Welcome to your one stop guide to the best ways to experience a film in Los Angeles!
Being sick sucks. It really does. This time of year is the ONLY time that I ever find my immune system not strong enough to fight off the annual flu brigade that always seems to come my way. One of the perks of living in Los Angeles, California, however, is the distinct knowledge that I will very likely only get sick once a year, and that it will be during our winter months “which quite frankly, shouldn’t be called winter…I’ve gone surfing on Christmas day more times than sledding”. On the upside, the flu is a wonderful diet plan, as I always lose about 10 pounds while on it. And fortunately, this is the tail end of it, which means I should be completely healthy by the time my 5am call time rolls around tomorrow morning for Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
But I digress. I have decided to take this opportunity to write about something very important to me. Movie Theaters. Going to movie theaters in my opinion is one of the most wonderful experiences life has to offer. There is a certain magic to sitting in a room full of strangers and having a shared experience.
Growing up as a child I can remember going to the theater and making friends with the little girl next to me while watching Bruce LeRoy become the master in The Last Dragon, or laughing with the kids picking out candy with me before seeing the new Batman movie in 1989.
There was something amazing about going to the drive-in theater and watching a movie in the car with your family underneath the star filled sky.
There’s something truly magical about the movie going experience. Many kids have their first date at a movie theater. It’s the first time many of us are allowed to hang out “alone” with our friends and no adults. Some youngsters share their first kiss there.
The movies allow us a ticket to complete and utter escapism from all the bullshit that is happening in reality, and for that, I could never be more thankful. We need the theater. We need the screen. We need a way to decompress and escape our wars, our violence, our constant fighting, and the decisions that are made for us without our consent by our governments.
We need a place to run to when the verbal or physical abuse at home is just too much. When we want to jump off that bridge, and need to see a film that can make us laugh the pain away. The theater has always been a magical place, and with the advances we have almost daily in technology, the home space is more and more becoming a mini-theater. And that’s great and all, but nothing will ever be able to match the feeling of walking into a grand old theater house with 100’s of strangers, smelling that mix of buttery popcorn, hotdogs and nachos, and hearing that fizzy hiss, crack, and pop coming off the bubbly tops of sodas around you. Laughing with the people next to you as the lights dim, and the excitement you feel as the trailers start.
It is an experience like no other. And one you will never be able to fully replicate at home. I love the theater, for everything it does for us. So I believe it’s important to preserve our theaters, and for everyone to have a home theater to grow up in.
Fortunately for me, I live in Los Angeles. And we are home to what I consider to be 10 of the greatest movie watching experiences you could possibly ever have. And since I have the flu, and can’t do my normal job of making movies, what better way to waste my downtime than writing about them?
This list is in no particular order, other than the top three. The top three are exactly that; my top three absolute must experience movie going experiences. The rest are here because they stand proudly by my top three picks as what are likely the 10 best movie experiences you can have in our great country.
1. The TCL Chinese Theater IMAX.
Address: 6925 Hollywood Blvd, Hollywood, CA 90028
Ticket Price: $20
The amount of history that comes with this theater is staggering. But let’s just hit some of the tidbits, and I will start with the most current bit, which is that I will be seeing Star Wars the Force Awakens here 48 hours from now, and that the original Star Wars also premiered here. Here are some bullet points:
Originally known as the Grumman’s Chinese Theatre, the theater was founded by Sid Grauman, whom also founded another theater on this list that came earlier, The Egyptian Theatre.
Norma Talmade inspired the tradition of leaving footprints and handprints of stars in front of the theater when she accidentally stepped into the wet concrete. People come from the world over to match their hands and feet to the stars.
It is the largest IMAX theater in the country, seating 932 guests, “over 1,000 including staff.
So if you are ever in Los Angeles, and only have time to see one film in one theater, there is no way i would recommend you going anywhere else. The Chinese Theater is the only place to do it.
2. The Arclight Cinema – Hollywood
Address: 6360 Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90028
Ticket Price: $17
Even though today, the Arclight has started growing it’s brand adding several locations around the country, there will always only be on DOME, the iconic dimpled golf ball which was declared a Los Angeles Historic-Cultural monument back in 1998. The dome opened in 1963 and has been home to many big world premiere’s of both film and television. They are known for several wonderful features; aside from having some of the largest screens and highest quality sound, they also have 21 and over screenings where beer is the name of the game.
3. El Capitan Theatre
Address: 6838 Hollywood Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90028
Ticket Price: $20
Since 1926, the El Capitan Theatre has had a colorful history, starting out as a vaudeville house. But these days, it is known as “Disney’s home on Hollywood Boulevard.” And for good reason; it is owned by the house of mouse and is the premiere location for watching all Disney properties. So what makes watching a Disney film here so special? Well for starters, the movies are in 4D…that is, if it’s snowing in FROZEN, chances are it’s snowing in the theater as well. Not to mention the amazing live music by the old school organist during the prelude and a live show with everything from lasers and smoke effects to dancers doing full out choreography dressed as the characters of the film. Honestly, when it comes to Pixar and Disney movies, there is no better setting to watch them.
BEST OF THE REST:
4. New Beverly Cinema
Address: 7165 west beverly blvd. los angeles ca 90036
Ticket Price: $8
This lands on my list because well, it’s a movie fans theater. Sporting the most diverse history on this list, it has been a candy maker, a nightclub called Slapsy Maxie’s, and even at one point, an X-rated theater.
And then, in 2010, Quentin Tarantino purchased the property, and made a commitment to showing films in 35mm. He also made it a point to make every film a double feature, which is awesome. Not to mention tickets are only $8, including double features, AND a large popcorn is just $4. Weekends at midnight there are also midnight shows, and there are kiddie matinees on the weekends daytime as well.
5. Grauman’s Egyptian Theatre
Address: 6712 Hollywood Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90028
Ticket Price: $11
The oldest theater on my list, this theater was founded by Sid Grauman and his partner, Charles Doberman in 1922, just a few weeks before King Tut’s tomb was discovered. He is far more famous for creating the Chinese Theater however, and yet, this was a design choice that had the entire country going mad for Egyptian inspired everything.
This theater was the first big movie house on Hollywood Boulevard, and recently just back in 1998 it went through a $13million rehabilitation, bringning it up to speed. Famous for it’s sunburst ceiling, it’s known to screen classics like Lawrence of Arabia, all the way up to contemporary independent and foreign films. This is a theater for independent and classic film viewing. If you are looking for today’s mega films, you won’t find them here.
6. Hollywood Forever Cemetery/Cinsespia
Address: 6000 Santa Monica Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90038
Ticket Price: $15
If you happen to be in town visiting LA during the summer months, then you are in for quite an experience, an experience you literally cannot have anywhere else in the world, and my number one favorite way to watch CLASSIC films.
John Wyatt came up with the concept, and since it’s inception, it has been a rite of passage for Angelenos in the summertime. There is a slide show with vintage film posters and a DJ as well as a photo booth for you and your friends complimentary of the show at the beginning. You are encouraged to bring a picnic basket with wine, beer, cheese, pizza…whatever you’d like, and bring pillows and blankets too. “But why?” you ask…”isn’t this a cemetery?” you say…why yes it is, and you are going to be watching the film laying in the middle of the cemetery with the dead. Yep, that is exactly what this is.
The Hollywood Forever Cemetery, originally known as the Hollywood Memorial Cemetery, is one of the oldest cemeteries in Hollywood, founded in 1899.
And in 1952, Jules Roth “the then owner and convicted felon, and racist millionaire that had bought a 51% stake in the cemetery upon his release” refused to allow actress Hattie McDaniel, best known for her role of “Mammy” in the film, Gone With The Wind, for which she became the first black woman to win an Academy Award, to be buried at the famous cemetery. At the time of her death was segregated “as were most cemeteries in the 1950’s…even in death white people were causing a ruckus lol.” However, on the 47th anniversary of McDaniel’s death, the cemetery’s current wonder dedicated a cenotaph in her honor at the prime location south of Sylvan Lake. This cemetery is the final resting place for 100’s of celebrities, and these summer outdoor screenings allow you to watch movie classics with them!
7. Vineland Drive-in Theater
Address: 443 Vineland Ave, City of Industry, CA 91746
Ticket Price: $9
I remember once as a child, my father being excited. He was in a rush. We were running late to a movie at the drive-in. He had a pile of blankets and pillows in his arms, and he overstepped the first step at the top of the stairs and fell down the stairs. I freaked out. Then he got up, rubbed his head, and said “damn.” My mother and I started laughing uncontrollably. We piled into the car and off we went.
We were in a rush to a drive-in theater. Most kids today will never understand the beauty and romance of a drive-in theater, which is a shame. Fortunately, Los Angeles has quite a few of them, and two of them are on my list.
This one has four screens, and all four screens show double features, with the first one showing TWICE! Yep, that means you get to watch the first movie twice, with another movie in between…it’s like a movie sandwich!
Even better, tickets are only $9, and obviously you get to bring all the food and drinks you want since you are watching in the car! Now back in the day, this was a very popular date idea, and with obvious reasons. Today, I very often take dates to the drive-in because I’m an old romantic at heart, and there’s nothing better than cuddling up under a blanket in the car and munching down on pizza and chips watching a movie play out on a giant screen under the crisp starry sky.
7A. Paramount drive-in Theater
Address: 7770 Rosecrans Ave, Paramount, CA 90723
Ticket Price: $9.50
This theater makes the list for all of the exact same reasons as the Vineland Drive-in Theater. The only difference is that this one is about 10 minutes further away from me. In terms of quality though, I will have to get back to you on which one I prefer. That said, neither has been updated to brand new anything, and both are over 60 years old, so expect fairly crappy quality. Basically, going to the drive-in “either of them” only happens for small comedies, or light goofy throwaway films. I would never go here as the premier choice for like a Bond film. Instead I would go see the opening of say, American Pie at a drive-in.
8. iPic Theater, Westwood
Address: 10840 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90024
Ticket Price: $26
iPic lands on this list because how could it not? It’s not traditional enough for me, and doesn’t give me that magical feeling that every other theater on this list gives me, but what it DOES give me, is a ridiculously comfortable reclining leather sofa chair, a private waiter, an iPad menu, free popcorn, a pillow and a blanket, and extremely good restaurant level food.
My problems with this is it’s too comfortable and very easy to fall asleep in their chairs, not kidding, and it’s a little too intimate for me. If you like that at home/restaurant feeling, it’s fantastic, but I like to be amongst many cheering peers.“
9. Regal Cinemas LA Live
Address: 1000 W Olympic Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90015
Ticket Price: $15.50
A theater that has been hosting plenty of premieres as of late, the Regal Cinemas Stadium 14 is a wonderful theater house. It’s 800 seat premiere cinema is one of the largest auditoriums in the country, and they even have a 4DX screen. “What’s 4DX?” you ask…well I will tell you. Imagine a ship falling over a waterfall, and a mist from the water hits your skin, or an explosion in time square, and your seat rumbles…it’s basically like a universal studios theme park ride, but in a theater.
10. AMC Universal
Address: 100 Universal City Plaza, Universal City, CA 91608
Ticket Price: $14
AMC Universal Citywalk just barely edges out AMC Century City. The reason being, it’s Universal Citywalk. You’ve got unique gift shops, interesting restaurants, live shows right outside the theater, and the IMAX inside of the AMC Universal is my 3rd favorite IMAX screen in the city. A great example of a wonderful theater experienced heightened by it’s surroundings.
11. Landmark Theaters Westwood
Address: 1045 Broxton Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90024
Ticket Price: $13.50
This is Landmark Theatre’s flagship theatre in Los Angeles. It offers 12 state of the art auditoriums, and also has an upscale wine bar inside. They have gourmet food and health conscious specialty snacks, which help to extend their unique menu for during the movie.
Bonus in my book is the wonderful Westside Tavern restaurant right downstairs, which happens to be my favorite gastropub in LA.
12. AMC Century City
Address: 10250 Santa Monica Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90067
Ticket Price: $15.09
Why do I love the Century city AMC so much? Mostly because it is everything an AMC should be. AMC is one of the oldest names in American cinema, and while they have had their ups and downs, one thing you can always expect at most AMC locations, is a good if not great movie going experience.
Well, I hope you all have enjoyed reading this article as much as I’ve enjoyed writing it, and thanks for keeping me company on my sick day. If you’re from out of town, I hope this article gave you some ideas for where to watch a movie while you are visiting, and if you live here in LA and haven’t experienced all of these places already, then shame on you! Get out there and see the movies!