The Best Underrated Movie Theaters In Los Angeles
Los Angeles is the birthplace of Hollywood, and it only stands to reason that we have more than our fair share of luxury multiplexes and repertory houses playing all the classics. But where does one turn to if Cinefamily or the New Beverly is too far out of the way, or if you're looking for something a little more adventurous to watch on the big screen? Here, we've listed some of the more under-the-radar theaters in Los Angeles that may have escaped your attention. Make a night in with Netflix a last resort with one of these theaters that you probably haven't been to.
If you happen to find yourself on Catalina Island for a weekend, be sure to drop by the Catalina Casino for a movie inside its grand 1,184-seat movie palace. You can even catch a live performance of its original theater organ every Friday and Saturday night—the performances take place an hour before the feature starts. Enjoy the music while you soak in the ambiance from the original Art Deco murals by John Gabriel Beckman. Despite its trappings, the Avalon Theatre is a first-run theater, so you'll still be able to catch the latest Hollywood blockbuster while you're away from the mainland.
The Avalon Theatre is located inside Catalina Casino at 1 Casino Way, Avalon on Catalina Island. (310) 510-0179.
LAEMMLE NOHO 7
Whereas every sophisticated cinephile in Los Angeles has schlepped to West L.A.'s Laemmle Royal at least once for a critically-acclaimed arthouse or foreign film, Laemmle's North Hollywood theater offers something for everyone. Right in the heart of North Hollywood's Arts District, the NoHo 7 screens a mix of both the latest Hollywood blockbusters and Laemmle's typical arthouse fare—all in the unpretentious trappings of a multiplex complete with comfy seats. Once in a while the NoHo 7 will even get an exclusive engagement of the latest must-see indie, and on Thursdays the theater hosts Throwback Thursdays, screening gems from the past. Located just two blocks from a Red Line station, you can easily make it a night at the NoHo 7—there are several food and drink options within walking distance.
Laemmle NoHo 7 is located at 5240 Lankershim Blvd. in North Hollywood's Arts District. (310) 478-3836.
BILLY WILDER THEATER
As much as we love what the American Cinematheque, the Cinefamily and the New Bev are doing, the UCLA Film & Television Archive has the best repertory programming in Los Angeles. Not beholden to playing crowd favorites, it's the next best education after going to film school at UCLA. Every academic quarter at the Hammer Museum's Billy Wilder Theater, the Archive boasts programming that can include comprehensive career retrospectives and primers on neglected genres or important cinematic movements, and every other year they host the Festival of Preservation, which showcases restorations of rare and forgotten films of the past. Along with the Egyptian Theatre, it's also one of the only theaters in L.A. that's equipped to showcase vibrate nitrate prints. And with stadium seating (and plush pink chairs), there's no such thing as bad seat in the house. (The Hammer Museum occasionally hosts their own screenings inside the Billy Wilder.)
The Billy Wilder Theater is located inside the Hammer Museum in Westwood at 10899 Wilshire Blvd. (310) 206-8013. For information on screenings, check the UCLA Film & Television Archive schedule or the Hammer Museum's schedule.
SPIELBERG THEATRE AT THE EGYPTIAN
Right within Hollywood's Egyptian Theatre is the more intimate space (seating only 77) that serves as the home base for Los Angeles Filmforum, Southern California's longest-running organization dedicated to programming experimental films. In contrast to the usual classics programmed by American Cinematheque that play on the Egyptian's main screen, the Los Angeles Filmforum's programming consists of avant-garde works of the past and the present that challenge our perceptions of cinema. In addition to L.A. Filmforum, the Spielberg also serves as the venue for American Cinematheque's silent film programming and their Cinematic Void series.
The Spielberg Theatre is located inside the Egyptian Theatre at 6712 Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood. (323) 461-2020. Los Angeles Filmforum events are usually in the Spielberg, but check their site and schedule for any occasional venue changes.
ECHO PARK FILM CENTER
It's not the most comfortable theater, but the Echo Park Film Center's 60-seat "microcinema" also doubles as a community-centered classroom for budding voices. When they're not screening guest-curated programs of activist and experimental short films, the Echo Park Film Center provides classes and workshops where one can learn how to develop film or shoot a documentary film (free for teenagers and seniors). They even provide equipment rentals for filmmakers, and a vast lending library of both movies and how-to guides.
Echo Park Film Center is located at 1200 N. Alvarado St. in Echo Park. (213) 484-8846. Check website for screening schedule and information on classes.
OLD TOWN MUSIC HALL
While the aforementioned Avalon Theatre and Disney's El Capitan Theatre both have regular performances on their own theater organs, it's likely that neither gets as much mileage as the Mighty Wurlitzer at El Segundo's Old Town Music Hall. Every show starts with live music and an audience singalong, and their screening lineup—which goes as late as the Golden Age of Hollywood—sometimes features silents that include live musical accompaniment. To top it all off, the theater's schedule also includes live concerts that put the Wurlitzer to good use. This century-old movie palace is a South Bay gem.
The Old Town Music Hall is located at 140 Richmond St. in El Segundo. (310) 322-2592.
South Korean cinema has been riding the hallyu for a while now, and the only place in Los Angeles to catch all the biggest Korean films is naturally in Koreatown. The CGV Cinemas is one of two local outposts of the Korean chain (the other is in Buena Park), but it aims to serve everyone: Korean films are provided with English subtitles, and American films are provided with Korean subtitles. Not only that, CGV Cinemas is also the only theater equipped with ScreenX, which provides up to 270 degrees of vision, creating an overwhelming immersive experience. But the best part of catching a movie at CGV in Koreatown? You're not starved for local dining options before or after the movie.
CGV Cinemas is located at 621 S. Western Ave. in Koreatown. (213) 388-9000.
Until the Alamo Drafthouse finally opens next year, you're starved for options downtown beyond the multiplex at L.A. Live and Cinespia's one-night-only screenings in one of the movie palaces. But, luckily, there's the Downtown Independent—situated just next door to The Smell—providing a place for indie films so small they wouldn't screen anywhere else. It's also the primary site for Acropolis Cinema, a screening series by critic Jordan Cronk that seeks to bring the most daring world cinema to Los Angeles, as well as the home to the first (and hopefully not the last) Locarno in Los Angeles.
Downtown Independent is located at 251 S. Main St. in downtown Los Angeles. (213) 617-1033.
Northeast Los Angeles isn't much of a hub for cinephilia, but thankfully there's Highland Park's Veggie Cloud. Part repertory film and part art lecture series, Veggie Cloud is programmed by writer Kate Wolf and filmmaker Courtney Stephens. Their programming is about as eclectic as it gets: from arthouse classics to shorts programs centered on themes like the city of Los Angeles or fembots. While many of their events take place at their home base in Highland Park, keep an eye on their schedule for collaborations with other art institutions around town that may take them off-site.
Veggie Cloud is located at 5210 Monte Vista St. in Highland Park.
Literally in the shadow of the Egyptian Theater, the Arena Cinelounge provides a venue right in the heart of Hollywood for the mico-indies that Hollywood probably didn't even know existed. The theater itself doesn't even seat 100, but if you're one of the lucky few who decided to take a chance with the Arena's latest offerings, you might be able to witness an emerging talent who's about to move up to gracing one of the bigger screens in town.
Arena Cinelounge is located at 1625 N. Las Palmas Ave. in Hollywood. (323) 306-0676.
THE ART THEATRE
Good arthouse cinema rarely makes its way south of the 10 freeway, much less the 105 freeway. But the Art Theatre in Long Beach serves out the latest and the best arthouse releases, all within the confines of a beautifully restored Art Deco movie theatre built in 1925. If you're a "Shadow Caster" and West L.A.'s Nuart is too far of a drive, the Art screens The Rocky Horror Picture Show every Saturday at midnight.
The Art Theatre is located 2025 E. 4th St. in Long Beach. (562) 438-5435.
Tucked away in the back of the Walt Disney Concert Hall and across the street from The Broad, CalArts' REDCAT is a multi-purpose theater that hosts some of the boldest programs and events right in the arts center of Los Angeles. In addition to dance and music performances, REDCAT also regularly screens the latest and most challenging works from the biggest names in experimental/avant-garde film and video art. The seats aren't too comfy, but make sure you sit right at the front.
REDCAT is located in the Walt Disney Concert Hall complex at 631 W. 2nd St. in downtown. (213) 237-2800.
SAMUEL GOLDWYN THEATER / LINWOOD DUNN THEATER
Who knows when the Academy's museum will actually get finished, but until then they'll continue to host screenings in their current venues at both the Samuel Goldwyn and Linwood Dunn theaters. Both are luxurious and state-of-the-art places to catch a film—as you'd expect from The Academy. Marquee events are typically held at the much larger Goldwyn Theater, while the more niche and academic screenings are reserved for the more modest Linwood Dunn theater in their archive complex, the Pickford Center in Hollywood. The programs don't happen often, but keep an eye out for them on the Academy website—they're always great, never cost more than $5 a ticket, and usually sell out fast.
The Samuel Goldwyn Theater is located at 8949 Wilshire Blvd. in Beverly Hills. (310) 247-3000. The Linwood Dunn Theater is located inside the Pickford Center for Motion Picture Study at 1313 Vine St. in Hollywood. (310) 247-3000. Check the Academy website for event listings and information.
THE FRIDA CINEMA
It's in Orange County, so it's not an L.A. joint. But The Frida Cinema in Santa Ana is still worth a mention because it's both a first-run arthouse theater and a repertory cinema in a place that's devoid of both. Once a month they host rooftop screenings on top of their own neighborhood parking structure. If you're stuck behind the "Orange Curtain," you don't have to fret about missing some of those cool screenings all the way up in Los Angeles.
The Frida Cinema is located at 305 E. 4th St. in Santa Ana. (714) 285-9422.
FAMOUS PLAYERS ORCHESTRA
A church in Burbank might be the last place you'd expect to see a movie, but once in a while it hosts a must-see event for any cinephile in L.A. While projecting silent films on 35mm from a hand-cranked projector, the Famous Players Orchestra provides the musical accompaniment, giving you the closest experience to what it was like to go out to the movies during the heyday of the silent era. Forget seeing movies at a cemetery in Hollywood—this is the most unique moviegoing experience in Los Angeles.
Famous Players Orchestra holds their events at the Christ Lutheran Church at 2400 W. Burbank Blvd. in Burbank. Check the Famous Players Orchestra site for their event schedule.
Carman Tse is a diehard Giants fan living in Los Angeles as well as a freelance arts and culture writer and former editor-in-chief at LAist. Follow him on Twitter at @CarmanTse.