If you’re a movie fan, you owe it to yourself to go beyond Hollywood’s tacky souvenir shops and costumed impersonators willing to have their picture taken with you for a price. Yes, the TCL Chinese Theatre is magnificent, and its forecourt of stars’ handprints and footprints is worth a visit, but go deeper into Los Angeles if you want to find the city’s real film hotspots.
Hollywood has become synonymous with the movies, describing both the L.A. neighborhood where the film industry was once centered, and the industry itself, which is now spread out through the region — as are sites of interest to the true film fanatic.
A guest is seen at the Oscars Experience during the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures opening event
It was once lamented that Los Angeles had no central location celebrating the movies but now there is one: the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, which opened last fall.
Years in the making, the museum is housed in a beautiful, converted department store. It offers both permanent and rotating exhibitions on the history of film, the work of various creators, iconic props (the ruby slippers! Rosebud!), and more. You can even film yourself accepting an Oscar, and there’s a gift shop and a lovely restaurant called Fanny’s. There are also two theaters adjacent to the museum, and they host screenings, often with guest speakers, and other programs.
Cecil B. DeMille (hand on hip) directing one of his early motion pictures
You need advance reservations to visit the museum, and there are separate tickets for the screenings and other theater events. (academymuseum.org)
Another L.A. museum of note for film lovers is the Autry Museum of the American Westin gorgeous Griffith Park. It has a great exhibit on Western movies, along with huge collections of Western art and historical artifacts. The Autry also hosts film screenings and other events. (theautry.org)
Rock Hudson at the now defunct Finlandia Baths in Hollywood
Then there’s the Hollywood Heritage Museum at the Lasky-DeMille Barn. The barn was a studio used by filmmakers such as Jesse Lasky, Samuel Goldwyn, and Cecil B. DeMille in the early 20th century. It displays a variety of fascinating film objects and holds special events as well. (hollywoodheritage.org)
Inside the TCL Chinese Theatre, which hosted premieres for Star Wars, Wizard of Oz, and Breakfast at Tiffany’s to name a few
There’s no place like Los Angeles to see movies. Forget the multiplexes; in addition to the venues already listed, the area has many theaters that show vintage and foreign films, plus some new ones, often featuring discussions with filmmakers and stars (or their descendants) or scholars.
The American Cinematheque shows an ever-changing variety of films at the Aero Theatre in Santa Monica and the Los Feliz 3. (americancinematheque.com) The New Beverly, owned by Quentin Tarantino, likewise offers different films almost every day. (thenewbev.com) Landmark’s Nuart is one of L.A.’s top art-house theaters. (landmarktheatres.com)
Glamour queens Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell, making their imprint on the walk of fame in front of the Chinese Theatre, after working together in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes
And don’t forget the festivals! L.A. hosts a wealth of them, including Outfest and Outfest Fusion for LGBTQ+ films (outfest.org), DTLA Film Festival (dtlaff.com), Asian World Film Festival (asianworldfilmfest.org), Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival(laliff.org), the Pan African Film and Arts Festival (paff.org), and the crown jewel for lovers of old Hollywood, the TCM Classic Film Festival, scheduled to be held in person April 21-24 after two years of being virtual due to the pandemic. (filmfestival.tcm.com)