A Trip to the Movies – Hollywood Style

Genie Davis June 2, 2012 No Comments

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So you’ve taken your children to the multi-plex. You’ve attended a movies-in-the-park night screening a Disney film. Your children sit still, or fall asleep comfortably in the middle of a film. You’re ready for something a little more memorable.

The El Capitan Theater

If you live in the Los Angeles area, there are some wonderful alternatives to heading off to the mall for a Saturday matinee. In Hollywood, within a few block radius of each other, you’ll find three classic beauties. First, there’s the El Capitan. This gorgeously rehabilitated grande dame is often home to Disney premieres and re-releases of classics, accompanied by a short stage show with music and effects. My kids have been enthralled over the years to fake snowfall and Christmas lights and pumpkins at a screening of The Nightmare Before Christmas, and dancing Woody and Buzz from Toy Story Two. The gilt and red plush rococo design gets oohs and ahs from small children to adults alike, and there are often costume displays in the lobby or beneath the theater in an area that features film-related displays and exhibits. You can buy reserved seats and you can also opt for a VIP package with popcorn and sodas provided that allows you to avoid waiting in a line for admission to the busiest shows. The screen is large and the sound system letter perfect, and children are so often the main audience for the films shown that you won’t have to worry if your little ones talk back to the screen a bit.

Grauman’s Chinese Theater

Grauman’s Chinese Theater

Grauman’s Chinese Theater

Right across the street is the venerable Grauman’s Chinese. In front of the theater there’s the fun-to-explore footprints and hand-prints of stars from another era, cast in cement. The Chinese pavilion look of the exterior and the stone dragons that guard it are impressive enough; inside the beautifully ornate gold dragons and Chinese-art patterns on the curtain and walls are pretty breathtaking. While this theater primarily shows the same sort of first run features you could find in the suburbs, you won’t see them in a large space this comfortable. Like the El Capitan, the screen is large and the sound system great. Recently, Grauman’s and its adjoining multi-plex was host to the Turner Classic Movie Festival, where there were screenings of Snow White, the classic western Rio Bravo, the Pink Panther, and more.

The Egyptian Theater

Down the street a bit east, you’ll find the Egyptian Theater. Faux pyramids and sphinxes form the decor here. The recessed entry from Hollywood Boulevard will make you feel as if you’re entering a film temple. Sound and screen are great, but this theater primarily shows classics and off beat films, so choose your showing carefully. From silent films like Buster Keaton and Chaplin to Japanese anime, you’ll be sure to find something to please your child.

Beyond the Screen

Adding to the film going experience – or detracting, depending on your point of view – lining the block near Grauman’s, you’ll find a number of costumed street performers – Spiderman, Buzz Lightyear, Superman, and Elvis among others. They do charge to pose for photos, so buyer beware, but it’s a fun tourist scene for small kids to observe.

For a little bit of film history – and a great run for little feet up and down the sweeping staircase – head inside the Hollywood and Highland open air mall adjoining the Chinese theater. Here you’ll find glittery stairs leading into the Kodak Theater. This was, until this year at least, the home of the Oscars telecast. It’s currently the home of the Cirque de Soleil, and their homage to the movie business itself, Iris. While the extravagant music review and acrobatics are expensive to attend, this is a wonderful show, full of color and sound, that kids and adults of all ages will be thrilled to experience.

If you walk to the second level of the mall and look north, you’ll find an excellent view of the Hollywood sign, and a great photo opportunity.

The Cinerama Dome

Arc Light Cinemas and Dome

Arc Light Cinemas and Dome

Drive two blocks south to Sunset Boulevard and you’ll find the Cinerama Dome, whose massive screen is a great place to see a first run film, and occasional special showings of classics like Jurassic Park or 2001 if your children are old enough to find such films exciting and not too scary. The Dome adjoins the upscale and comfortable Arclight multi-plex with a mix of art house and first run mainstream releases, a pleasant café, and reserved seating. Arclight membership is free and will reduce your ticket cost on line, as well as offering perks like concession stand goodies and free tickets after repeated viewing.

Take your little one up on the roof of the parking garage for an incredible view of the Los Angeles basin – downtown, the west side, and on a clear day, even the sea. Palm trees and hillsides and high rises – and the view’s free, too. If you hit this view at twilight, you’ll revel in the ‘magic hour’ coloring of the sky and you and your children will understand why LA has long been the so-called film capitol of the world. Now doesn’t that beat the multi-plex, hands down?

If you’re visiting from out of town, check out the lovely old Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel right on Hollywood Boulevard walking distance from all these theaters; or the W hotel, further east with a hip and modern vibe.

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Genie Davis is a multi-published fiction author, screen and TV writer, and travel writer. If it was possible, she'd like to spend every day traveling. www.geniedavis.com

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