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An illustration of various movie theater facades, audiences and concessions.
(Matt Talbot / For The Times)

The 27 best movie theaters in Los Angeles

Is Los Angeles about to enter a golden age for moviegoing? That’s our optimism showing. But let the evidence speak for itself. Classic movie palaces are reopening. Scrappy new venues are becoming instant neighborhood fixtures. Devoted audiences are selling out repertory screenings. Finally, with pandemic closures and crippling labor issues out of the way, Hollywood may be on the verge of a new bloom. The landscape has changed since we last took stock of L.A.’s best movie theaters. Our film writers and editors seriously approached the task of making an authoritative list, factoring in matters of presentation, comfort, programming and, yes, snacks. Here’s our extremely opinionated pantheon. Join us at these 27 theaters. We’ll be there, often.

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The neon marquee of the Aero Theatre.
(JB Lacroix / Getty Images)

The Aero Theatre

Santa Monica Movie Theater
It’s a neighborhood theater. Ideally, you’d walk there. Parking can be a pain, though regulars know how to navigate the permit-zoned streets to find a spot. Rounding the corner onto Santa Monica’s Montana Avenue in the evening and seeing the Aero’s familiar marquee — the neon, when lit, turns pale green and pink — is always a thrill, no matter how many times you’ve been there. The American Cinematheque‘s programming is a mix of revivals and retrospectives, with a few first-run special evenings with filmmakers mixed in as well. It’s on the Westside, so you never know who you might see. Robert Redford came here as a kid. Donnie Darko took a date there once. It’s been around for 83 years and, with a little luck, will live to be a centenarian. Oh, and the popcorn’s pretty damn good too.
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An empty movie theater with a screen showing the logo for Alamo Drafthouse Cinema
(Christina House / Los Angeles Times)

Alamo Drafthouse Cinema — Downtown Los Angeles

Downtown L.A. Movie Theater
Once upon a time the notion was downright revolutionary: eating food and drinking booze in a movie theater? At the Alamo Drafthouse DTLA, it works. (And the pizza and “adult” milkshakes are excellent.) Catering to first-run, art-house and cult audiences alike, Alamo makes for a one-stop movie date, tucked into an elusive corner of a downtown shopping mall with a dizzying circular parking ramp that’ll make you feel like you’re in “The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift.” Once inside, you’ve got dinner and a movie covered — and can pregame drinks at the bar, shop for movie-nerd merch and rent rare genre flicks from the Video Vortex, a hangout spot-slash-event space where you also might stumble upon karaoke nights, drag shows or themed movie activations. Other pricier dine-in theaters in town lack personality. Here you might catch a surprise filmmaker drop-in on opening weekend, and the Austin-based company’s famed no-talking policy is a major plus.
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An audience at the AMC Burbank 16 on Saturday, Aug. 19, 2023.
(Julie Leopo / De Los)

AMC Burbank 16

Burbank Movie Theater
Once the butt of endless industry jokes, the city of Burbank now has a bustling and, in parts, quite charming commercial center, with enough Urban Outfitters/Shake Shack cred to give Old Town Pasadena some competition (and with much better parking). Close to the Burbank Mall, the AMC 16 is flanked by all manner of eateries and shops, including a regular street market. Ride the big escalator up to theaters grouped in an easily navigated semi-circle, rooms with great sound, comfortable seats and, perhaps most important, slushies. It’s the perfect place to see the next big tentpole or horror film and chat about it with strangers. Added bonus: It’s an AMC, so you get to cheer on Nicole Kidman and her sparkly pantsuit, now an official cinematic tradition.
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Zealand Birnbaum, 1, of West Hollywood points to a Taylor Swift poster before attending the Taylor Swift concert movie with her mom at the AMC theater on October 13, 2023 in Century City, California.
(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

AMC Century City 15

Century City Movie Theater
An afternoon at the movies, purely for fun, is something like my ultimate luxury — and there’s no better place to indulge than AMC’s multiplex at the Westfield Century City. Picture it: After 15 more or less traffic-free minutes in the car, you arrive at a gleaming outdoor mall of which your adolescent New Englander self could scarcely have dreamed. (The frustrations of the labyrinthine parking structure have been redacted from this fantasy.) The theaters are clean, comfortable and consistent, so you swan in without a care. You settle in for the earliest possible matinee of a sentimental tearjerker you’d be embarrassed to sob through with other members of the press. And afterward, you treat yourself to a plate of pasta and a glass of wine at Eataly, and very possibly score a cute shirt. Why not? You work hard. You deserve this.
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LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - SEPTEMBER 14: A general view of atmosphere during FilmRise's "MVP" Red Carpet Premiere at AMC The Grove 14 on September 14, 2022 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jesse Grant/Getty Images for FilmRise)
(Jesse Grant/Getty Images for FilmRise)

AMC The Grove 14

Fairfax Movie Theater
Seeing a movie at the Grove is one of the most meta moviegoing experiences in Los Angeles. In order to get to the theater, guests must walk through the famed outdoor shopping center, themed to resemble a perfectly manufactured Main Street of an imaginary L.A. that exists only in Hollywood movies. There is just something special about that uncanny feeling of being in the most photo-ready facsimile of a town that itself becomes the quintessential “L.A.”-themed experience. The theater’s Art Deco vibes match its “upscale” surroundings (as does the cost of admission). Besides the ambience and the dancing-water-fountain preshow outside, the appeal of this theater is its big-chain-multiplex reliability for first-run programming, modern amenities and snacks. There is also always the chance of a celebrity sighting or two.
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[March 23, 2023] A view of the Billy Wilder Theater at the Hammer Museum. The space, once an auditorium was transformed into a more attractive theater by Michael Maltzan Architecture. It opened to the public in 2006.
(Carolina A. Miranda / Los Angeles Times)

Billy Wilder Theater at the Hammer Museum

Westwood Movie Theater
It’s home to the public programming of the UCLA Film and Television Archive, which means you can always count on eclectic selections: genuine rarities from the worlds of classic Hollywood and international cinema. The “Celebration of Iranian Cinema” and biennial “Festival of Preservation” may be the venue’s signature programs, but it offers a lot more year-round, from a restoration of Todd Haynes’ rarely screened “Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story” to a spotlight on cinematographer Agnès Godard and a recent series on BIPOC filmmakers. The theater was renovated in 2006 with a $5 million donation from Audrey Wilder, widow of its famed namesake. Cushy pink seats (along with two brown ones for Billy and Audrey) and moody lighting give the venue a stylish feel, along with the top-notch presentation. A recent anonymous donation means that screenings of late have all been free, making the broad programming on view even more accessible to local audiences.
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LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - AUGUST 22: Actress Jena Malone attends the Los Angeles premiere of "Adopting Audrey" at Brain Dead Studios LA on August 22, 2022 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Michael Tullberg/Getty Images)
(Michael Tullberg/Getty Images)

Brain Dead Studios

Beverly Grove Movie Theater
How fitting that the old Silent Movie Theater on Fairfax would be reborn as — shh! — a cinematic speakeasy. Brain Dead Studios quietly launched in 2020 as a gathering spot for those in the know. During the day, it’s a clothing store and cafe (both worth rolling out of bed for by noon). Most nights, a film plays with zero fanfare. No introduction, no context other than that month’s programming theme, which tends toward the cultish and cerebral. (Previous categories include Personality Crisis, Metal Machine Music and Are Friends Electric?) The vibe is: Trust us, it’ll be cool. It usually is. Once the disorientation has passed, the theater’s idiosyncrasies feel like the point. Brain Dead always sparks a postfilm conversation, like when it ran a trailer for a ’70s Czechoslovakian surrealist fantasy without subtitles. The mystical insouciance convinced people to come back and make sense of it, and they’ve kept coming back.
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CGV Cinemas at The Source entertainment complex in Buena Park officially opened in January. The theater, which plays subtitled Korean films, is one of many businesses that have expanded to Buena Park from Koreatown in Los Angeles. (Photo by Alex Chan)
(Alex Chan/Daily Pilot)

CGV Cinemas

Koreatown Movie Theater
For anyone who’s spent many happy hours watching movies at CGV Cinemas’ venues in South Korea, it’s a particular pleasure to step into Los Angeles’ Koreatown CGV branch and marvel at all the imported signature touches: the handy seating diagrams displayed outside each of the complex’s three auditoriums; the lobby-adjacent CineCafé, where you can grab coffee, tea or a plated dessert before or after a movie; and the concessions — good God, the concessions. To visit CGV is to wonder why squid legs, salmon jerky and half-and-half popcorn tubs (as in, half caramel, half sour cream and onion) haven’t become standard offerings at multiplexes across the U.S. You can still get your M&Ms and Sour Patch Kids, of course, just as you’ll find English-language studio and art-house movies scheduled alongside (and often crowding out) the latest Korean dramas, comedies and thrillers.
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A photograph of The Culver Theater.
(Stephanie Lara/The Culver Theatre)

The Culver Theater

Culver City Movie Theater
Culver City, historic home of studios like MGM and Sony, has long billed itself as “The Heart of Screenland,” but when the coronavirus pandemic shut down the local ArcLight in March 2020, its downtown was left without so much as a single screen. Ironically, it was a streaming giant that came to the rescue when Amazon Studios, headquartered in Culver City, quietly reopened the theater in late 2022 in its first foray into the traditional theatrical business. The six-screen Culver Theater retains all the amenities that previously drew film fans to the Hollywood ArcLight: a cocktail bar, premium concessions, comfortable seating, good (albeit relatively small) screens and sound. But while the surrounding area has been booming with restaurants, cafes and a recently opened Erewhon (the ultimate sign that an L.A. neighborhood has arrived), few seem to have gotten the word that the theater is back in business. So tickets are, for now at least, generally readily available.
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LOS ANGELES, CA - AUGUST 23: Seats inside the David Geffen Theater. at the Academy of Motion Pictures Museum. Photographed at Academy of Motion Pictures Museum on Monday, Aug. 23, 2021 in Los Angeles, CA. (Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)
(Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)

David Geffen Theater at the Academy Museum

Mid-Wilshire Movie Theater
It’s all in the buildup, really: Into the Academy Museum lobby you go, then up to the second floor, then across an elevated walkway that takes you into the Sphere Building (an enormous domed structure that seems bent on seizing the nickname of “Death Star” from CAA headquarters across town), where you then climb a staircase up and around the side of a stunning 966-seat theater that, while just a little over two years old, has immediately taken its place among the city’s most spectacular venues. With its plush, cupholder-free seats, curved rows and multiformat projection capabilities, it brings technological sophistication and classic Hollywood grandeur into one enormous red-carpeted temple. How great is the Geffen? I saw one of my least favorite movies of the year there recently and I still had a pretty good time.
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Los Angeles, CA - August 28: A first look at the newly renovated Egyptian Theatre on Monday, Aug. 28, 2023 in Los Angeles, CA. Netflix, who owns the theatre, restored much of the original theatre and updated other parts. (Dania Maxwell / Los Angeles Times)
(Dania Maxwell / Los Angeles Times)

The Egyptian Theatre

Hollywood Movie Theater
Freshly restored by Netflix, the Egyptian doesn’t look a day older than 101 — which is to say it still looks really old, wondrously so. You pass through a gate from Hollywood Boulevard into an open-air forecourt that’s the opposite of today’s carpeted soul-sucking multiplex. Hieroglyphics mark the walls (the hunt for King Tut’s tomb was big in 1922), invoking a self-mythologizing grandeur. There’s a staircase that leads nowhere. You enter — well, it’s basically a museum: beautiful framed photos, a sense of history, an usher’s uniform in a case. The theater itself is now a little smaller, just over 500 seats. The balcony, an addition from a prior restoration, is gone. But the sound is superb and you can lose yourself in a movie here. Golden swans dance on the sconces above you. The projection booth can handle ultra-flammable nitrate prints, 70mm platters and everything in between.
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Hollywood, CA - March 19: The majestic El Capitan Theatre, in the heart of Hollywood, CA, prior to a screening of "Raya and the Last Dragon," as movie theaters reopen Friday, March 19, 2021. With Los Angeles County falling into the less-restrictive "red tier," COVID-19 restrictions have allowed for movie theaters to open and operate at 25% capacity. (Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)
(Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

El Capitan Theatre

Hollywood Movie Theater
The El Capitan is an L.A. rite of passage. Maybe you saw your first Disney movie here. Or you took your kids to see “Toy Story” or “Moana” at this grand old movie palace, which opened as a playhouse on Hollywood Boulevard in 1926, four years after the Egyptian and a year before the Chinese. Disney and Pacific Theaters painstakingly restored the El Cap in the late ’80s, reopening it in 1991 with the world premiere of “The Rocketeer.” It’s still the site for many Disney premieres, as well as first-run showings of the studio’s various Marvel, Pixar and Lucasfilm movies. Seeing those films at the El Capitan feels like an event, with a jaunty preshow Wurlitzer pipe organ program that ends with the grand instrument descending into the theater’s floor. Look over at your kid’s face as the organ disappears. Wasn’t the drive worth it?
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GARDENA, CA-MAY 10, 2023: People gather outside the Gardena Cinema in Gardena, before a screening of the movie, "Liquor Store Dreams," part of the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival. The community is rallying around the theater as its owner ponders its future. (Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)
(Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)

Gardena Cinema

Gardena Movie Theater
Attending a showing at this family-owned, single-screen theater means stepping into facilities that have stayed mostly unchanged over decades, a quality that may inspire a burning sense of nostalgia. Passionate owner Judy Kim inherited the business from her parents — who bought it in 1976 when it was still a venue catering specifically to Spanish speakers — and, despite challenges, has kept it operational via an outpouring of community support, including a mostly volunteer staff. Among Kim’s many ingenious tactics to bring in extra cash, the Gardena Cinema regularly does theatrical runs for self-distributed indies, as well as special events. Over the summer, the cinema hosted a packed screening of “Purple Rain,” featuring a DJ set before and after the show that brought in an eclectic crowd. You can also walk in and buy posters from recently released movies. Anything to keep this little marvel open.
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Los Angeles, CA - November 16: (From left) Jameson Carter 10, Mateus Jibilian 10, Louie Astrupgaard 10, and William Dy 10, prepare to go to a movie at Highland Theaters on Thursday, Nov. 16, 2023 in Los Angeles, CA. (Michael Blackshire / Los Angeles Times)
(Michael Blackshire / Los Angeles Times)

Highland Theatre

Highland Park Movie Theater
This three-screen multiplex on Figueroa traffics in utilitarian nostalgia. It’s a holdout of an era when a family could afford tickets to a new release without mortgaging their dog. At prime time — say, 7 p.m. on a Saturday — a first-run feature is only $10, and prices get cheaper from there. The theater opened on March 6, 1925, as a luxury palace with a six-piece orchestra. Today, it’s stubbornly, almost defiantly, unglamorous, its priorities in the right place: keeping moviegoing alive (i.e., affordable) to audiences who just want to watch one robot punch another robot in the face. Last year, eastsiders panicked when the location went up for sale, but exhaled when the buyer was revealed to be the group that revitalized the Highland Park Bowl. Now, as the theater nears its 100th anniversary, the question is: Will it restore the long-dormant balcony and remain the best bargain in town?
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A photograph of the Laemmle Glendale theatre.
(Joshua Rothkopf / Los Angeles Times)

Laemmle Glendale

Glendale Movie Theater
There’s nothing more comforting to a cinephile than a reliable art-house theater, and the Laemmle chain serves up exactly that kind of experience in Los Angeles. This list would not be complete without at least one Laemmle, a family-run operation that has been around since 1938, specializing in independent and international films. (Check out the 2022 documentary “Only in Theaters,” about the Laemmle family and their influence on L.A. cinephilia.) The Laemmle Glendale is an ideal cozy art house: Boasting five screens, it offers a robust but manageable program. It’s always impeccably clean and quiet, the staff are kind and there’s beer or wine for purchase. It’s not a scene, and that’s the appeal: the kind of relaxed, anonymous atmosphere where a moviegoer can tuck themselves away in a darkened room for a solo cinematic voyage. Those kinds of theaters are just as important as the big boisterous ones.
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A classic movie-theater marquee with the posters for 'Barbie' and 'Oppenheimer.'
(Chris Pizzello / Associated Press)

Los Feliz Theatre

Los Feliz Movie Theater
The Los Feliz 3 is the hub of the friendly and fashionable Los Feliz Village, its purple and yellow marquee boasting “since 1934” like a shining beacon over lively Vermont Avenue. This location makes it the best theater in town for any “movie and” date: Fellini and Fred 62? Scorsese and Skylight Books? Bergman and (Gold)burgers? Always bustling, playing a mix of art-house and mainstream fare, the Los Feliz 3 became a true L.A. cinephile’s destination when the American Cinematheque set up shop there in 2021. While you can still catch new releases on Screens 2 and 3, Screen 1 is dedicated to the Cinematheque’s playfully eclectic repertory programming, which brings out L.A.’s most fervent movie fans. See, be seen, then grab a drink at the Dresden after the show — a time-honored L.A. ritual. We’re lucky it not only persists but thrives.
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BEVERLY HILLS, CALIF. -- TUESDAY, DECEMBER 31, 2019: A view of one of the theaters at Lumiere Cinema at the Music Hall in Beverly Hills, Calif., on Dec. 31, 2019. Co-owners Peter Ambrosio, Lauren Brown and Luis Orellana, longtime Laemmle staffers, film fans and self-described “Los Angeles ‘film people,’” worked together at the Music Hall in Beverly Hills for five years. When there were rumors the theater might close, the trio hatched a plan and the Lumiere Cinema at the Music Hall was born. Now, they face the challenge of keeping an independent neighborhood art house alive in the age of Netflix and Disney blockbusters dominating the cinematic landscape. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

Lumiere Cinema

Beverly Hills Movie Theater
Run by cinephiles turned exhibitors, this labor of movie love has survived the dire days of the pandemic and the inherent perils of running an independent art-house cinema. That’s thanks to the generosity of supporters who value international offerings, and to the tenacity of the current management. When Laemmle Theatres pulled out of the Music Hall in 2019, a trio of former employees stepped up to create what is now the Lumiere Cinema in the heart of Beverly Hills, an area that, despite being home to plenty of private screening rooms, doesn’t have much in the way of commercial screening spaces. More than a dozen different titles play on its three screens throughout the week — each day there’s a different selection of new titles announced online — offering patrons an astounding selection under a single roof. Keep an eye out for special weekend screenings of 16mm prints.
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Los Angeles, CA - August 18: Bludso's, Brain Dead Studios,The New Beverly, Stir Crazy Wine Bar on Friday, Aug. 18, 2023 in Los Angeles, CA. (Jason Armond / Los Angeles Times)
(Jason Armond / Los Angeles Times)

The New Beverly Cinema

Fairfax Movie Theater
A big part of my movie-nerd development was wearing out my membership at the local repertory theater in Berkeley. I caught the likes of “Citizen Kane,” “The Grand Illusion” and “The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai in the 8th Dimension” on the big screen, along with other humans. The New Bev is just what a rep cinema should be. It’s cozy, with a mellow, enthusiastic vibe. Surprises sometimes occur. At a recent showing of “Can’t Hardly Wait,” some of the actors showed up. But the main attraction is the freewheeling, film-prints-only curation, primarily by owner Quentin Tarantino. High and low art chill side by side in adjacent calendar squares. A twin bill of teen romps precedes a Greta Garbo double feature. Then: Akira Kurosawa’s heartbreaking “Ikiru,” hall-of-fame naval epic “Master and Commander” and family matinee “Beethoven.” General admission is $13 and the popcorn — highly recommended — is as cheap as $4, with real butter (live a little).
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042398.CA.0131.nuart7.RG -- The Nuart Theater, Thursday, January 31, 2002.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

The Nuart Theatre

Sawtelle Movie Theater
Located right next to the 405 in West L.A., this newly remodeled single-screen theater has been around for nearly 100 years. In its current iteration as a Landmark Theatres property, it serves as a home for first-run independent titles, documentaries and international features from emerging and acclaimed auteurs. With its imposing neon marquee, the Nuart gives under-the-radar productions the Hollywood treatment, making them the main attraction. Drive by on any given night and you will read the name of a movie you may have not heard about but probably should seek out, shining over Santa Monica Boulevard. Post-screening conversations with the artists behind the films are a regular amenity. And every Sunday night since 1986, you can catch a late-night screening of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” enlivened by Sins o’ the Flesh, a local cast of performers.
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PARAMOUNT, CALIFORNIA MARCH 17, 2020-Michael Ray, 11, watches a trailer before a movie at the Paramount Drive-In. (Wally Skalij/Los Angeles Times)
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

Paramount Drive-In Theatres

Paramount Movie Theater
Concerns over the COVID-19 pandemic propelled the resurgence of drive-ins as safe and viable alternatives for people hoping to enjoy movies on the big screen. Their return to the foreground of entertainment options was short-lived, however, as the Mission Tiki Drive-In in Montclair permanently closed in January. Now, the Paramount Drive-In is the only year-round experience of its kind that remains in Los Angeles County. Playing major new releases on its two 75-foot screens, it serves the diverse communities of South L.A., offering a slightly cheaper option to regular multiplexes. Once you have chosen your preferred parking spot, walk over to the sizable concessions store before you get cozy for a retro experience. Visit during daytime hours and you’ll find that each morning, the ample space transforms into the popular Paramount Swap Meet.
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(Mary McNamara / Los Angeles Times)

Regency Academy Cinemas — Pasadena

Pasadena Movie Theater
This isn’t the most beautiful theater in Los Angeles. It doesn’t have killer sound or 16 screens or IMAX or a bar in the lobby. But it is the perfect theater if, say, you want to take six kids to the movies without having to dip into that college fund. Nor will you need to spend the entire film explaining how to adjust (or stop adjusting) those reclining seats before ferrying each one to the miles-away bathroom. A stubborn and refreshing contrast to the spaceship-sleek multiplex, the Regency Academy is a portal through time, back to when tickets cost $7.50 ($5.50 for those coming before 6 p.m.) and you could get a hot dog for $1.50. Sure, the theaters are small, some of the seats are lumpy and there’s a nostalgia-inducing fug of popcorn and old carpet. But this is an old-fashioned neighborhood theater where the magic was in the movie, not in a luxury-resort experience. And at these prices, you can actually afford to see more than one.
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WESTWOOD, CA - AUGUST 12: Nissan GT-R NISMO sports cars are seen outside the Fox Westwood Village Theatre, promoting the new 'Gran Turismo' movie, based on the Sony PlayStation video game series on August 12, 2023 in Westwood, California. (Photo by AaronP/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images)
(AaronP / Bauer-Griffin/GC Images via Getty Images)

Regency Village Theatre

Westwood Movie Theater
Nestled in the heart of Westwood, the Regency Village has been a favorite site for movie premieres since its opening in 1931, the 170-foot white Spanish Revival/Art Deco tower serving as a beacon for film lovers in search of old-school Hollywood glamour. There’s a reason Quentin Tarantino used this theater as a location in his 1960s-set “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” and Paul Thomas Anderson selected it for an exclusive early run of “Licorice Pizza,” his love letter to 1970s Los Angeles. (The Regency Village was originally part of the Fox Theaters chain, hence the “Fox” sign atop the tower.) Boasting a single vast auditorium seating more than 1,300 people, including a spacious balcony, with an enormous 70mm-capable screen and upgraded sound system, the theater offers an appealing combination of vintage vibes and modern comforts.
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A photograph of the Starlight Cinemas.
(Starlight Cinemas)

Starlight Cinemas Lakewood Center

Lakewood Movie Theater
This theater holds in abundance something no other theater in the country (much less on this list) can ever replicate: my childhood movie memories. Formerly a Pacific Theatres location, this is the suburban-mall multiplex where I fell in love with big-screen magic. It’s where my dad once whispered to me that you can make a streak of color shoot across the screen if you threw a Jujube just right (I’ve never dared to try). I was worried this theater was shut down for good after the Pacific announced it wouldn’t be reopening any of its locations amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Thankfully, the Starlight chain recently took it over and it has opened its doors once again. The charm of this multiplex is its old-school vibe and slightly dated amenities — though interior signage indicates updates like reclining seats are coming soon. Plus its prices, including $5 Tuesdays, can’t be beat.
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HOLLYWOOD-CA-MAY 2, 2017: Levi Tinker, General Manager at the TCL Chinese Theatre IMAX in Hollywood is photographed inside the theatre on Tuesday, May 2, 2017. (Christina House / For The Times)
(Christina House/For The Times)

TCL Chinese Theatre

Hollywood Movie Theater
Few movie houses capture the old and the new in quite the same way as the TCL Chinese Theatre on Hollywood Boulevard. First opened in 1927, the theater (originally known as Grauman’s Chinese, then Mann’s) has been home to countless premieres in the years since and the famed forecourt is full of cement foot and hand impressions from generations of stars. And that’s before you even step inside, where the lavish decor makes you realize how dull most current theaters are. The venue was retrofitted to IMAX in 2013, and while some might debate aspect ratios and screen format, the Chinese has the third largest commercial movie screen in North America and, with more than 900 seats, is the largest IMAX auditorium by capacity in the world. (Which is to say it’s big and loud, the perfect place for modern action spectacles.) It’s rare that the theater alone improves just about any movie, but with the Cinerama Dome still closed, there is simply no competition for making the experience of seeing a new film feel like a piece of Hollywood history.
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Los Angeles, CA - November 16: People walk by Universal Cinema AMC at City Walk Hollywood on Thursday, Nov. 16, 2023 in Los Angeles, CA. (Michael Blackshire / Los Angeles Times)
(Michael Blackshire/Los Angeles Times)

Universal Cinema AMC at CityWalk Hollywood

Universal City Movie Theater
For an immersive experience, IMAX is a plunge unto itself. There aren’t that many movies tailored to the format due to technical issues (including camera weight and noise), but the ones that are feel different. However, not all IMAX screens are created equal, and in this case, size does matter. For commercial film releases, the truest one in L.A. is at CityWalk: It’s seven stories tall. That sky-kissing height can go a long way toward making you feel you’re soaring among the floating mountains of Pandora. The CityWalk venue is one of only 19 theaters in the nation that was able to present “Oppenheimer” in Christopher Nolan’s preferred format (both in IMAX and on film), as it is equipped for both digital and film projection of that size, along with 12-channel Dolby Atmos sound. Note: The large-format surcharge can be $7; a prime-time Saturday show of the “Hunger Games” prequel was $28.45. But if you’re willing to pay that, this screen does deliver.
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Eagle Rock, CA, Monday, May 22, 2023 - Original theater seats have been restored as remodeling continues on the Eagle Theater before it's planned reopening in June. (Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times)
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

Vidiots

Eagle Rock Movie Theater
The homiest movie house in L.A. is worth the trek to Eagle Rock. Showing films daily on 35mm and digital in its newly renovated state-of-the-art 271-seat Eagle Theatre, the recently reopened nonprofit draws filmmakers and locals with its slate of genre-spanning crowd-pleasers and repertory deep cuts (Tollywood action epic “RRR,” baseball classic “A League of Their Own” and Walter Hill’s rock opera “Streets of Fire” are a recent sampling). Originally established in 1985 in Santa Monica by Patty Polinger and Cathy Tauber, Vidiots’ new digs were designed with care — truly, there’s not a bad seat in the house — and with community in mind. Catch up over beer and wine in the unpretentious lobby bar and grab hot dogs, ice cream sammies and actually good popcorn from concessions. Then wander past the intimate MUBI microcinema and lose yourself in Vidiots’ flagship video store (one of L.A.’s very last), where hand-drawn placards lovingly guide you through a catalog of 60,000 DVDs, Blu-rays and rare VHS tapes.
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The Vista Theatre.
(Joshua Rothkopf / Los Angeles Times)

The Vista Theatre

Los Feliz Movie Theater
It’s fitting, at least to me, that Quentin Tarantino is behind the revival of this historic 400-seat theater. Seeing his film “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” here in 2019 alongside a buzzing capacity crowd, which then poured onto the sidewalk at Hollywood and Sunset to dissect its every brazen image and extraordinary thrill, is in my personal pantheon of filmgoing experiences. That night illuminated, as unmistakably as the Vista’s green-and-red marquee, why we go to the movies: not simply for what’s onscreen but also for the communal experience, the conversation and the connection to history, both of the industry and the city around us. The refurbished, gold-painted Vista, combining Tarantino’s “always on film” mantra with programming centered on new movies (eventually there will be a “Coffy” cafe, named for the Pam Grier classic, and a microcinema for VHS, 16mm and other rarities), seems designed to encourage such fellowship. And, of course, that ever-potent nostalgia. If the very thought of sitting down in a century-old theater makes you a little misty-eyed, the Vista is for you.
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