Disneyland is such a big thing to Californians, I discovered that when you cross the border you have to raise your right hand and take an oath that you believe in Walt Disney -- Jack Paar
In my years of living in L.A. I managed to only be forced to Disneyland twice. (I have the firm belief that Disney is out for my soul, and for the money in my wallet). And, I was amazed at what that little rodent has accomplished. Since his 1928 debut in ‘Steamboat Willie’ (which was actually the third MM cartoon) that little mouse has amassed a fortune. Did you know that Disney was the first studio to make $1 billion in one year. (In 1994, with some help from ‘The Lion King’.)
If you want something a little less Disney, I will tell you where to go: the El Capitan. It’s owned by Disney, but it’s a movie ‘palace’. It started out as a stage theatre in 1926 but was converted to a movie theatre (the Paramount) in time to premiere ‘Citizen Kane’ in 1941. Disney restored the theatre in 1991, though not to its original interior.
The theatre now offers the latest Disney flick, with a pre-movie stage show, and the pricing of your movie ticket reflects this little extra. You get to see people dressed in dog, mouse, horse or whatever costumes dance and sing... in the comfort of a balcony seat, from which they cannot possibly reach to force you to "join the fun".
Other Movie Palaces:
6925 Hollywood Blvd.
Opened in 1927, its first premiere was Cecil B. DeMille’s ‘King of Kings’ and it hosted the Academy Awards show for some of the 1940s. (The current home of the Oscars, the Kodak Theatre, is located down the street at 6801 Hollywood Blvd.)
Grauman’s is the granddaddy of movie palaces, completely restored and mobbed by thousands every year. Many come to see the footprints of movie stars in the cement courtyard. (There are now over 175 sets of prints). It is rumored that Norma Talmage "accidentally" stepped in wet cement to start the enduring trend, but it was actually a publicity stunt by Sid Grauman, the theatre’s original owner.
6360 Sunset Blvd.
Opened in 1963 for the premiere of ‘It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World’. The theatre is known for it’s acoustics, 86 foot wide screen and 70 mm film capability. It is now part of a 14-screen complex owned by ArcLight. It still premieres movies, including James Cameron’s ‘Avatar’ in December 2009.
6712 Hollywood Blvd.
The predecessor of the Chinese Theatre, the Egyptian opened in 1922 for the premiere of ‘Robin Hood’ (the version starring Douglas Fairbanks). It was originally designed to have a Spanish theme, but King Tut’s tomb was discovered during the building process so the theme was adjusted.
The theatre is now home to the American Cinematheque (www.americancinematheque.com), which shows a variety of arthouse, foreign, independent, little known and under shown films.
6233 Hollywood Blvd.
Opening in 1930 as RKO Pantages theatre, it was then sold to Fox. After that, Howard Hughes purchased the theater, in 1949, when the Academy Awards show moved here (until 1959). The Art Deco theatre is currently used for stage productions, especially musicals.
Hollywood Pacific/Warner Bros Hollywood
6433 Hollywood Blvd.
This theater opened in 1928, for the premiere of ‘The Glorious Betsy’. It has an Art Deco, or Italianate, or Spanish-Moorish design, or just a hodge podge since its restoration. This theatre closed in 1994 to the public.
My recommendations for film viewing:
1. The Vista (4473 Sunset Blvd. in Silverlake). This is a movie palace outside of Hollywood with an Egyptian interior. People with long legs, rejoice, as every other row of seats has been removed from the Vista. It has only one screen and tickets sell out quick for the latest blockbuster.
[If you happen to be in the area, you may as well head down to El Cid at 4212 Sunset Blvd. The theatre was built in 1900 by D.W. Griffith and premiered his ‘Birth of a Nation’. It also saw the likes of Charlie Chaplin, Gloria Swanson and others who took to the stage. It is currently a Spanish restaurant with live music and theatre shows.]
2. Silent Movie Theatre (611 N. Fairfax Ave.) This one screen theatre, with comfy couches up front, hosts a variety of films, aside from silent movies. See cult classics and films which have sat in the vaults for years.
3. Go to any Laemmle Theatre. Multiple locations. This is the place to find indie films, documentaries and those little gems which turn up at all of the awards shows. Do not expect to see a blockbuster with all of the special effects here.
Another trivia tidbit:
The first movie theatre (built for the sole purpose of showing films) was constructed in Paris. Cinema Omnia Pathe opened on December 1, 1906. The 20 ft by 13 ft screen was the largest at that time.