As the center of the American film world, LA has a special relationship with the silver screen. Staying up to speed on movies is a requirement for a lot of the workforce here, not only for anyone working in or aspiring to the entertainment world but also hospitality, finance and, increasingly, communication and mobile technology. It’s also something of a social glue here– you can be forgiven for knowing nothing about local sports teams, politics or local events, but being behind on your movies will leave you in the dust for a lot of conversations. (Also, why am I trying to convince you to go to movies? They’re MOVIES. Why wouldn’t you want to go?)
While we do have plenty of the standard mall theaters you’d expect, Los Angeles has several specialty theaters for the more discerning viewer.
Watching your wallet? Check out these Cheap Seats
Regency Theater’s Valley Plaza 6, North Hollywood: For $3 per ticket, you can’t go wrong at the Regency. The movie selection varies; in any given lineup, there are usually plenty of duds, one so-so comedy and one blockbuster that’s a couple weeks past its prime. The Regency’s best selection seems to be horror and family films.
Los Feliz 3: This adorably vintage triplex on Vermont and Franklin has matinee tickets at $6.50 before 5pm, tickets after 5pm are $9.50. The screens are smaller and the charm of the theater is better suited for comedy and quieter drama rather than action or epic films.
Vista Theater Los Feliz: With the same pricing as Los Feliz 3, the Vista Theater is an artfully restored 1923 gem of Sunset Junction. There’s just one screen in this cinema so the screen and sound system are larger and louder than the Los Feliz 3.
Revival Houses with Cinephile Street Cred
New Beverly: A longstanding theater with a slightly tawdry past (it’s had a life as a porn theater and a grind house theater with nude dancers), the New Beverly changes its selection daily, offering midnight showings and several double-billings per month for only $8.
LACMA: With a carefully curated selection that changes daily, the LACMA screens classics, documentaries, art films, foreign films and shorts collections. The screening times vary between 7 and 9pm and are only $5 for non-members.
NuArt: An LA favorite among LA residents, including John Waters who made a deliciously subversive “No Smoking” PSA for the theater in appreciation for NuArt’s continued “Pink Flamingo” screenings. NuArt hosts Saturday midnight screenings of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.” Tickets range depending on what you’re seeing but generally run around $9.
Cinefamily: In 2006, two young brothers purchased the recently shuttered Silent Movie Theater, which, true to its name, was the only place in LA to watch early turn-of-the-century cinema. Newly opened as non-profit Cinefamily (but keeping the old Silent Movie Theater facade), the theater now specializes in revival, art house, interactive and, yes, the occasional silent movie. Tickets start at $10 for non-members.
Outdoor Screenings for Summer Nights
Electric Dusk Drive-in: In Downtown’s City Market, the Electric Dusk Drive-in is open year-round and screens nostalgia classics like “Grease” and “Wayne’s World.” Tickets are between $9-$11 for this pet-friendly venue but tickets sell out very quickly, particularly in the summer.
Vineland Drive-In: An LA classic, the Vineland Drive-in is an event. Located in the City of Industry off the 10 East, be prepared for long lines of cars. It’s a staple of South Central LA teenagers, so the car lines tend to be noisy fun. The Vineland has double features of first-run movies for just $12 a person and while they have a concession stand (and real flush toilet bathrooms), stashing a pizza and some BYOB in the backseat is common practice.
Street Food Cinema: Street Food Cinema’s summer screenings bounce around LA parks and include a live band and lineups of food trucks to go with your movie. You’re encouraged to bring your own chair or beanbag for the grass seating. It’s a cool concept but the very steep $12 for general seating gets a major side-eye from me.
Movies on The Green: Woodland Hills does it right with free screenings in the pavilion in Warner Park through the Valley Cultural Center. The movies are family-friendly classics like “The Wizard of Oz.” Pets on leashes are welcomed as are food or non-alcoholic beverages.
Cinespia at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery: Everyone goes nuts for the summer movies in the cemetery. They’re well-curated and certainly well-attended, but be prepared for absolute madness for crowds estimated to be around 3,000. Many moviegoers picnic in the park for several hours before the screening to get a good spot. Tickets are $14 for classic films.
Los Angeles River Regatta Club: The LA River Regatta Club presents screenings that are way less crowded and way more free. A bike-in, rather than a drive-in, the food trucks tend to be stocked with vegetarian options and the whole thing has a feel-good vibe to it. There’s an emphasis on urban planning and conservation at this relatively new effort to turn the LA River area into a social space for Angelenos.
The Best Things in Life Are Free Movies
USC School of Cinematic Arts Events: Ranging from preview screenings of mainstream films to documentaries to lectures and Q&As with industry leaders and innovators, the School of Cinematic Arts events are a fabulous resource for public LA film education. You are asked to make reservations (free) and can bring several attendees with you to events both on and off the USC campus.
Laemmle Theaters Sneak Club: “The premiere art house chain in Los Angeles” sounds like an oxymoron, but the Laemmle Theaters have been going strong since 1938. While the theaters themselves have broadened to offer blockbuster fare along with their indie films, the free membership into Laemmle’s Sneak Club is a great way to get free tickets to non-mainstream movies, foreign films and documentaries, often with the directors in tow for a Q&A.
GoFobo and GetScreenings.com: Their sites are sort of maddening to navigate and while they aren’t central to LA, they do come through with a good offer every now and then. If anything, they are legit sites that won’t spam you mercilessly for signing up for a free membership, so it’s worth giving them a shot.
Chinese Theater: The Chinese Theater (known for awhile as Mann’s Chinese, Grauman’s Chinese originally and now TCL Chinese) was established in 1927 and has been home to several world premieres. It’s also the home of the famous Hollywood footprints, a tradition dating back Mary Pickford in 1927. It’s been renovated recently with a new IMAX screen and it’s a fantastic venue to see summer blockbuster movies and at $16 per ticket, really classes up the night. Show up early for a complementary tour of the theater.
Cinerama Dome: Built just in time to premiere “It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World” in 1963, the Cinerama is deliciously mod in its design but don’t be fooled by its retro charm. The Cinerama dome is actually one of only three movie theaters in the world to use the three-projector system is equipped to be a perfect theater for the rare 70mm print.
El Capitan Theater: This historic 1926 Spanish Colonial style theater has been painstakingly restored and its state-of-the-art preservation is an ongoing project for the Walt Disney Company. The El Capitan shows first-run family films and brings old Disney prints out of the archives for monthly Throwback Thursday screenings at $10.
Super Lux Theaters
AMC Marina Dine In: You’ll be carded at the door (it’s strictly 21+) and able to order appetizers, entrees and cocktails to be delivered to your spacious theater seat with a pull-out tray. Tickets are $19 per person and the food and drink options aren’t cheap either but as far as the luxury cinemas go, AMC Marina was LA’s first and remains the most reasonably priced. It’s also worth noting that it’s in a plaza without many drinking or dining spots so the in-seat option becomes a little more attractive.
Cinepolis: Located in Westlake Village’s upscale Promenade, the Cinepolis features leather seats and 21+ screenings at $19.50 per ticket. Artisanal cheese plates, signature cocktails, truffle fries are all available to order during the movie.
iPic Pasadena: Decorated like an upscale hotel lounge, the iPic Theater is one of the swankiest LA has to offer. With plush reclining seats and wide private armrests, the iPic’s offerings are extensive and the only theater to serve a breakfast menu. For daytime and night screening, iPic’s Salt menu features items like calamari steak, lobster rolls and, seemingly the staple of luxury theaters, truffle fries. Tickets are $18.50 for premium seating and a whopping $27 for premium plus that comes with a fresh pillow and blanket.
The Arclight: A darling of LA cinema, the Arclight gets the balance just right of a quality experience for the right price. Arclight’s tickets run just a little higher than standard but their theater maintain strict rules prohibiting texting, crying babies or chatty Cathies during the film. The Arclight has special 21+ screenings if you want to enjoy a cocktail with your film and offers high quality concessions daily. The Arclight considers mid-week movies to be “non peak” with adult tickets running $13.50 as opposed to the weekend night $15.50 peak tickets.