Stars Shine at Hillcrest Hideaway

The best movie house in San Diego may be a place you’ve never heard of.

Despite being highlighted in several local publications, Cinema Under the Stars remains one of San Diego’s best-kept secrets.

Doug Yeagley, owner and operator of Tops Full Service Salon, also runs Cinema Under the Stars behind his store in Hillcrest. His Web site reveals photos of an enchanted garden setting, replete with twinkling lights, fountains and sculpted metal palm trees.

San Diego Magazine readers selected the casual theater as San Diego’s best outdoor movie venue this year, beating out such high-profile competitors as Screen on the Green in Balboa Park and Movies Before the Mast on the Star of India.

In order to maintain the venue’s award-winning status, Yeagley spares no expense to provide audiences with the best movie experience possible. In addition to zero-gravity chairs and cafĂ© seating in the back, Cinema Under the Stars boasts a new digital sound system, a digital projector and HD-quality picture.

“In the old days, we used to do 16 mm film, and it was a real pain,” Yeagley said. “We used to do only the old classics: Cary Grant, Audrey Hepburn, ’40s, ’50s, ’60s kind of stuff.”

But now Yeagley can show off his new high-tech system.

“We wanted to utilize the quality of sound,” he said. “We did ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’ with 5.1 digital on a really bitchin’ sound system.”

Along with his advanced technology, Yeagley said he hopes more recent titles will attract a college-aged audience.

With the help of his creative partner, Ralph DeLauro, who is a film program director at the San Diego Public Library downtown, Yeagley has assembled a mix of movies that includes “Swingers,” “The Big Lebowski” and “L.A. Confidential.”

The newer titles represent Yeagley’s goal of drawing in more male viewers.

“We really program for women, and the guys come with the women,” Yeagley said. “You’d have two or three generations of women get together to see a chick flick outdoors in a safe neighborhood with twinkle lights and candles, and they’ll always remember that.”

Cinema Under the Stars ends its season at the end of October and will surface again in May, which, ironically, is a colder time for showing outdoor movies. But Yeagley has all the bases covered.

“We have all these warehouse heaters that radiate heat from above,” he said. “You will not get cold. We’re all over that.”

Even though Cinema Under the Stars isn’t well known, and admission costs $12, Yeagley said he has no problem filling the venue.

“When we get into the summer set, we do two films per week and we’re swamped,” he said. “We sell out every night.”

-Cinema Under the Stars is scheduled to screen ‘L.A. Confidential’ at 8:30 p.m. this Thursday through Saturday. For more information, visit www.topspresents.com or call (619) 295-4221.

Read the original article at The Daily Aztec.