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Egyptian Theatre
Photograph: Michael Juliano for Time Out

The best movie theaters in Los Angeles

Movie theaters are a dime a dozen here around L.A., but these classic cinemas are a reel above the rest.

By Michael Juliano and Kate Wertheimer

Guys, it’s L.A.: There are movie theaters, screening rooms, DIY projections, drive-insoutdoor screenings and local film events everywhere. When Hollywood is the local industry, you can expect that there’d be no shortage of places to check out the resulting product. 

But when you’re looking for the best possible place to plant yourself for two-plus hours of cinematic bliss, there are a few spots that rise above the rest. Whether you’re into arthouse, black-and-white, B-movie bonanzas or the most luxurious assigned-seating dine-in theater, this city has it all. Here are our picks for the best movie theaters and classic cinemas L.A. has to offer.

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New Beverly Cinema
Photograph: Courtesy New Beverly Cinema

New Beverly Cinema

Movie theaters Independent Fairfax District

Cinephiles study their ABCs at this beloved grindhouse, backed by no less a student of the medium than Quentin Tarantino, who has a personal hand in booking much of the programming. Tarantino is known for his love of old-school film formats and he has outfitted the New Bev to show as many of them as possible, with four-track mag heads and a 16mm projector among the offerings. On your way into a showing, take a second to glance around at the walls, which have been decorated with a collection of large-scale vintage European movie posters.

Chinese Theatre
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Tim Wang

TCL Chinese Theatre

Movie theaters Multiplex Hollywood

Look, the forecourt of this iconic movie theater is a tourist-choked hot mess. But beyond those foot and hand prints, it’s an entirely different story. You can avoid the crowds by catching a flick inside, where the auditorium is as stunning as the IMAX screen’s laser projection quality (perhaps the best in town). Note that the historic theater is attached to a six-screen multiplex; you’ll want to ignore those and splurge on the main theater (listed online as Auditorium 7), which typically shows a single blockbuster at a time.

David Geffen Theater at the Academy Museum
Photograph: Courtesy Iwan Baan/©Iwan Baan Studios, Courtesy Academy Museum Foundation

Academy Museum of Motion Pictures

Museums Movies and TV Miracle Mile

You’d kind of expect a movie museum to have a movie theater, and the Academy Museum doesn’t disappoint. The 1,000-seat David Geffen Theater (that’s inside of the glassy soap bubble-like structure) typically screens films in the evening, while the 288-seat Ted Mann Theater on the lower floor sticks to the daytime. The programming and image quality in both theaters is spectacular, with a mix of 35mm, 70mm and laser projectors in each (the Geffen is even equipped to show movies on nitrate, while the Mann can handle 16mm).

Aero Theatre
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Emily Mathews

Aero Theatre

Movie theaters Independent Santa Monica

Enjoy screenings of classic films and contemporary independent cinema, plus special programs and series, director appearances and lectures at this Art Deco–designed landmark. It’s been in operation since the ’40s and is run by American Cinematheque, which handles a couple of other picks in this list, too. Cinephiles, check the American Cinematheque website for special programs—they’re plentiful and impeccably curated.

Alamo Drafthouse
Photograph: Michael Juliano

Alamo Drafthouse Cinema

Movie theaters Downtown Financial District

If you’ve never been to an Alamo Drafthouse location, here’s the gist: The theater screens first-run flicks along with repertory picks (for example, Terror Tuesday, with deep-cut horror films, and Weird Wednesday, with all sorts of dusted-off oddities) all within plush cinemas with in-theater food and drink service (including booze) and a hardline no talking, no texting policy.

Egyptian Theatre
Photograph: Yoshihiro Makino/Netflix

Egyptian Theatre

Movie theaters Independent Hollywood

Built by the same man who erected the Chinese Theatre and El Capitan Theatre, the Egyptian was faithfully restored by the American Cinematheque in 1998. The not-for-profit company continues to curate a wide range of excellent themed mini-festivals and one-off Q&As with legendary figures—even though the actual building is now owned by Netflix (the streamer, which oversaw a three-year restoration project, uses the space for premieres and special events on weekdays while the American Cinematheque programs weekends). The 516-seat auditorium is outfitted to screen digital, 35mm, 70mm and even nitrate.

Photograph: Courtesy Scottie Images


Movie theaters Independent Eagle Rock

Formerly a beloved Santa Monica video shop, film nonprofit Vidiots now calls a nearly century-old theater in Eagle Rock its home. The Eagle Theatre, which has operated as everything from a vaudeville stage to an adult cinema, screens new indie releases alongside repertory picks, classics and hard-to-find features. The 271-seat auditorium is equipped for both film (35mm and 16mm) and digital, and features a beer and wine bar with some light bites. Of course, it wouldn’t be Vidiots without a video store: The organization’s 50,000-strong DVD, BluRay and VHS collection are all available to rent.

Vista Theatre
Photograph: Jakob N. Layman

Vista Theater

Movie theaters Independent Los Feliz

The historic single-screen Vista Theater plays first-run movies on actual film reels (35mm and 70mm) and boasts giant Art Deco light fixtures, kitschy Egyptian-themed wall details and a lovely manager, Victor Martinez, who dresses up in theme for every opening. Full of character and leg room, the venue is within walking distance of Silver Lake, Los Feliz and East Hollywood—and is now under the ownership of Quentin Tarantino.

Nuart Theatre
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Thomas Hawk

Nuart Theatre

Movie theaters Independent Sawtelle

Exclusive engagements of independent movies, foreign flicks, arthouse curios and restored classics fill the calendar at this longstanding operation, run by the folks behind the couple of other Landmark locations in town. There are near-midnight screenings on Fridays and Saturdays (the ever-changing and always amazing CineInsomnia series), while every Saturday is also dedicated to the Rocky Horror Picture Show. Just nearby stands CineFile Video, a cult rental store that specializes in rare, unusual and hard-to-find films.

El Capitan Theatre
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Nan Palmero

El Capitan

Movie theaters Multiplex Hollywood

Yearning to relive your childhood and indulge in a Disney flick? El Capitan’s your spot: The lavish 1926-built theater screens old and new classics like Cinderella, The Nightmare Before Christmas and Finding Nemo, as well as first-run movies from the Disney companies, including Pixar, Marvel and Lucasfilm. Tickets are indeed pricier than your run-of-the-mill cinema, but then again, where else do you get to see a 2,500-pipe organ be played before the show? A kid-friendly performance typically precedes each screening, as well.

Photograph: Courtesy Vintage Los Feliz 3

Los Feliz Theatre

Movie theaters Independent Los Feliz

This three-screen theater in the heart of Los Feliz first opened its doors in 1934, as the subtle Art Deco touches and notes of old-school glam might suggest, though the projection system has been upgraded to today’s state-of-the-art. The programming is now split into two: American Cinematheque screens wonderfully curated deep cuts in theater one, while Vintage Cinemas handles what’s best dubbed “mainstream indie” fare in theaters two and three.

Photograph: Courtesy Fida Cinema

The Frida Cinema

Movie theaters Independent Santa Ana

This Santa Ana art house channels a little bit of the spirit of Frida Kahlo (the name is an intentional homage) by bringing work of filmmakers who value art and expression over commerce. Screenings include everything from vintage classics to festival-circuit shorts. The Frida team also organizes outdoor screenings and special events around Long Beach and Orange County.

Universal Cinema AMC
Photograph: Courtesy Universal Studios

Universal Cinema AMC at CityWalk Hollywood

Movie theaters Multiplex Universal City

This multiplex lands on our list for one sizable reason: its massive IMAX screen. If something comes out that was shot in an IMAX-friendly format, see it at the seven-story theater inside the AMC at CityWalk (but only if you can secure a spot in the center of the back third of the auditorium). The rest of the theater is your standard (but well kept) multiplex, albeit one in a hilltop theme park shopping mall. If you reserve tickets directly through AMC you’ll get a barcode for $5 parking at the garage; otherwise, you can refund the difference at the box office.

Cinerama Dome
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/vistavision

Cinerama Dome

Movie theaters Multiplex Hollywood

Though this theater has been shuttered since ArcLight closed its theaters in 2021, the Cinerama Dome is expected to reopen in 2024.

A Hollywood favorite from 2002 until 2021, the former ArcLight multiplex offered comfortable assigned seating (cushy, reclining leg room for days), state-of-the-art sight and sound, fantastic snack bars and, for some Dionysian indulgence, an in-house café-bar. The programming was an astute mix of first-run flicks, indies, foreign fare and premieres, and alcohol was allowed in some screenings. As an added bonus, there were always fun cinephile treats on display (original costumes, architectural models, etc.). It was the most appealing modern multiplex in L.A., but was also a classic due to the Cinerama Dome, a fabulous and unique domed movie theater that opened in 1963.


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