10 Best L.A. Movie Theaters You Aren't Visiting But Should Be
Old Town Music Hall
You've seen a few horror movies at one of Cinefamily's midnight screenings, helped Quentin Tarantino keep the New Beverly alive by going to a Tarkovsky double feature, and just renewed your American Cinematheque membership.
So now what? Rather than resting on your cinematic laurels and calling it a day, perhaps you'll consider being an even better soldier of cinema by visiting a Korean multiplex or decades-old drive-in. Here are the ten best L.A. movie theaters you aren't visiting but should be:
A stone’s throw from one of Hollywood’s oldest cinematic institutions is its newest and scrappiest. Though opening right next door to the Egyptian (of which it used to be a part) and just down the block from the Chinese may seem an odd strategy for a fledgling art-house theater, the 92-seat Arena Cinema feels like it's here to stay. It takes chances on indie flicks most other venues in Los Angeles wouldn’t risk booking; curator Christian Meoli is the first to admit this doesn’t always work in his favor, but adventurous programming is a must in film culture. Intimate, with a dedicated parking lot that only costs $5 after buying a ticket, Arena feels how it looks — DIY, lo-fi and charmingly austere — in the best way possible. You get the sense just from sitting in the theater that this really is a unique, necessary environment for film in Los Angeles. 1625 North Las Palmas Ave., Hollywood. (323) 306-0676, www.arenascreen.com. (From our upcoming Best of L.A. issue)
If you live in Koreatown and feel like seeing either a Korean movie with English subtitles or an English-language film with Korean subtitles, avail yourself of the first U.S. outpost of South Korea’s largest multiplex chain. In addition to assigned seating à la Arclight and Landmark, CGV offers what they call "premiere" seating in the back rows — bigger, more luxe accommodations available for an extra fee. There’s also the Cine Cafe, should you be in the mood for coffee and desert. This is the only thing resembling a multiplex — though they prefer the term "funplex" — on this list, and for good reason. 621 S. Western Ave., Koreatown. (213) 288-9000, www.cgvcinemas.com
Cal State Northridge
One of few bastions of repertory cinema in the Valley, CSUN Cinematheque at the Armer Theater hosts free, open-to-the-public screenings nearly every Thursday night that class is in session. Past programs have paid tribute to the likes of Krzysztof Kie?lowski and Satyajit Ray; the upcoming school year commences with a Powell and Pressburger retrospective that begins on August 28 and runs through December 11. If you really dig the space and are feeling lucky, you can even try to reserve it. 18111 Nordhoff St., Northridge. (818) 677-1200, www.csun.edu/mike-curb-arts-media-communication/cinema-television-arts/cinematheque
DTLA is surprisingly underserved when it comes to non-multiplex fare. Downtown Independent seeks to correct that with bold programming like The Dog and It Felt Like Love — the Laemmle chain may love subtitles, but few are as devoted to American independent cinema as DTI. Sixteen of the single-screen theater's 222 seats are of the reclining sofa variety, so get there early to enjoy yourself in style. 251 S. Main St., Downtown. (213) 617-1033, www.downtownindependent.com.
Echo Park Film Center
More than just a microcinema, EPFC also offers a variety of filmmaking classes (which are free for kids and seniors), including intro to documentary, 16mm and hand-processing. The Thursday Night Microcinema Series accepts unsolicited submissions from anyone, guest curators are welcome to program their own series, a number of film festivals are held there and artists-in-residence are constantly enlivening EFPC with new work. The non-profit may be the most community-oriented organization on this list, having helped foster film culture for well over a decade now. 1200 N Alvarado St., Echo Park. (213) 484-8846, www.echoparkfilmcenter.org.
Echo Park Film Center
Old Town Music Hall
It’s possible you’ve seen King Kong on the big screen, but it’s doubtful you’ve seen it accompanied by the Mighty Wurlitzer in a theater built nearly a century ago. Old Town Music Hall was first opened as the El Segundo State Theater in 1921, and its famous pipe organ has long been one of the primary draws—how could it not be, with its 2,600 pipes and a 10-horsepower Spencer Turbine Orgoblo? (Yes, those are all real words.) Though most of the famed movie palaces have long since disappeared, Old Town captures their essence in a small, beautiful space that's as vibrant as ever. 140 Richmond St., El Segundo. (310) 322-2592, www.oldtownmusichall.org.
A black-box theater with a great bar and cafe, REDCAT is one of few avant-garde/experimental film hubs in the city. The theater, part of the Disney Hall complex and affiliated with CalArts, has played, among other outré works, a movie that changes order every time you watch it, and its ongoing Jack H. Skirball Series has put a spotlight on Los Angeles film luminary Thom Andersen on numerous occasions. It's the kind of place that honors art that wouldn't even be screened anywhere else. 631 W 2nd St., Downtown. (213) 237-2800, www.redcat.org/category/redcat-event-type/film-video.
South Bay Film Society
South Bay cinephiles, rejoice: It’s now possible to see independent movies without driving to the Westside. Bringing world cinema to Torrance’s AMC Rolling Hills for more than two years now, the South Bay Film Society is a case study in art-house/multiplex convergence. Nearly every one of its one-off screenings sells out with the speed of a Beyoncé concert; in some cases, SBFS has had to add book additional screens to accommodate demand. Though most of these films make it to Torrance after their initial runs in West L.A. and Santa Monica, the org is proving increasingly essential by hosting the local premieres of films like Burning Bush. “The South Bay has a large, well-educated population,” says curator Randy Berler, “and it made no sense to me that foreign films and many excellent independent films never come to this area.” Hear, hear. 2591 Airport Drive, Torrance. (310) 326-1167, www.southbayfilmsociety.com.
Spielberg at the Egyptian
Bearing no relation to Film Forum in New York, Los Angeles Filmforum has been in the rep game since 1975, and the lion’s share of screenings take place in the Spielberg Theater at the Egyptian—a smaller, more intimate screening space that feels ideally suited to the vital, out-there fare that L.A. Filmforum programs on a regular basis. Along with REDCAT, this is the most enduring avant-garde outpost in L.A. 6712 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood. (323) 461-2020, www.lafilmforum.org.
Make the trek to City of Industry and you can see a $9 double feature from the comfort of your own car. One of few remaining drive-ins here or anywhere else, Vineland has been open for nearly 60 years and plays all the latest movies — recent choices have included Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles followed by Hercules and Guardians of the Galaxy followed by Planes: Fire and Rescue. There’s not much to be down about the fact that blockbuster season is winding down, but the power of the drive-in experience is that it can remain fun even when the film being projected is not. And besides, how many screening times are still based around sunset? 443 N Vineland Ave., City of Industry. (626) 961-9262, www.vinelanddriveintheater.com.
Michael Nordine on Twitter:
Public Spectacle, L.A. Weekly's arts & culture blog, on Twitter:
2591 Airport Dr.
Torrance, CA 90505
6712 Hollywood Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90028
Get the Theater Newsletter
Get a rundown of upcoming theater events and ticket deals in Los Angeles.