No other city is as closely associated with the movies as Los Angeles—the epicenter of the American film industry and the site of gala premieres and award shows watched around the world. It stands to reason, then, that the city would boast some marvelous venues for taking in a matinee (or two)—and it does. This map documents some of the best places in Los Angeles to catch a film, from historic and ornate movie palaces to modern cineplexes perfect for taking in the latest blockbuster.Read More
17 of LA’s most glorious movie theaters
From modern multiplexes to the opulent cinemas of old
TCL Chinese Theatre
Master showman Sid Grauman spared no expense when constructing his one-of-a-kind Chinese Theatre in 1927, importing stone figures, bells, pagodas, and sundry Chinese artifacts to give the venue a sense of extravagant grandeur.
Today, the theatre still plays host to regular red carpet premieres, while drawing countless tourists to its famous forecourt featuring the handprints and footprints of Hollywood icons. Visitors who choose to stay for a showing might be surprised to discover the Chinese still offers a viewing experience that's hard to beat. Renovated in 2013 by new owner TCL, the main screening room now boasts a massive 94-by-46-foot screen and stadium seating, along with all the decorative flourish for which Grauman was known.
For the past decade-and-a-half, ArcLight Hollywood has been providing a comfortable, well-organized, and expensive moviegoing experience. The state-of-the-art chain now has locations around Southern California, but the Hollywood spot is still the place to beat—if only because the experience of seeing a film in the Buckminster Fuller-inspired Cinerama Dome is so difficult to replicate anywhere else. The iconic dome was built in 1963 and was restored by ArcLight in the early 2000s.
The Egyptian Theatre
Sid Grauman’s first theater in Hollywood, the Egyptian, opened in 1922, just a month before the discovery of King Tut’s tomb set off an Egyptian-style craze in art and architecture nationwide (see the Vista). The theater underwent a massive renovation in 1998 and today hosts screenings of classic films and talks by prominent filmmakers and actors.
Historic Broadway theaters
Downtown Los Angeles was once home to a world-renowned row of movie palaces rivaling the great theaters and opera houses of eastern U.S. cities and beyond. Now, several of those venues have been refurbished to their historic splendor. The Los Angeles, Orpheum, Palace, Tower, United Artists (now the Theatre at the Ace Hotel), and Million Dollar theaters are grouped together here simply because films don't play there all that often. Stay alert for news about screenings, because tickets go quickly.
Originally called the Lou Bard Playhouse, the Vista opened in 1923 and was designed by prolific theater architect Lewis A. Smith. The charmingly incongruous building features a Spanish Revival-style exterior and an Ancient Egypt-themed interior (the Los Angeles Conservancy notes that the 1922 discovery of King Tut’s tomb might have inspired a few last minute design changes). With only one screen, the Vista's primary appeals are its historic aesthetic, comparatively low prices, and 35 mm film projector.
You'll find frequent guest speakers and rotating displays of costumes and movie memorabilia at this Westside destination, where movies often play weeks prior to their national release dates. There’s also an attached wine bar that guests are welcome to treat as an upscale concession stand.
Fox Theater, Westwood Village
Opened in 1931, the historic Fox Theater in Westwood Village (now operated as the Regency Village Theatre) is most recognizable for its distinctive tower, built in an unusual blend of Art Deco and Spanish-revival styles. The UCLA-adjacent theatre can seat more than 1,300 in its spacious screening room and frequently hosts red carpet premiere events.
For some moviegoers, the most important question about a theater is: "Does it have weekly screenings of Rocky Horror Picture Show?" At the Nuart, the answer is yes. A magnet for film buffs, the theater dates to 1931 and has been operated by Landmark since the 1970s. Now it screens a mix of independent films and restorations of classics or overlooked features from years past.
Lumiere Music Hall
Beverly Hills was once home to a vibrant theater district where the city’s many celebrity residents could gather to watch themselves on the big screen (the long gone Beverly Theatre played the home movies of matinee idols on opening night). Now, the Music Hall on Wilshire Boulevard is the only theater left that regularly screens films. Operated until November by popular art house chain Laemmle, the theater is now in the hands of a dedicated group of former employees.
El Capitan Theatre
The El Capitan often gets overshadowed by the Chinese Theatre across the street, but this little venue is impressive in its own right. Also opened by Sid Grauman, the theater was designed by Morgan, Walls, and Clements—the firm behind several other LA landmarks, including the Wiltern. It originally served as a live theater venue, but deserves a place on any list of historic movie theaters as the place where Citizen Kane made its world premiere in 1941.
The theater was bought and refurbished by Disney subsidiary Buena Vista Pictures Distribution in the 1990s. Its family-friendly screenings frequently include appearances by costumed characters.
AMC Universal CityWalk 19 (LA)
Universal Citywalk may be catered more for tourists than for locals, but the revamped movie theater there is as good a place as any to see the latest blockbuster. Equipped with state-of-the-art digital projectors, deafening Dolby Atmos sound systems, and pitch black theaters, it’s one of the better venues for a purely escapist moviegoing experience. It’s also surprisingly easy to get to on public transit. Just take the Red Line to the Universal City station and cross Lankershim to get on the free shuttle up to the Citywalk.
New Beverly Cinema
The eclectic rotation of cinema classics, under-appreciated gems, and kitschy exploitation films screened at the newly reopened New Beverly includes a steady diet of Quentin Tarantino flicks. That makes sense, as the filmmaker owns the place (and can be spotted in the audience from time to time).
The Beverly Boulevard building that houses the theater has been around since 1929, but served as a candy store, a nightclub, and a live theater venue before eventually becoming a movie house in the 1950s.
Operated by American Cinematheque, which also manages the Egyptian, the Aero plays a similar mix of restored classics. The theater was developed by the Douglas Aircraft Company as part of a larger commercial development built to serve employees of the company’s Santa Monica factory. It opened in 1940 and was reopened in its current form in 2005.
Paramount Drive-In Theater
A relic of American culture at its most auto-centric, the drive-in concept is weather-dependent, relies on an inefficient sound system, and only works at night. Still, it’s hard to deny the nostalgic charm they possess.
This classic drive-in reopened 2014. The twin screen venue shows two double features every night—rain or shine—and is easily one of the most economical options for viewing first-run features in the LA area. For a more vintage feel, check out the Vineland Drive-in in City of Industry, which has been operating for more than six decades.
For a mix of edgy avant garde films, cult classics, and festival fare, check out the Downtown Independent. Housed in an architecturally striking building in the heart of Downtown LA, the theater was constructed on the footprint of a 1920s movie house and still retains some of the older theater’s original walls.
Regency Academy Cinemas
LA has some great theaters, but most aren’t cheap, and sometimes it pays to wait a bit for new releases to hit this low-key second-run theater in Pasadena. Built in 1925, the Academy was designed by Vista architect Lewis A. Smith with an Egyptian theme. Remodeled several times since then, it now has a bland strip mall-style facade, but a few older details can still be spotted on the interior. Plus, the tickets are $3.50 for an evening show.
Alamo Drafthouse Cinema Downtown Los Angeles
Texas-based movie theater chain Alamo Drafthouse opened a long-awaited Downtown LA outpost earlier this year. Already the venue is one of the very best places to do dinner and a movie at the same time. From the theater’s comfortable seats, you can place food and drink orders that waiters will unobtrusively bring to you during the film.
For those in search of a more interactive moviegoing experience, the theater also hots special screenings at which costumes and “rowdy” behavior are encouraged.