However, no 5.1 sound system can replace a wildly enthusiastic 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.
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 (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 isn't that bad) 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.
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. 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.
On a busy weekend, you'll see stars not just on the screen, but probably in the seat next to you. If you care about celebrity spotting, this is your place.
The architecture is breathtaking and upon entering the lobby you'll discover the best part – the vibe. You'll feel as if you've gotten behind the velvet ropes of the hottest club and entered movie paradise. It's that cool.
For more information, visit www.arclightcinemas.com.
MANN'S CHINESE THEATER
6925 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood (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.
The screen for the main theater is enormous and considering that films like Star Wars opened there, it's no wonder that the Chinese has become something of a pilgrimage for movie maniacs all over the world.
And don't forget that the Mann Chinese 6, a notable multiplex, is located just upstairs from the classic.
For more information, visit www.manntheatres.com/chinese.
PACIFIC VINELAND DRIVE-IN
443 N. Vineland Ave., City of Industry (626) 961-9262
It's like tailgating with movies! The only drive-in left in Southern California boasts four screens of entertainment showing two movies each. Best yet, it's very affordable as tickets are only $7 each, and that's 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 you're 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.
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.
LAEMMLE'S SUNSET 5
8000 Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood (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 Drive, Los Angeles (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 you'd like.
For more information, visit www.thegrovela.com.
MANN VILLAGE THEATRE
961 Broxton Ave., Westwood (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., Hollywood (323) 467-7674
Owned by Disney, you'll 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.
No theater in L.A. has a curtain that opens quite as fabulously as this one –those sparkles will blind you. Many film props are on display as this is where Disney holds all of their red carpet premieres.
For more information, visit disney.go.com/disneypictures/el_capitan.EGYPTIAN THEATRE
6712 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood (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. The venue feels as if one has entered a palace from another time adding a magical ambience one won't find anywhere else.
For more information, visit www.americancinematheque.com.
LAEMMLE'S PLAYHOUSE 7
673 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena (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, it's a brisk walk to Old Town to experience the nightlife there with some of the best bars and restaurants just outside of L.A.
For more information, visit www.laemmle.com .VISTA
4473 Sunset Drive, Los Angeles (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.