The Movie Lover’s Guide to L.A.’s Classic Theaters

Forget the multiplex. Here are some top-notch venues that have history to boot

It’d be enough if Los Angeles was merely the heart of the movie industry but the city is also home to some of the greatest movie palaces and vintage theaters still operating today. Forget the multiplex; the best way to experience cinema is at one of these theatres.

When it opened in 1942, this theater was already a throwback, screening classics like City Lights and Intolerance. Since Cinefamily took it over in 2006 the repertoire has run to classics, cult favorites, indie flicks, works by foreign auteurs, and under-the-radar gems. With a new DCP projector (don’t worry, the venue still screens 35mm prints) the joint packs a punch that’s much larger than its single screen. Be sure to arrive early and grab a couch in the front rows; the cramped wooden seats in the rest of the theater are a drag. 611 N. Fairfax Ave., Los Angeles. 323-655-2510. 

The Egyptian Theater
The American Cinematheque programs the films at this gorgeous Egyptian Revival style theater that opened in 1922 when it was home to Hollywood’s first premiere, Robin Hood starring Douglas Fairbanks. Restored in 1998, the Hollywood landmark features an expansive courtyard complete with faux hieroglyphics, 616 comfortable seats in the main theater, great viewing angles, and an expansive courtyard. It’s a great spot to catch screenings of classic 35mm films, many of which are accompanied by Q&As with the principals. For Westsiders, the American Cinematheque also programs the Aero Theatre in Santa Monica. 6712 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles. (323) 461-2020. 

Hollywood TCL Chinese Theatre
Whether it’s being blown to bits in Iron Man 3 or sitting quietly in the background in Hollywood Homicide, the former Mann’s Chinese (née Grauman’s Chinese) has been featured in dozens of Hollywood films. Dating back to 1927, it’s famous for its courtyard where hundreds of stars have left their hand and shoe prints in concrete. The theater has also played home to countless movie premieres. These days, the Chinese (as it’s still known) mainly screens modern-day blockbusters. Bought by The Creative Life (TCL) in January 2013, the theatre is undergoing seating and screen renovations to accommodate its IMAX conversion. 6925 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles. (323) 465-4847.

New Beverly Cinema
Bought by filmmaker Quentin Tarantino in 2007, the beloved repertory theater continues to show double features of 35mm film prints and run its popular midnight and grindhouse series of films. Featuring an encyclopedic array of films from old time westerns like True Grit to indie films like Swingers to grim foreign fare like Lars Von Trier’s Antichrist, the venue also hosts animated events, celebrity festivals, and has let directors like Edgar Wright program the venue for months at a time. 7165 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles. (323) 938-4038. 

Complete with a Wurlitzer pipe organ that was installed in 1928, the Orpheum Theatre in downtown L.A. now hosts concerts, special events, and, via the popular Last Remaining Seats series, classic movies. 842 Broadway, Los Angeles. (877) 677-4386. 

Art Theatre of Long Beach
Flaunting an Art Deco style and a single screen with giant curtains, the Art Theatre of Long Beach is an architectural dream. Complete with screenings of The Rocky Horror Picture Show every Saturday evening, the theater plays independent, documentary, and foreign language films. 2025 E. 4th St., Long Beach. (562) 438-5435. 

The Cinerama Dome
With its famous marquee, its curved screen, and its dome top that resembles a golf ball, the restored Cinerama Dome, which opened in 1963, is one of only three theaters in the world that shows movies in the three-projector process. Upgraded with a digital projector, the Dome remains the premiere place to catch Cinemascope masterpieces like Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. 6360 W. Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles.

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