In fact, a home theater is something even the average family can realistically afford. However, no 5.1 sound system, theater-buttered popcorn or authentic theater seats can replace a wildly enthusiastic (yet respectful) audience. It is the audience itself that makes the difference sharing the thrills, the cheers and the tears with hundreds of strangers in a communal experience that is totally unique.
So it should surprise no one that L.A. and its surrounding areas are home to some of the best movie theaters in the country. The following recommendations provide not only state-of-the-art projection and sound, but also an indefinable mystique that make them the best places to go see a movie.
6360 Sunset Blvd., Hollywood, 90028 (323) 464-4226
The ArcLight is a church where film fanatics come to worship. This theater may have been designed for film snobs, but it comes without the elitism one would expect just higher ticket prices to keep out the riff-raff. ($14 bucks, which isnt that bad.) And if you get your ArcLight card, your loyalty will earn free tickets and popcorn, balancing out the higher prices.
The ArcLight is home to the Cinerama Dome, one of the largest screens in the city. In addition to superior projection and sound, the seating is assigned which means you can show up one minute before the lights dim and still have the best seat in the house even on a crowded Saturday night.
I recommend showing up early, buying your tickets in advance, then grabbing drinks, dinner or appetizers in the restaurant located in the theater your waiter will even take note of your screening time and get you to the movie without missing the trailers. Best yet, look for films playing at the "Black Box" theater this screen is ages 21 and over only and features a full bar so you can see your favorites with your favorite adult beverage without having to sneak in the liquor.
The ArcLight store contains the best of pop culture kitsch from books, T-shirts, magazines and plenty of non-essentials to complete your gift-giving list. Across from the indoor store youll see prop or costume displays for films currently playing, so you can marvel at original costumes and weaponry right up close.
This is also the theater where filmmakers and celebrities of all kinds come to see films their own and those of their peers. On a busy weekend, youll see stars not just on the screen, but probably in the seat next to you. So if you care about celebrity spotting, this is your place.
The architecture is breathtaking and upon entering the lobby youll discover the best part the vibe. Youll feel as if youve gotten behind the velvet ropes of the hottest club and entered movie paradise. Its that cool.
For more information, visit www.arclightcinemas.com.
MANNS CHINESE THEATER
6925 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood, 90028 (323) 464-8111
The Chinese is a classic venue that is firmly a part of Hollywood history. Not just a movie theater, but a major tourist attraction with the hands and feet of major stars forever preserved in cement outside the venue. Where else can you compare your shoe size to that of Jack Nicholson or Darth Vader?
The screen for the main theater is enormous and considering that films like Star Wars opened there on May 25, 1977, its no wonder that the Chinese has become something of a pilgrimage for movie maniacs all over the world.
And dont forget, that the Mann Chinese 6, a notable multiplex, located just upstairs from the classic.
For more information, visit www.manntheatres.com/chinese.
Pacific Vineland Drive-In
443 N. Vineland, City of Industry, 91715 (626) 961-9262
Its like tailgating with movies! The only drive-in left in Southern California boasts four screens of entertainment showing two movies each. Best yet, its very affordable as tickets are only $7 each, and thats for two films. (Kids under 12 are free.)
On weekends each screen has three showings, repeating the first film in the third slot (for example, shows are 8 p.m., 10 p.m. and midnight), so if youre smart, you can see three films for dirt cheap! Bring in your own refreshments and save a bundle, and you can fill that cooler with whatever you want. (I like beer myself. Uh, light beer.)
For old times sake, sneak a friend in for free as he hides in the trunk. Make it a party by bringing all your tailgating supplies and dont forget the lawn chairs with those convenient cup holders. The drive-in experience is quickly becoming lost to a generation, so you owe it to yourself to visit the Vineland.
For more information, visit www.pacifictheatres.com.
LAEMMLES SUNSET 5
8000 Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood, 90046 (323) 848-3500
This art-house venue screens films you would not see at any other theater. Films in limited release or hot off the festival circuit find a home at the Sunset 5.
The filmmakers themselves will often attend the screenings, engaging in impromptu question and answer sessions. Once the film is over, you can enjoy all that Sunset Boulevard has to offer, and best yet, your parking is already validated.
For more information, visit www.laemmle.com.
PACIFIC THEATRES AT THE GROVE
189 The Grove Dr., Los Angeles, 90036 (323) 692-0829
A gorgeous theater with stadium seating throughout, located in a trendy outdoor shopping mall that even has a Mac store. Grab a bite at any of the fine restaurants before catching a film and you might even get to enjoy a free concert in the courtyard just outside the theater.
The Grove also has something unique self serve refreshments making lines move faster and you can fill up your drinks as much as youd like.
For more information, visit www.thegrovela.com.
MANN VILLAGE THEATRE
961 Broxton Ave., Los Angeles, 90024 (310) 208-5576
The Village is set to become a future piece of entertainment industry history as the venue plays host to some of the biggest red carpet premieres in Hollywood. (However, this theater is technically located in Westwood.)
A Saturday night screening at the Village attracts a dedicated audience of film freaks, so much so that the studios will use the venue as a place to test out reactions to new movie trailers. The enormous screen will have you looking for a seat in the balcony just to take it all in.
For more information, visit www.manntheatres.com.
6838 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles CA 90028 (323) 467-7674
Owned by Disney, youll see all the latest releases here from the Mouse presented in a classic movie theater setting. Ticket prices are a little higher here, but worth it for the pre-show organ extravaganza be sure to show up early so you dont miss this musical treat. And no theater in LA has a curtain that opens quite as fabulously as this one those sparkles will blind you.
Many props from the film are on display as this is where Disney holds all of their red carpet premieres. Afterwards you can visit the Disney store for the latest hard-to-find merchandise. Some films are even accompanied by interactive displays designed for kids to experience aspects of the film theyve just seen live. These are hosted right next door and sometimes require a separate admission fee.
For more information, visit disney.go.com/disneypictures/el_capitan.
6712 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood, 90028 (323) 466-3456
This completely restored classic theater from old Hollywood is home to the American Cinematheque a program of unique independent films, foreign cinema and the best from film festivals. Many of the programs include conversations with world-renowned filmmakers themselves, even George Lucas spoke there.
The venue feels as if one has entered a palace from another time adding a magical ambience one wont find anywhere else.
For more information, visit www.americancinematheque.com.
LAEMMLES PLAYHOUSE 7
673 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena, 91101 (626) 844-6500
Art house film buffs have seven screens to choose from offering the latest in highbrow cinema. Grab a coffee in the lobby and prepare to see films that are hard to find at any other theater. Located on Colorado Boulevard in Pasadena, its a brisk walk to old town to experience the nightlife there with some of the best bars and restaurants just outside of LA.
For more information, visit www.laemmle.com.
4473 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles, 90027 (323) 660-6639
Another classic theater that, while in need of restoration, retains all its former glory in remaining unchanged. This is how they used to screen films in the golden age of movies and you can experience it today, just as audiences did back then.
Located in the Los Feliz area, the Vista is a short walk to bars and restaurants like the famous Dresden Room, seen in the film Swingers with Jon Favreau.
STATE-OF-THE-ART THEATERS WITH STADIUM SEATING
PACIFIC PASEO STADIUM 14
336 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena, 91101 (626) 568-8888
Enjoy great restaurants and nightlife at this multiplex located in a cozy outdoor mall just minutes from Old Town Pasadena.
LOEWS UNIVERSAL CITYWALK CINEMAS
100 Universal City Plaza, Universal City, 91608 (818) 508-0711
Be sure to get your parking validated for a discount, see a movie, then enjoy Citywalk with its cavalcade of bars, restaurants and shops.
MAGIC JOHNSON THEATRES 15
4020 Marlton Ave., Los Angeles, 90008 (323) 290-5900
An all-around fantastic movie-going experience from NBA legend Magic.
EDWARDS RENAISSANCE STADIUM 14
1 East Main St., Alhambra, 91801 (626) 300-8312
Every seat is a great one at this stadium seating multiplex.
11272 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, 90025 (310) 281-8223
This old standby has healthy treats along with the best from the festival circuit.
1023 Fair Oaks Ave., South Pasadena, 91030 (626) 388-2122
Keep an eye on their schedule for an impressive retrospective program and midnight movies like the original Planet of the Apes.
614 N. La Brea, Los Angeles, 90036 (323) 934-2944
This single screen venue focuses on the basics bringing the best of the art house circuit to an appreciative audience.
GET AN EYEFUL IN IMAX
LOEWS CINEPLEX UNIVERSAL STUDIOS IMAX
100 Universal City Plaza, Universal City, 91608 (818) 508-0588
Its not just a movie, its a ride at this IMAX theater located at Universal Citywalk.
OTHER THEATERS WORTH THE TRIP
948 Broxton Ave., Westwood, 90024 (310) 208-8998
Okay, this is the Bruin Theater, so, if youre a Bruin, youre going to feel right at home.
AMC BURBANK TOWN CENTER 8
201 E. Magnolia Blvd., #345, Burbank, 91501(310) 289-4AMC
Located in the heart of downtown Burbank near the media center, if its too crowded, just look for the sister-theater around the corner.
MANN NATIONAL THEATRE
10925 Lindbrook Dr., Los Angeles, 90024 (310) 208-4366
While theres no stadium seating, this giant screen one of the biggest in L.A. makes it worth the trip.
CHRIS GORES GARAGE
By invitation only.
Yes, I have an amazing set up in my garage. But tickets come at a steep price you have to be a friend of mine.