You don’t have to be a key grip to know that Los Angeles is movie obsessed. Besides the production houses and monolithic back lots that dot seemingly every mile, it makes sense that the city would be blessed with one of the world’s most vibrant, unique smorgasbord of theaters in which to enjoy its most famous export.
There’s something for everyone: ultra-high-tech multiplexes, offbeat art houses, drive-ins, rooftops—even pools showing flicks, if you know where to look. But if you want to get the traditional, brick-and-mortar movie theater experience and still find something absolutely unique, a handful of local gems stand out.
From a trio of nearly century-old palaces in the heart of Hollywood to beautiful theaters that also host music and performances to a proud relic of a forgotten 1960s moviegoing fad, these loving monuments to cinema give you a singular way to experience the films you love, old and new.
This idiosyncratic, attention-grabbing theater emerged from the Cinerama moviegoing fad of the 1960s and ’70s, which saw three projectors splashing their wide picture across a curved screen. The Dome has been operated by the adjacent ArcLight Cinemas since 2002, its uniquely massive screen, generously tiered seating area, and high-tech picture and sound making it a favorite for film premieres and events, regular blockbuster screenings, and even the occasional showing of a classic film in the now-defunct Cinerama format. This special venue also plays host to many of ArcLight Hollywood’s cast-creator Q&A screenings. 6360 Sunset Boulevard, Los Angeles
This Hollywood gem started life as Grauman’s Egyptian Theatre, one of the premier movie palaces during the opulent moviegoing days of the 1920s and ’30s. Since being taken over by the American Cinematheque and remodeled to double its screens to a whole two of them, the building’s hieroglyphics, towering pillars, and Pharaoh busts remain intact to recall the glitz and glamour of its origins. Programming is mostly classic art-house and international cinema, with regular double features and film series that explore a common creator or theme. 6712 Hollywood Boulevard, Hollywood
EL CAPITAN THEATRE
The majestically restored El Capitan Theatre blends a Spanish Colonial exterior with an over-the-top lavish interior. Screenings are either first run or old Disney favorites and often accompanied by a preshow in line with the film. If your child is very young or has special needs, the Tiny Tot screenings (Tuesdays at 10 a.m.) are designed to reduce sensory overload: Lights go dim (not down), the volume lowers, and all films are screened in 2-D. Tip: Stop by the awesome Ghirardelli chocolate shop for a delicious hot fudge sundae after the show. 6838 Hollywood Boulevard, Hollywood
OLD TOWN MUSIC HALL
It may be across town from Hollywood, but the Old Town Music Hall theater is one of Los Angeles’s most loving monuments to the early days of the movies. The intimate nonprofit theater opens its doors on weekends to play silent films and early talkies, the former with musical accompaniment from theater cofounder Bill Field on his Mighty Wurlitzer theater pipe organ. With the authentic presentation, vintage furnishings, and timeless classics onscreen, Old Town drops you right in the cinematic feel of a time nearly a century ago. The theater also features concerts in music styles popular in the 1920s and ’30s, such as jazz and ragtime. 140 Richmond Street, El Segundo
REGENCY VILLAGE THEATRE
The Regency Village Theatre’s iconic, soaring tower has overseen blockbuster moviegoers and big-ticket film premieres for decades. Today, the technologically top-notch single screen shows the biggest current releases and holds a dizzying procession of premieres. If you want to catch a glimpse of your favorite stars on the red carpet, peruse the list of premieres at Regency Village and the nearby Bruin. 961 Broxton Avenue, Los Angeles
TCL CHINESE THEATRE
Grauman’s Chinese Theatre (now TCL Chinese Theatre) opened during the 1920s heyday of ornate movie palaces, and since then you’ve seen the soaring Chinese pagoda facade grace everything from movie premieres to Oscar ceremonies. It’s worth at least dropping by this Hollywood landmark to snap pics with ever-present movie character impersonators and find your favorite star’s footprints immortalized in cement, but if you’re looking to kill a few hours, the IMAX inside offers more than 4,000 square feet of screen to catch today’s blockbusters. If you buy online, make sure to choose an IMAX showing—other listings are for the TCL Chinese 6 Theatres multiplex, located just upstairs. 6925 Hollywood Boulevard, Hollywood
THE THEATRE AT ACE HOTEL
A dazzler of Hollywood history in downtown L.A., this Spanish Gothic architectural marvel was built in 1927 when Broadway was red-carpet row. Almost a century later, it’s now operated by Ace Hotel, hosting some of the city’s most engaging live programming, from music to lectures to screenings. But any visit just to absorb the theater’s stunning decorative regalia is worth the price of your ticket. 929 South Broadway, Los Angeles
VINTAGE LOS FELIZ THEATRE
If clouds are obscuring your stargazing from the nearby Griffith Observatory, head down the hill to the historic Vintage Los Feliz Theatre, where a glittering starscape adorns the ceiling of each of its cheerfully colored screening rooms. With only three screens, it still delivers a variety of programming, from blockbusters and indies to documentaries. And with $6 matinees and family-friendly Wednesday-morning screenings free for children under 4, it’s a great way to catch flicks in a charming venue on a budget. 1822 North Vermont Avenue, Los Angeles
Step back into cinematic history when you catch a flick at this landmark single-screen theater, established in 1923. Enjoy fair ticket prices (purchased at the box office only), ornate Egyptian Revival decor, and “the most legroom in Hollywood.” For max theatrics, line up for an opening midnight showing to see the legendary house manager in full costume. 4473 Sunset Drive, Los Angeles
Housed in the lower floors of the Pellissier Building, the Wiltern’s spacious theater is home to concerts, film screenings, and various live events. The whole experience is dazzling to the eye, from the teal exterior—one of the country’s foremost examples of Art Deco style—to the embellishments in the lobby and the ornate ceiling of the theater itself. The music lineup covers a little bit of everything but skews rock; for general-admission shows, make sure to stake out your spot in the closer sections ahead of time, as they get roped off when they fill up. 3790 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles