It Happened This Week in L.A. History: Silver Screen Thrills


November 21, 1983

Michael Jackson premieres his iconic 14-minute video for Thriller in a Westwood theater for a week to qualify for the Oscars. The film, directed by John Landis of An American Werewolf in London fame, opened for Disney’s Fantasia. Landis’ 1981 film was the main inspiration for the video, which was filmed throughout L.A. and at the Palace Theatre downtown. The famous zombie dance sequence by “Beat It” choreographer Michael Peters took place at the junction of Union Pacific Avenue and South Calzona Street in East L.A. The final house scene, co-starring Playboy playmate Ola Ray, was filmed at 1345 Carroll Avenue in the Angelino Heights neighborhood of Echo Park.

Thriller was the final video to be released from the best-selling album of the same name, and it went on to become one of the most successful videos of all time, garnering two Grammy Awards and three MTV Video Music Awards. In 2006 it was listed as the most successful music video by Guinness World Records after it sold over nine million copies. It is also the first music video ever added to the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress.

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