Index Silver Screens
Greater Los Angeles
This section is big, and has been cut into two parts to reduce download time.
I guess Californians will be able to spot mistakes, and maybe some of them would like to add some comments; don't hesitate to write.
Photographic credits at the bottom of this page.
Los Angeles has always excited European moviegoers' imagination; at least, for those of us who enjoy American movies. The city's name sounds like Hollywood, the stars, Beverly Hills and its incredible mansions... Reality is a bit more contrasted.
Los Angeles is a megalopis; it is the second most populated city in the USA. Greater L.A. is huge, about ten million people live there. Mass transportation is not very developed, and a thick network of freeways takes you wherever you want, often through traffic jams.
Downtown Los Angeles attracts few tourists.On Broadway, many huge and luxurious palaces were built in the 20's. It is now a hispanic neighborhood, and most of the large movie theaters closed down gradually since 1985, but their fronts suffered few changes, and remain the witness of a glorious past. Of all this cinemas, only the Orpheum, a beautiful 2,200-seat-theater built in 1926, survived; it still plays double bills, sometimes subtitled in Spanish.
The Orpheum, last palace still open downtown
Others had prestigious names, such as the "Palace Theatre" (which opened in 1991 as the first "Orpheum" on Broadway, 2,200 seats), the "Million Dollar Theater" (1917, 2345 seats), first palace builtt by the famous Sid Grauman, the "Rialto" (1917), the State (1921, 2,450 seats), the "United Artists" (1927), the "Tower" (1927), which hosted the world premiere of the first talking movie The Jazz Singer the "Los Angeles" (1931, 2,200 seats), the "Roxy" (1932, 1,600 seats).
The Palace (higher) and the Los Angeles (lower)
Above, the Million Dollar Theater (left) and the State (right); below, the Magic Johnson Theatre
This theaters will host the world's most prestigious premieres, but this will change when new theaters will open on Hollywood Boulevard. Not far away, the four-screen-"Laemmle's Grande" still play art movies. And in the heart of a poor black area, Magic Johnson opened a brand new "Magic Johnson Theatre", a twelve-screen-multiplex (fifteen screens today, and followed by another multiplex in Atlanta).
The Magic Johnson Theatre
Hollywood Boulevard often is a major disappointment for European tourists. The famous avenue lost most of its glamor, and visitors don't feel safe all the time. Most of its movie theaters are closed down, or switch from first-run movies to action or erotic movies. Some beautiful theaters are still open to the public.
Mann Chinese Theatre
Since its opening on May 18, 1927 (with "The King Of Kings", from Cecil B.DeMille), the theater didn't change a lot. It has often been used for prestigious world premieres. The front is huge. The whole place is decorated like a Chinese temple. All day, dozens of tourists admire the stars' hand and footprints, looking for their favorite actors, comparing shoe sizes, and taking photos.
Inside, the decoration is luxurious. The auditorium can accomodate nearly 1,500 viewers on one level. The screen is slightly curved and is about 80 feet wide. 70mm movies can be played. The sound is almost prefect, the auditorium is equipped with SRD, DTS and SDDS, and it also has the THX label. Two smaller auditoriums were added in 1979; each has 750 seats, and THX sound! At the end of 1998, the two small auditoriums were closed to be divided into smaller ones. For the traveller who loves beautiful theaters, the Chinese Theatre is a must-see.
Paramount / El Capitan
Almost right across the Chinese Theatre is the "El Capitan", which can also accomodate nearly 1,500 viewers, with a balcony. It opened May 3, 1926. Paramount Studios bought it in 1942 and renamed it "Paramount". In the sixties, the extravagant decoration became much more sober.
In 1991, Disney took over the theater and gave it back its original name and a luxurious decoration. Disney movies are played in the theater. It closed down shortly at the end of 1998, before re-opening with "A Bug's Life"; in the adjacent building, attractions based on the movie awaited viewers.
The Egyptian nearly disappeared. This 1,300-seat palace opened in 1922. It closed down in the 90's and was in a very neglected state, until the American Cinematheque took it over in 1996. It will re-open after complete remodelling. The concrete front was demolished, and the front now looks what it did when the theater opened. This should give some fresh air to the neighborhood, which badly needs it.
This Renaissance-styled palace, inaugurated in 1928 under the name of "Warner", was not that lucky. This huge theater was triplexed in the 60's, with a larger auditorium of 1,300 seats, and two smaller ones of 500 seats each. It is now closed.
Built in 1929, this theater belonged to Howard Hughes. Between 1949 and 1959, it hosted the Academy awards. It is now a performance theater which presents musicals and concerts.
Not far from the other theaters, but on Sunset Boulevards, the Cinerama Dome plays first-run movies in its 900-seat auditorium; the screen, designed for Cinerama, is very curved.
General Cinema Galaxie
The newest one. This brand new six-screen movie theater mostly plays movies that were played at the nearby Chinese Theater, or movies that did not find their way to the palaces. It offers digital sound (mostly DTS) and THX, but not in every auditorium.
The Fox (650 seats, left below) and the Vogue (800 seats, right) are closed, while the Vine (bottom) still plays double-bills.
Near the famous UCLA, "Westwood Village" is a haven to pedestrians, and it also is a great place for moviegoers. Like Hollywood Boulevard, it kept its old palaces, which play first-run movies, in excellent conditions. If you enjoy large single auditoriums and THX sound, you will love Westwood. And after the movie, it is hard to choose from the numerous bars and restaurants.
While entering the center of Westwood, we can see the white tower of that beautiful theater. Recently, the large single auditorium could accomodate more than 1,500 viewers. But the theater was fully remodelled; comfort was improved, the space between seats widened, and it now has 1,300 seats on two levels. The Village is very luxurious; it has marble ground, and a purple screen curtain.
The screen is about 65 ft wide. The equipment is defaultless: 70mm, THX, SRD, DTS and SDDS. Major movies are played in this theater, which also hosts numerous premieres.
The beige building looks gloomy, even though the glass surface makes it look a little bit better, but this is one of the largest auditoriums in Westwood: the orchestra and the balcony can accomodate more than 1,100 viewers, who will enjoy movies on the 60 ft wide screen, with digital sound and THX.
General Cinema Avco
As a symbol of all the bad things the 70's made to moviegoers, the building is one of the ugliest. But it is much nicer inside. The three auditoriums offer 1,100, 700 and 400 seats. They have stadium seatings, the screens are rather big, there is digital sound, and the THX label for the two largest auditoriums.
Right across the Village, the Bruin is a bit smaller: 800 seats, a 50 ft screen, and of course digital sound (SRD, DTS and SDDS) and THX label. This theater has been recently renovated, and the same materials were used as for the Village.
The front is unremarkable, and the Regent is more reasonably sized than the others (400 seats and a 35ft screen).
With its four auditoriums, the Westwood is the only multi-screen theater in the center of the Village. Sizes are average (250 to 300 seats in each auditorium); so is the sound equipment (Dolby Stereo). It usually plays movies coming from larger theaters.
The front and marquee of the Crest are remarkably beautiful. And the inside is nice too: 700 seats, a 50 ft screen, digital sound and THX (and even 70mm). The wall has some bright decoration, that is turned off when the movie starts.
The Festival is hard too miss, because its colors are very bright. Formerly named "Egyptian" when it was owned by United Artists, this 560 seat theater has a balcony, and it offers THX and digital sound.
United Artists Coronet
The outside decoration is unremarkable, but the Coronet has three auditoriums (two of 500 seats, one of 200 seats), all equipped with digital sound and THX.
Universal City is famous for the Studios Universal, which opened their doors to the public, to become one of the main amusement parks in the country. In 1987, the Canadian company opened a state of the art eighteen-screen 6000-seat multiplex. As of the opening, the equipment was remarkable: all auditoriums are equipped with Dolby Stereo, fourteen of them have THX label. On the first level are theaters 1 through 14, located symmetrically (theaters 1 and 14 are identical, so are theaters 2 and 13...), all with THX. Theaters 1 and 14 are the largest, with 800 seats each, on the main floor and the balcony, but the screens are only 30 ft wide, and are too high to allow comfortable viewing. Theaters 2 through 13 are medium sized (250 to 350 seats), and "1.85" decent screens. On the second floor are located the smallest auditoriums, theaters 15 through 18, with 200 seats each. The lobby is huge. Even though I was disappointed in the two largest auditoriums, the cinema was one of the more encouraging attempts to renew the concept of multiple screen theaters. Let's not forget that at this time, THX theaters were few in our Paris, France (well, this is even worse today...) Since then, the complex had to compete with newer and larger multiplexes, and during remodelling, it got larger screens. There is still THX, but also digital sound (mainly DTS, because of Universal, and some SDDS). Major movies are played in several auditoriums (up to eight!), with success, because of huges grosses and full auditoriums. The complex, located near a new Hard Rock Cafe, is now the starting point of "Universal City Walk", a car-free street, recently built, with numerous shops, bars and restaurants, crowded on week-end nights, leading to the studios.
Photographic credits :
- Downtown palaces, front: GMR Theater Tour
- Downtown palaces, inside; "El Capitan", inside and marquee: Robert Berger / Anne Conser -
The Last Remaining Seats : Movie Palaces Of Tinseltown (get this book if you can, it is beautiful)
- Magic Johnson Theatre: their web site
- Chinese Theatre, inside: Mann Chinese Theatre's souvenir brochure; color pictures by Walman Photography.
- Chinese Theatre, top right, by Don Ceppi.
- All other pictures: Silver Screens © 1999.