-order Reagan. The death penalty Reagan. The demagogic, right-wing, pro-nuclear war Reagan. The real Reagan, I think, was more apparent to me from an early age.”

The filmmaker’s father, a liberal television producer, butted heads with Ronald Regan in the 1950s over the Hollywood Blacklist. “He kind of had Reagan’s number, like a lot of people in the industry did,” Tyrnauer says.

At the time, Reagan was president of the Screen Actors Guild and testified before the House Un-American Activities Committee about his concerns about Communist activity within entertainment industry unions.

“Reagan comes out of the McCarthy period and he was on the wrong side. He cooperated and he did it very craftily so he didn’t get pilloried as a stool pigeon or a namer of names, but he did name names privately,” Tyrnauer says. “He did cooperate with J. Edgar Hoover and the McCarthy sympathizers. That strain of demagogic right-wing politics can very easily cross over into authoritarianism.”

Despite early encounters with the labor leader and, later, governor of California, he remembers his family finding the idea of a President Reagan to be far-fetched: “It was thought among my parents’ generation that Reagan becoming president was almost unthinkable. They knew how shallow his thinking was. They knew that he was a practitioner of demagogic politics, and there wasn’t really much basis for his beliefs.”

And yet, while the idea of a man with outlandish ideas parlaying his pop culture stature into the presidency might have at one point seemed far-fetched, The Reagans examines how it now feels almost inevitable.

“In hindsight, as improbable as it seemed at the time, it makes perfect sense that a movie star would be elected president at the end of the 20th century. Similarly, in hindsight, it makes perfect sense that a reality TV star with a flare for Twitter would be elected president in the 21st century.”

“In hindsight, as improbable as it seemed at the time, it makes perfect sense that a movie star would be elected president at the end of the 20th century. Similarly, in hindsight, it makes perfect sense that a reality TV star with a flare for Twitter would be elected president in the 21st century,” Tyrnauer observes. “In this country, we are demented by the cult of celebrity. Trump is the ultimate symptom of what ails us, but Reagan being a movie star president was the harbinger of where we are now.”

Trump, he notes, took after his predecessor’s aptitude for using the news media’s hunger for character and story, even when platforming those stories may ultimately put the country itself in peril.

“The Reagans turned the media industrial complex on its ear and completely seduced the news people of their era. They learned from the best in the Golden Age of Hollywood where they were both contract players, he at Warner Brothers, she at MGM. They saw how the wheels of the publicity machine turned. They took those lessons and eventually applied them to really effective media manipulation techniques all throughout their lives,” he says. “Trump has proved to be an irresistible story for not only right-wing media and Fox News, but for all media. He just is catnip. It propelled him to the White House. Then once he was in the presidency, the media had to figure out how to deal with a liar, and a thief, and a crook, an authoritarian, would-be dictator who never told the truth. The press never has figured out how to handle him.”

As the current administration’s reign comes to a close, Tyrnauer offers a historical perspective on how we arrived at the current state–from Nixon to Reagan to Trump:

“The guard rails have been smashed. There’s very little to protect the people, the polity if you want to get fancy, from a tyrant who will basically govern in only their own self-interest. And the Republican party has long had authoritarian streaks. There’s a long history in the post-war Republican party of being on the wrong side of history in terms of race, and being on the wrong side of history in terms of authoritarian tactics, especially when it comes to the presidency.”

Aside from the parallels to today’s political moment, The Reagans also offers a compelling portrait of its central figures, their relationship to one another, and their rise to power.

“The personal story couldn’t be more interesting because you have not only the dark political machinations behind the scenes and the story of the manipulation and the self-creation of these two improbable figures, Ronald and Nancy Reagan, who went from being semi-jokes in Hollywood to being the most important people in the country, arguably the world, for eight years,” the filmmaker says. “There’s a lot of intrigue and a lot of things that were unknown about the Reagans. You can think of this as the ultimate counter narrative that tells us how we got to now.”

RELATED: Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon Said Some Incredibly Racist Things

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Right-Wing Social Media Site Parler Is Reportedly Brimming with Porn

Conservative social media network Parler prides itself on being a bastion of free speech where QAnon pedophile conspiracies, rigged election fever dreams, and other Trump-bait is not censored like it is on Twitter, Facebook, and Youtube. But lately those lax policies have turned the site into a clearing house for hardcore sex pics and escort advertisements aimed at the MAGA crowd.

As the Washington Post reports, seemingly innocent, GOP-friendly search terms such as #freedom, #trump2020, #secondamendment and the Q slogan #wwg1wga bring forth a plethora of graphic adult content and links to porn sites. Meanwhile, right wingers who know what they’re looking for can enter tags like #sexytrumpgirl, #keepamericasexy, and #milfsfortrump2020 to receive more straight-forward propositions.

The popular #girlswithguns tag, for instance, brings up a post featuring a nude woman with a pistol over her privates with the message “Naked and real,” while another user employing that hashtag invited people to slide into her DMs if they are “interested in seeing a young, hot, conservative girl.”

Like Twitter—and unlike Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram—Parler has no hard rules against images of sex between consenting adults. Earlier this year, Parler said users should not “use language/visuals that describe or show sexual organs or activity” and chief executive John Matze told NPR that the app took “a hard line against pornography and nudity.”

But those restrictions have slackened surrounding the election, as the more mainstream social apps began cracking down on misleading posts and obvious lies with a vengeance. The latest iteration of Parler’s policy reads, “Sometimes the law requires us to exclude content from our platform, once it is reported to our Community Jury. Obvious examples: content posted by or on behalf of terrorist organizations, child pornography, and copyright violations.”

The permissive new attitude toward adult content coincides with a sudden surge in Parler’s popularity. It was recently the number one pick on Apple’s app store while generating more than 4 million downloads in the first two weeks of November, and Parler execs claim the site now has 10 million accounts.

Experts say this approach could make Parler vulnerable to an ever-increasing cache of smut. While more established social outposts use systems that can automatically detect and eliminate such content before a user or moderator ever sees it, Parler relies on a volunteer “community jury” to decide the fate of a post—only after a certain number of users have complained about it.

As the official Parler jury page explains, “No user shall be stripped of his parleys [Parler’s version of tweets] or comments, nor shall he be suspended, banned, or deprived of his standing in any other way, except by the conscientious judgment of his equals.”

“It’s becoming a Wild West for right-wing customers,” Marc Ginsberg, president of Coalition for a Safer Web, told the Post.

“When you say, ‘We don’t moderate content,’ you are inviting this content,” warns U.C. Berkeley computer science professor Hany Farid. “My prediction is they will be overrun with this stuff.”

Not that the site’s red-blooded users have any problem with naughty content. According to totals listed on some of the dirtier Parler posts, the triple-X materials have been viewed tens of thousands of times.

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Updated! All of L.A.’s Pop-Up Drive-In and Outdoor Movie Nights

There may be a pandemic, but you don’t have to give up outdoor movies–or at least not entirely. Clever pop-up series have shifted from crowding parks with viewers on picnic blankets to setting up massive parking-lot screens inspired by classic American drive-in movie theaters. Sure, the logistics will be a little more challenging, but these pop-up drive-in movie series might just be the biggest entertainment events of the season.

Under the new “limited stay-at-home” and curfew order effective November 21, non-essential businesses must close by 10 p.m. Please check with event organizers for cancellations or schedule updates.




Designed as an “immersive” movie-going experience, this drive-in series in Chinatown incorporates film, food, local designers and retailers, music, and charity, all in one. Each feature will be shows along with curated shorts, music videos, and additional programming; NTS Radio will provide DJ sets.

December 12, 5 p.m. Portrait of a Lady on Fire
December 13, 5 p.m. Portrait of a Lady on Fire


Hollywood Legion Post 43 Drive-In


American Legion Post 43 in Hollywood is establishing this 30-car drive-in with plans to show films seven days a week. The theater is set up with a state of the art 4K projection system–under the loving care of the Hollywood Legion Theater’s chief projectionist–and there are plans to screen 35mm analog film, beloved by cinephiles, in the future.

December 3, 6:30 p.m. How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000)
December 5, 7 p.m. Tenet
December 6, 7 p.m. Tenet
December 7, 7 p.m. Tenet
December 8, 7 p.m. Tenet
December 10, 7 p.m. Tenet
December 11, 7 p.m. Tenet
December 12, 7 p.m. Tenet
December 14, 7 p.m. Tenet
December 15, 7 p.m. Tenet
December 16, 7 p.m. Tenet

Drive-In Theatre at the Hollywood Roosevelt


Enjoy throwback film screenings at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, a possibly-haunted, definitely-glam Old Hollywood hotspot. The series offers both general and VIP tickets; refreshments will be available from a converted Airstream trailer bar.

December 6, 6:30 p.m. Elf
December 13, 6:30 p.m. Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas
December 20, 6:30 p.m. A Christmas Story
December 26, 6:30 p.m. It’s a Wonderful Life

The Sunset Strip Presents Late Night Drive-In at the Andaz West Hollywood

West Hollywood

The Andaz hotel on the Sunset Strip has partnered for this series with YEA! Impact, a group that organizes entertainment industry professionals to work for social justice causes. In addition to film screenings, some events feature live performances; food and beverage is available to order.

December 3, 7 p.m. The Grinch Who Stole Christmas
December 4, 5:30 p.m. Frosty the Snowman/Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer
December 4, 7 p.m. Die Hard
December 5, 5:30 p.m. Charlie Brown Christmas/Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer
December 5, 7 p.m. Elf
December 8, 5:30 p.m. Frosty the Snowman/Charlie Brown Christmas
December 8, 8 p.m. Home Alone
December 9, 7 p.m. Disney’s A Christmas Carol
December 10, 5:30 p.m. Charlie Brown Christmas/Frosty the Snowman
December 10, 7 p.m. The Polar Express
December 11, 7 p.m. Stuntwomen
December 15, 5:30 p.m. Frosty the Snowman/Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer
December 15, 8 p.m. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation
December 16, 5:30 p.m. Charlie Brown Christmas/The Grinch Who Stole Christmas
December 16, 8 p.m. Love Actually
December 17, 5:30 p.m. Frosty the Snowman/Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer
December 17, 8 p.m. Die Hard
December 19, 7 p.m. This Is Spinal Tap


Rooftop Cinema Club Drive-In

Santa Monica

Rooftop Cinema Club had to scrub their typical open-air screenings due to the pandemic, but they’ve come back with car-based showings at the Santa Monica Airport.

December 2, 5:15 p.m. Happy Feet
December 2, 8 p.m. Elf
December 3, 5:15 p.m. Frozen II
December 3, 8 p.m. Jurassic Park
December 4, 5:15 p.m. The Greatest Showman
December 4, 8 p.m. Home Alone
December 5, 5:15 p.m. The Princess and the Frog
December 5, 7:30 p.m. Love Actually
December 9, 5:15 p.m. Arthur Christmas
December 9, 8 p.m. Elf
December 10, 5:15 p.m. The Polar Express
December 10, 8 p.m. Home Alone
December 11, 5:15 p.m. Elf
December 11, 8 p.m. 10 Things I Hate About You
December 12, 5:15 p.m. The Polar Express
December 12, 8 p.m. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation
December 13, 5:15 p.m. The Nightmare Before Christmas
December 13, 7:30 p.m. A Christmas Story
December 16, 5:15 p.m. How the Grinch Stole Christmas
December 16, 8 p.m. Home Alone
December 17, 5:15 p.m. Ice Age
December 17, 7:30 p.m. Elf
December 18, 5:15 p.m. The Nightmare Before Christmas
December 18, 7:30 p.m. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation
December 19, 5:15 p.m. Frozen
December 19, 8 p.m. Home Alone
December 20, 5:15 p.m. The Polar Express
December 20, 8 p.m. Home Alone
December 21, 5:15 p.m. How the Grinch Stole Christmas
December 21, 7:45 p.m. Elf
December 22, 5:15 p.m. Elf
December 22, 8 p.m. Elf
December 23, 5:15 p.m. The Nightmare Before Christmas
December 23, 7:30 p.m. It’s a Wonderful Life
December 26, 5:15 p.m. Frozen II
December 26, 8 p.m. Jurassic Park
December 28, 5:15 p.m. Sing
December 28, 8 p.m. Guardians of the Galaxy
December 29, 5:15 p.m. The Goonies
December 29, 8 p.m. Back to the Future
December 30, 5:15 p.m. Tangled
December 30, 8 p.m. Pretty Woman


Electric Dusk Drive-In


One of L.A.’s favorite pop-up drive-ins—one that predates the pandemic—is back with a new Glendale location atop the old Sears parking garage at 236 N. Central Avenue.

Showtimes marked with an * fall after the 10 p.m. curfew, please check with organizer regarding refunds or rescheduled dates.

December 4, 7:15 p.m. Lethal Weapon
December 5, 7 p.m. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation
December 6, 7 p.m. Gremlins
December 11, 7:15 p.m. Elf
December 12, 7 p.m. Love Actually
December 13, 7 p.m. Frozen
December 19, 7 p.m. It’s a Wonderful Life

Regency Theaters: The Plant Drive-In

Van Nuys

The Regency Theaters chain has opened this Van Nuys drive-in movie theater offering screenings under the stars. A full concession stand is available, orders can be placed in advance online to minimize wait time.

December 10, 7 p.m. Silent Night, Deadly Night
December 10, 9:30 p.m. New Year’s Evil

Street Food Cinema

Calabasas & Arcadia

The biggest annual summer outdoor movie series didn’t let us down, pivoting to a program of in-car entertainment. Screenings take place at King Gillette Ranch in Calabasas and Santa Anita Park in Arcadia; check listings for details.

December 5, 7:30 p.m. Elf
December 12, 7:30 p.m. Home Alone
December 18, 7 p.m. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation
December 19, 7 p.m. Frozen
December 20, 7 p.m. A Christmas Story
December 21, 7 p.m. Home Alone

Come See: Drive-In

Woodland Hills

The Village at Westfield Topanga shopping center hosts this holiday-themed screening series, so you can can combine a movie and some gift shopping for a festive outing.

December 3, 5 p.m. The Nightmare Before Christmas
December 4, 5 p.m. The Grinch Who Stole Christmas
December 10, 5 p.m. Elf
December 11, 5 p.m. The Muppet Christmas Carol


L.A. Arts Society Drive-In Cinema


The L.A. Arts Society has always staged screenings for fellow cinephiles–they just look a little different this year. Showings are staged at the “backlot” of the indie Gardena Cinema theater; some include in-person appearances by talent.

December 3, 5:15 p.m. The Karate Kid
December 4, 5:15 p.m. The Karate Kid
December 5, 5:15 p.m. The Karate Kid
December 6, 5:15 p.m. The Karate Kid
December 3, 8:15 p.m. Rush Hour
December 4, 8:15 p.m. Rush Hour
December 5, 8:15 p.m. Rush Hour
December 6, 8:15 p.m. Rush Hour
December 10, 5:15 p.m. Frida
December 11, 5:15 p.m. Frida
December 12, 5:15 p.m. Frida
December 13, 5:15 p.m. Frida
December 10, 8:15 p.m. Enter the Dragon
December 11, 8:15 p.m. Enter the Dragon
December 12, 8:15 p.m. Enter the Dragon
December 13, 8:15 p.m. Enter the Dragon
December 17, 5:15 p.m. Gremlins
December 18, 5:15 p.m. Gremlins
December 19, 5:15 p.m. Gremlins
December 20, 5:15 p.m. Gremlins
December 17, 8:15 p.m. Batman Returns
December 18, 8:15 p.m. Batman Returns
December 19, 8:15 p.m. Batman Returns
December 20, 8:15 p.m. Batman Returns
December 22, 5:15 p.m. How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000)
December 23, 5:15 p.m. How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000)
December 24, 5:15 p.m. How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000)
December 25, 5:15 p.m. How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000)
December 26, 5:15 p.m. How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000)
December 27, 5:15 p.m. How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000)
December 22, 8:15 p.m. Elf
December 23, 8:15 p.m. Elf
December 24, 8:15 p.m. Elf
December 25, 8:15 p.m. Elf
December 26, 8:15 p.m. Elf
December 27, 8:15 p.m. Elf

Weekend Drive-In at the Roadium


The 15-acre Roadium in Torrance opened in 1948 as a drive-in cinema, but by the ’80s the space was mostly used as a swap meet (specifically, the swap meet where, legend has it, a record seller introduced Eazy-E to Dr. Dre). Now the space is going back to its roots for occasional pop-up movie nights.

December 11, 6:30 p.m The Polar Express
January 8, 6 p.m. Happy Feet
January 15, 6 p.m. Honey, I Shrunk the Kids
January 29, 6 p.m Uncle Buck



Holiday Movie Nights

Long Beach

Festive screenings pop up at the Hilton in Long Beach. Apple cider, hot cocoa, s’mores, and other family-friendly seasonal snacks are available for purchase.

December 1, 6 p.m. How the Grinch Stole Christmas
December 3, 6 p.m. Home Alone
December 8, 6 p.m. Jingle All the Way
December 10, 6 p.m. Elf


Ventura Movies In Your Car


Located at the Ventura County Fairgrounds, this series is run by the same organizers who are also using the venue for drive-in concerts from Third Eye Blind, Fitz and the Tantrums, and other acts. More showings to be announced.

December 10, 6:30 p.m. The Grinch
December 13, 6:30 p.m. Home Alone
December 16, 6:30 p.m. Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey
December 17, 6:30 p.m. Elf
December 20, 6:30 p.m. The Polar Express
December 21, 6:30 p.m. How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000)
December 22, 6:30 p.m. The Santa Clause
December 23, 6:30 p.m. A Christmas Story


The Frida Cinema Drive-Ins


Orange County’s non-profit art house cinema is hosting drive-in nights at Anaheim’s Zion Lutheran Church & School. The two July dates scheduled so far have both sold out, but the org recommends subscribing to their newsletter to get announcements about more dates to come. Check out Frida’s “virtual cinema” streaming fundraiser, too.

December 4, 7 p.m. Batman Returns
December 8, 7 p.m. Destroy All Monsters
December 11, 7 p.m. Edward Scissorhands
December 12, 7 p.m. Die Hard
December 15, 7 p.m. Cats
December 18, 7 p.m. The Jungle Book (1967)
December 19, 7 p.m. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
December 22, 7 p.m. Black Christmas (1974)
December 24, 7 p.m. Gremlins
December 29, 7 p.m. Mandy

Starlite Drive-In Movies

Brea, Westminster, & San Clemente

This O.C. screening series brings drive-in movie nights to the parking lots of three local shopping malls. Check event website to confirm screening location and other details.

December 3, 7:30 p.m. The Nightmare Before Christmas
December 4, 7:30 The Grinch
December 4, 7:30 p.m. How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000)
December 5, 7 p.m. The Polar Express
December 6, 6 p.m. Frozen 2
December 6, 7:30 p.m. The Polar Express


Poolside Dinner and a Movie at JW Marriott

You’ll be out of your car and seated on the roof pool deck of the JW Marriott at L.A. Live for this series. Tickets include a two course meal plus popcorn, full bar service is available.

Rooftop Movies at the Montalbán

This popular rooftop (non drive-in) screening series is returning for a shortened, socially-distanced season. You’ll sit in designated chairs, spaced out from other groups, and must consent to temperature reading and mask requirements–but otherwise, it’s largely the classic summer tradition you remember.

PCH Movies & Moonlight

A bummer about all these pop-ups? They sell out fast. This Long Beach pop-up drive-in, which is parking itself atop the Whole Foods parking deck at the 2nd and PCH shopping center, offers stand-by tickets on a first-come, first serve basis. Note that times vary based on sunset.

Sony Pictures Drive-In Experience

Presented by Porsche, this series will take place at the Sony Pictures lot in Culver City, with space to accommodate around 75 cars per showing. Attendees will need to agree to COVID-19 safety rules and sign a waiver to participate.

ArcLight at the Drive-In

Your favorite walk-in(?) theater chain is heading outside, hosting films at the Vineland Drive-In. Sponsored by FIJI Water, the series focuses mostly on new-release indie flicks. Some showings include appearances by cast and crew.

Outfest L.A. 2020 Drive-In Movie Screenings

The annual film festival celebrating LGBTQ+ cinema is back in a hybrid online and in-person form. Binge dozens of movies on their online Outfest Now streaming platform, and turn out for a selection of drive-in screenings at Calamigos Ranch in Malibu.

Amazon Presents A Night at the Drive-In

Curated by actor Michael B. Jordan (and featuring several of his starring roles) this Amazon-sponsored series of double-features takes place at City of Industry’s full-time drive-in movie theater, the Vineland Drive-In. Refreshments are on Amazon, all purchased from diverse-owned local businesses.

Cinema Pop-Ups

This national series has announced two SoCal locations, San Juan Capistrano and Woodland Hills, which schedule a limited run of films. Check the website for announcements of additional dates.

‘A Marvelous Night at the Drive-In’ Presented by Amazon Prime

Love Amazon Prime’s The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel? Then you’ll want to head to the Grove’s rooftop parking deck for this series, produced by Street Food Cinema and presented by Amazon Prime. Each screening night will feature episodes of the show, snacks, cupcakes, gift bags and more–and it’s all free with online registration (limit: two guests per car).

Sagebrush Cantina Movie Night

Sagebrush Cantina is offering micro-drive-in nights outside its Calabasas restaurant. In addition to a $25 pass for the car, you’ll need to spend at least $15 on food and drink from the restaurant during the show.

Melrose Rooftop Theater

Not actually a drive-in series (more of a walk-up?) but we’re including here as it’s one of the very few outdoor movie options this summer that aren’t vehicle-based. In an attempt to comply with COVID protocols, a small number of guests will be able to purchase seats for these screenings, and the seats will be placed several feet apart. Additional protocols and guidelines can be found on the website. As in previous years, the series takes place on the roof at WeHo’s E.P. & L.P. and includes food and drink upgrades available for purchase.

Level 8 Drive-In

Enjoy the views from atop the garage of the Grove at these screenings. Tickets include a gourmet dinner package from Picnic Society by Gwen, including classic dishes and Halloween-themed treats.

Malibu Film Society

Gather near the Malibu Country Mart at the site of Malibu’s annual Chili Cook Off for these community events on a three-story-tall screen. Online reservations are required; tickets are offered on a “donations requested” basis.

Carson Drive-In Flix

Held at Dignity Sports Arena in Carson, home of the L.A. Galaxy, this new series benefits the Boys & Girls Clubs. When you buy a ticket for your own car ($50) you can also opt to donate one to a family in need. The set-up already accommodates 200 cars, but organizers say they may be able to expand capacity soon.

L.A. Zoo Drive-In Movie Nights

The L.A. Zoo is using its ample parking lot for a family-friendly drive-in series. They’ve grouped their sections into three themes: “Hair-Raising Halloween,” “The Brilliant Betty White,” and, naturally, “Animal Adventures.” Films are accompanied by pre-show entertainment featuring videos of zoo animals and other fun add-ons. For Halloween screenings, participants are encouraged to come in costume or decorate their car for the occasion.

San Fernando Valley Drive-In Nights

For the last few summers, this pop-up series was already offering the drive-in experience, so we’re happy to see they returned this year. The films are typically Valley-centric in content or filming locations. Screenings take place at the Westfield Fashion Square mall in Sherman Oaks.

Laemmle Theaters at the Roadium

Local art house cinema chain Laemmle has adapted to the current moment by taking screenings to the Roadium drive-in theater in Torrance. Expect quirky new indie films, some accompanied by filmmaker talk-backs.

Drive-In at the Park 

Country music festival Tailgate Fest may not have happened in August as originally planned, but the organizers put their car-partying expertise into a new venture: a series of drive-in movie nights.

Fairmont Poolside Cinema

Get out of the car and sit in a distanced deck chair by the pool at this swanky Santa Monica hotel. Sunset films offer a romantic date night option or fun family outing. Tickets are free with a $25 food and drink minimum; full service from FIG Restaurant is available.

Lexus Culinary Cinema


This special dinner-and-a-movie event series pairs beloved indie-leaning movies with meals crafted by top chefs. Your ticket includes admission to the film, screened on the event deck at L.A. Live, along with a three-course (plus beverage) meal for each person, overseen by Lexus Culinary Masters.

Cinespia at the Greek

Griffith Park

The ultimate authority in outdoor movies has finally popped back up in this most unusual of film-going seasons. For now, that means a three-screening run as a drive in at the parking lot of the Greek theater. Tickets cover up to four guests inside the car.


RELATED: Movie Theaters Are Still Closed, but These Drive-Ins Are Open for Business

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If the Opportunity Presents Itself, Eric Garcetti May Want to Dash for D.C.

As far as I know, Eric Garcetti has never run a race against Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt. But if the thoroughly modern mayor is offered a plum position in the Biden Administration, I suspect he’d dart from Los Angeles with the kind of speed that would make the Olympic gold medalist’s jaw drop.

Garcetti’s future is hotly discussed both by those who admire him and those who bristle at his name. Numerous articles have surmised that he could be the next U.S. Secretary of Transportation, a result of a longtime relationship with former Vice President Joe Biden that includes endorsing him for president at a key moment in January, and then helping the Democratic party nominee vet potential running mates. The Cabinet-level consideration has sparked daily protests at the mayor’s Hancock Park home, with foes asserting that Garcetti has failed on local issues including homelessness, mass transit, and policing.

Another possibility is that the bilingual mayor is angling for a different post or an international gig, maybe Ambassador to Mexico.

Garcetti himself is pretty much mum on the topic, which is par for the course. After all, this is the guy who conducted a year-long soft run for president, and whenever he was asked about his ambition, he would deliver a non-answer answer, never copping to the idea but never denying it, either. He didn’t publicly acknowledge his interest in the presidency until the day in January 2019 that he called reporters to City Hall to announce that he would not seek the White House.

All of which is to say, if you want to know what Garcetti will be doing after Biden’s January 20 inauguration, then don’t ask Garcetti. In October he told the L.A. Times that “it’s more likely than not” that he’ll be mayor when his term ends in 2022, which sounds indicative until you realize that it simply means there’s a 50.0000000001 percent chance that he’ll still be residing in Los Angeles. He was asked again about a job with Biden during a November 23 evening coronavirus briefing and said that, “It’s one of the last things on my mind right now,” as he focuses on COVID-19. It may be true, but it’s not close to definitive.

Is a job offer coming? Will any opportunity be undermined by a City Hall corruption scandal and other problems here in L.A.? I have no idea, and unless your name is Eric Garcetti or Joe Biden, or you are a member of their inner circles, then neither do you.

That said, if the call comes, then Garcetti will almost certainly be packing a suitcase before he even hangs up the phone. That’s because a new job is all upside, and provides both short-term benefits and advantages for his political future. Meanwhile, sticking around means being whacked like a piñata for two more years.

The situation is not just about whatever job Biden might award Garcetti, but the one after that, and potentially the next one, too. Recall that in 2018, Garcetti visited 17 different states in the unofficial POTUS exploratory process. Presidential dreams rarely die; consider Garcetti’s simply deferred, as he consults a sort of political Waze to figure out which route will take him where he ultimately wants to go.

A new job is all upside. Sticking around means being whacked like a piñata for two more years.

If Garcetti heads to Washington for a Cabinet post, he’ll lose the big stage that being mayor affords. However, he would gain access to a city that, for the next four years at least, will be controlled by Democrats and the people who love and donate to them. The mayor already networks like a demon, and this would just up his game. Sure, many Angelenos may be tired of Garcetti after his two decades in local office, but nearly everyone who meets him for the first time walks away impressed by his intelligence and tech-savvy vision. He could play big in Washington, and as Transportation Secretary he could direct money—possibly a lot of money—back to projects throughout California.

That could pay off further if Garcetti’s vision board includes running for the U.S. Senate seat that Dianne Feinstein vacates in 2024, or for governor when Newsom is termed out in 2026 (assuming he is re-elected in 2022, which likely occurs providing he stops attending pandemic parties at the French Laundry). Yes, there will be other strong contenders for either post, and numerous obstacles will surface, but any election is far in the future, and unpredictable things happen in politics, as Donald Trump’s 2016 electoral college victory proved.

For Garcetti, doing something different could be far preferable to staying in L.A., where protesters are already outside at his door. That’s just the start, as the impacts of the coronavirus will make the next two years something of a fiscal gulag; city budget officials are predicting revenues will be as much as $600 million below expectations, and that’s before the ripple effects of the just-enacted business rollbacks.

The person who is mayor, or acting mayor, will spend much of 2021 trying to figure out which city services to cut and how many employees to lay off. She or he will have to prepare for a coronavirus-fueled explosion of homelessness in a city already replete with tent encampments and residents who are furious about those encampments. There will be grueling battles both with a police union that wants more money allocated to law enforcement, and Black Lives Matter and other newly empowered entities demanding less money for police.

Meanwhile, the COVID-19 case count and death toll will click higher in a doomsday turnstile fashion. L.A.’s political figurehead is going to feel incessant heat.

Garcetti has another reason to head east: He’s been mayor for seven-and-a-half years. He has an extra 18 months in office only because Los Angeles voters approved shifting election day to align with state and federal schedules in the effort to boost previous anemic turnout. A batch of city officials all saw their terms extended. Garcetti could declare that he did the time he expected to have when he initially ran.

Would he suffer blowback for abandoning Los Angeles when it most needs consistent leadership? Absolutely, but even if he stays, the mayoral primary is just 16 months away, and lame duck status would arrive quickly.

So what’s a better job for the next 24 months: Being CEO of a suffering Los Angeles, or riding the tide of a resurgent Democratic party in D.C. that is righting the ship after four disastrous years of Trump?

It may not be much of a choice at all.

RELATED: Which Local Power Players Win (and Lose) If Biden Bumps Trump

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Cannabis Beverage Sales Are Booming and One Local Company Is Leading the Way

Forget the many buzz-inducing gummy candies and chocolate bars. More and more cannabis consumers are opting to drink their drug of choice. The cannabis beverage market, worth $901.8 million in 2018, has grown 45 percent annually in the past two years and is expected to reach $5.8 billion by 2025. One of the category’s breakout hits is the Venice-based Cann. Launched in June 2019, Cann has quickly risen to the top of the category, thanks to its stylish packaging, subtle flavors, celebrity fans, and the business-school acumen of its founders.

“Cann is one of the brands that has really led the charge in making these beverages mainstream,” says Kiana Anvaripour, the CMO of Sweet Flower, an L.A.-based dispensary with locations in Studio City, downtown, the Fairfax district, and Westwood. Cann is Sweet Flower’s top-selling cannabis beverage by volume, accounting for 50 percent of total sales in the beverage category. Sweet Flower’s Cann sales have doubled since March, which Anvaripour attributes to “‘canna-curious’ consumers seeking healthier alternatives to help them manage the day-to-day.”

Cann’s founders initially cooked up the product as an alcohol alternative. “Our twenties were very, very heavy-drinking years. And now that we’re in our thirties, a hangover is debilitating,” says cofounder Jake Bullock, 32, a Stanford business school grad who met his business partner, Luke Anderson, also 32, an alum of Harvard Business School, while they were working at Bain & Company consulting firm. The two thought of Cann as a way, Bullock says, “not to replace alcohol, but to drink 20 to 40 percent less than we did before.”

It’s a philosophy in line with the way many are looking to live now. Half of U.S. adults say they’re trying to drink less alcohol, according to 2019 data from market research firm Nielsen. Investors have taken notice. In January, Cann raised $5 million in a funding round led by Imaginary, a retail-and-tech venture capital firm cofounded by Natalie Massanet, the creator of Net-a-Porter, and cannabis VC firm JM10. Imaginary wasn’t expressly vying for a cannabis brand to back, but the idea of a chic alcohol substitute was appealing, as was the fact that Cann is relatively low dose: each beverage has just 2 milligrams of THC, compared to the usual 5 or 10 milligrams.


“We loved that Cann focused on low-calorie, low- and controlled-dosage THC,” Massanet says. “We hope that one day Cann will be as successful as Coca-Cola.”

Others in the industry are less bullish. “I don’t doubt the beverage category will be big, but there’s this perception that it’s absolutely meteoric, and that’s just not the case yet,” says Mitch Baruchowitz, managing partner at Merida Capital Partners, a cannabis-focused private equity firm. “I’m not sure if consumers will walk into a dispensary, look at 52 types of flower, edibles, patches, tinctures, sublingual tablets, and then go, ‘Let me look at the cooler and grab one of those drinks as well.’”

Though Cann was designed for fraternizing—it’s sold in six-packs that retail for $24 and bills itself as a “social tonic”— it’s been quite popular in the antisocial pandemic era. After selling only 150,000 cans in its first six months in business in 2019, Cann sold 1.85 million cans in the first ten months of 2020, and boldfacers like Chelsea Handler have Instagrammed themselves drinking the product. “The marketing celebrities are doing on our behalf during COVID has been crazy,” says Anderson. “We’ve never paid for posts in our company’s history, and we have not been asking celebrities to post about the product.” Some celebs—including actors Gwyneth Paltrow, Rebel Wilson, and Darren Criss; NBA star Baron Davis; YouTuber Casey Neistat; and musician Tove Lo—have gone a step further and have invested in Cann. “People we’ve dreamed of paying to work with us are saying, ‘I believe in what you’re doing, I believe [drinking too much] is a universal problem, and I want to be part of the solution.’”

Cann’s flavoring and branding has been key to its success. The pastel cans were designed to look like they “would fly off the shelves at Whole Foods and not remind somebody of PTSD from a pot brownie in college or look like they came from a gas station in 1995,” Bullock says. “I’d never been to a dispensary before starting this company, and found all other cannabis products to be very stigmatizing. So I really understood the idea of being not-cannabis-forward,” adds Anderson. Half of Cann’s customers are weed newbies or teetotalers—think thirtysomething professionals and moms who might otherwise reach for a glass of chardonnay—which is by design. “Extreme, daily cannabis users are never really going to be our customer,” says Bullock. “If you’re trying to find the cheapest way to get high, our product actually keeps you from getting too high.”

Flavors like grapefruit rosemary or lemon lavender have been developed by a food scientist formerly at Unilever and are free of preservatives and not too sweet. The company recently rolled out Roadies, concentrated liquids to mix with seltzer or other drinks, that are more travel-friendly and allow for customized dosing. Dozens of new flavors are in development, with the latest, cranberry sage, pegged to Thanksgiving.

It’s all part of the Ivy Leaguers’ plan to take their low-dose cannabis beverage more and more mainstream.

“We often joke that we’re selling light beer to speakeasies at the end of Prohibition,” Bullock says. “We want to get to a place where there’s beer, wine, and Cann at every party.”


Local dispensaries are stocking their shelves with a growing array of beverages packed with THC and CBD. Whether you’re looking for something that tastes
like a microbrew or a White Claw, options abound.
Here are five:


These no-cal concoctions from Petaluma brewery Lagunitas taste convincingly hoppy to satisfy IPA-cravings and come in three THC dosages, from 2 mg to 10. $9 each at Erba Markets, 12320 W. Pico Blvd., Sawtelle, erbamarkets.com.


Launched in July, this is the first beverage to include Delta-8, a unique low-psychotropic cannabinoid promising physical relaxation and mental clarity. $6 each at The Pottery, 5042 Venice Blvd., Mid-City, thepottery.la.


The dive-bar beer brand entered the cannabis space in October—sorta. This lemon-flavored seltzer is actually made by a separate company launched by PBR alums. $25 for a four-pack at KTown Collective, 7382 Melrose Ave., Fairfax district, ktowncollective.com.


Available in SoCal since July, this entry balances 5 mg of THC and 5 mg of CBD, has no added sugars, and contains just 30 to 50 calories per bottle. Flavors include raspberry hibiscus and passionfruit mango. $9 each at Eaze.com.

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