Los Angeles has the best movie theaters in the entire country. Perhaps it’s because Hell A is the artery through which all of “The Industry” must pass; perhaps it’s the overabundance of set designers and over-the-top-producers in the area. Whatever the reason, it makes for a superfine moviegoing experience. Check out our top list of places to catch a flick, then rehash scene by scene over dinner.
1. Arclight + El Compadre Arclight brings the hammer down on the rest of the wanna-be theaters in the Los Angeles arena. The train-station lobby tickertapes film selections — though you won’t have to bother waiting in line, or even showing up early, because seats are individually reserved and purchased online.
The cavernous theaters are built out with stadium-style seats that rock back and forth for maximum cruise control. The best feature, however, is the “21+ Showings” that run Thursday through Sunday nights, where you can get wasted while you catch the show. Go ahead and pregame at the upstairs bar. Make your stop at El Compadre after the show because the wait, though worth it, is horrendous.
2. The Egyptian + Café Des Artistes The Grauman before the Chinese, the Egyptian holds the honor for hosting the first-ever movie premier, held in 1922. Sold for a song (and $1), American Cinematheque renovated the aging Art Deco beauty in 1998. Two screenings at once, one large, one small. Go for the ambiance, stay for the film selections. Keep the romance alive and get fireside after your film at Café Des Artistes.
3. Grauman’s Chinese Theater + Geisha House A list of movie theaters isn’t complete without the iconic Grauman’s Chinese Theater. This powerhouse sits on busy Hollywood Boulevard, surrounded by handprinted concrete, Pretty Woman references, and men in tights. It’s razzle dazzle at its best. Skip the rest of the Hollywood and Highland madness and hop over to the Geisha House for some sexified sushi.
4. El Capitan Theatre + Mashti Malone’s Ice Cream If you have youngsters of a Disney-appropriate age visiting, be a hero and take them to the Disney-owned El Capitan. The venue is immaculately restored to all the glamour of old Hollywood, but it also offers modern-day conveniences like online ticketing. The best bit though is the pre-show show, where costumed actors come out and dance onstage, the live organist wails on the Wurlitzer (one of the last of the five “Fox Specials” built in the 1920s), and the grand finale includes confetti spraying from the ceiling. Only Disney films are shown here. After the show, spring for some Middle-Eastern ice cream at Mashti Malone’s.
5. Hollywood Forever Cemetery + Roscoe’s House of Chicken and Waffles Summer is a nebulous thing in Los Angeles. The weather is perennially evergreen — skies are blue pretty much always (except for the freaky two weeks of drizzle in February), and there’s no shortage of BBQs in the “winter” months. However, summer is marked by something fairly awesome: Weekend film showings in the Hollywood Forever Cemetery. In June, July, and August, Angelenos are invited to picnic at the un-drive in, drive-in. The films are projected onto a giant wall space, beneath which moviegoers cuddle on blankets and drink wine out of plastic cups. The films tend towards classic, and the evenings can get a little rowdy with comments directed at the screen. Bring more blankets than you think you need; it gets cold, and the ground isn’t exactly cushiony. Best bet: Show up at 6 p.m. to get good seats, and pack a picnic filled with tasty, greasy, sweet-and-salty Roscoe’s chicken and waffles. 6. The Vista + Electric Lotus An indie favorite located in east-sider hipster heaven Los Feliz, the Vista is like the Village Mann’s cooler, older sister (by seven years). Another one-show affair, this theater has lots of legroom due to revamps which included yanking out alternate rows of seating like they were decaying teeth. Look for Egyptian-style décor and classical music pre-previews. Five-dollar matinees on weekends! Make it an all night affair with dinner at Electric Lotus.
7. The Nuart + Hamasaku The Nuart (owned by Landmark Theaters), another west-side one-screener, isn’t remarkable in terms of ambiance or seating; however, you’ve got a good shot at hearing an impromptu Q&A with a filmmaker or actor, as well as a serious line-up of all the foreign and independent films you could ever want to see. Also, every Saturday at midnight, you can watch and/or participate in a showing of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Sushi and film, what a great combo. See one and then go for some eel and edamame at Hamasaku.
8. The Landmark + Apple Pan The Landmark is making a run for the top spot. Highlights include special “Screening Lounge” showings (read: couches instead of regular seating), 21+ booze-fueled showings, and concessions including a faux-Pinkberry called Yogurberry, and La Brea Bakery goods. Arclight: Watch your back. After the film, stop by iconic burger joint the Apple Pan.
9. The Mann Village Theater + Tanino Around for over 75 years, the Mann Village Theater (otherwise known as the Fox) rocks the old-school movie house steeze with only one theater inside, complete with an awesome balcony. Feel free to sneak in Fatburger (from the one on Kinross) and throw French fries at fellow moviegoers, most of whom are UCLA students and press peeps. If you’re still hungry after stuffing your face with smuggled burgers, grab a bite or a drink at nearby Italiano Tanino.
10. The Majestic Crest + Delphi Westwood has eight movie theaters in as many blocks. The Crest is a standout due to the spot-on Art Deco vintage décor and delectable popcorn. Owner Robert Bucksbaum is hands-on to the degree that he sells tickets, loads film, and changes lightbulbs. If you order tickets online it’s $3 extra — but you can reserve individual seats that way, and when you show up, your name is printed out on your seats Totally VIP. Get Greek on your way out and walk the few blocks to Delphi.
11. The Bridge + Tito’s Tacos Best spot in the city for IMAX, The Bridge also offers assigned seating (though only in the “Director’s Hall” screening) and pregame boozing at their onsite “12 Lounge.” On your way home, grab a six-pack of tacos at Tito’s Tacos and rehash all your favorite parts of the film over the requisite chips and salsa.
Honorable Mention: AMC Century City 15 + Breeze @ Hyatt Regency Yawn, stretch and head to the movies. The AMC Century City 15 offers showings in the 10 a.m. timeslot. Top it off with oysters on the half shell for lunch at the Breeze in the Hyatt Regency.