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Academy Museum Los Angeles opening
Photograph: Stephanie Breijo

7 things we can actually look forward to in Los Angeles in 2021

A major movie museum, a pair of famous portraits and, you know, doing stuff indoors.

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Written by
Michael Juliano
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After a year full of cancellations and closures, betting on a bunch of things to still happen in 2021 might seem like tempting fate. But barring insert your favorite natural or political catastrophe of choice here, we truly believe that we’ll be able to enjoy these seven Los Angeles openings.

There are a lot of things we’d love to include in our list but simply can’t quite yet. Maybe Primavera Sound and Virgin Fest will make their L.A. debuts after having to call off their 2020 editions? And what about Coachella and its promised Rage Against the Machine reunion? Will there be dueling Pride Parades? Will we be able to step foot inside of Made in L.A. and all of the city’s other never-opened art exhibitions before they have to move on?

There’s one common theme in our list that we can commit to with some confidence, though: doing stuff indoors again. Restaurants, bars, movie theaters, museums—we don’t know quite when or in exactly what form our favorite pastimes will return, but all indications point to their re-arrival at some point later in 2021. 

Sundance is bringing a bunch of drive-in screenings to L.A.

You won’t need to take a road trip to Utah this winter to see Sundance’s slate of future hits and indie darlings. Instead, the mostly-online fest, which runs from January 28 to February 3, is taking some of its only in-person events pair of SoCal drive-ins: the Mission Tiki Drive In Theatre in Montclair and at the Rose Bowl, which has operated an occasional drive-in at its parking lot since the summer. Expect tickets for the 70-plus-film festival to go on sale January 7. UPDATE: Sundance has canceled its Southern California drive-in screenings.

Coachella Valley
Photograph: Lance Gerber, Courtesy Desert X

Desert X takes over the Coachella Valley

What better way to ease back into the art world than with a desert-spanning biennial that’s largely based in outdoor, open spaces? For its third iteration, Desert X will once again stage site-specific installations across 40 miles of the Coachella Valley. Though we don’t know exactly what to expect from the 2021 edition, we do know this: It’ll run from March 12 to May 16 (after being pushed back from an initial February debut), admission will be free and there’ll be an emphasis on visitor safety (with the exhibitions all being outdoors, that seems like a natural fit).

Hamilton and a bunch of other musicals will return

Before the world turned upside down, the hip-hop history of Alexander Hamilton’s life was just about to return to the Pantages Theater for a planned run through the fall. But its opening just so happened to coincide with California’s ban on large events. Cue a whole bunch of delays and extensions, the latest of which has the show back in Hollywood from April 6 through June 27, followed by October 12 through January 2, 2022 (The Lion King and Mean Girls will be occupying the theater over the summer).

But as that once-sure spring date is starting to look a little fuzzier, it might be worth noting that Center Theatre Group, which also planned on relaunching in April, has bumped its season at the Ahmanson Theatre back to August, and is kicking it off with two new additions: Rodger’s and Hammerstein’s Oklahoma! (which was previously slated for the Dolby Theatre) and A Christmas Carol.

The Crenshaw Line is set start service

Its opening date has kept slipping, but Metro’s newest light rail line is expected to debut in 2021 (when the agency is also set to unveil more info about its proposal for free fare). Once completed, the route will link the E Line stop on the border of West Adams and Leimert Park with the C Line stop by LAX (which will see a people mover extension in 2023), with stops in Inglewood along the way. But already, you can see test runs from trains on tracks along Crenshaw Boulevard—the first time trains have rolled down that street since the 1950s. Look out for an update on the line in January, when hopefully we’ll find out what its letter name will be.

The Academy Museum of Motion Pictures is finally opening

Sure, this is the third time the upcoming movie museum has made one of our year-ahead lists, but barring some 2020-sized curveball we think this one will stick. For starters, we stepped inside of it last winter and can vouch that yes, it’s indeed real—and the museum has also posted some installation progress images on its Instagram. Earlier slated for April but now pushed back to September 30, the Miracle Mile institution will open with a Hayao Miyazaki retrospective that dives into 11 films from the Studio Ghibli animator and director.

Barack Obama
Barack Obama by Kehinde Wiley, oil on canvas, 2018. National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution. The National Portrait Gallery is grateful to the following lead donors for their support of the Obama portraits: Kate Capshaw and Steven Spielberg; Judith Kern and Kent Whealy; Tommie L.Pegues and Donald A. Capoccia. © 2018 Kehinde Wiley

The Obama portraits are coming to town

Most presidential portraits offer sober, boring reproductions of the county’s former leaders, but that’s certainly not the case for this pair of paintings. Two paintings of Barack and Michelle Obama, created by Kehinde Wiley and Amy Sherald, respectively, will leave their home in the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C., and embark on a five-city tour. Exhibition slates have obviously been shaken up over the past year, but we checked in with LACMA and the original dates—November 5, 2021 to January 2, 2022—are still on the schedule.

Vidiots is reviving an old movie theater in Eagle Rock

Speaking of cinema, cult-favorite movie rental store Vidiots, which shuttered its decades-old Santa Monica shop in 2019, is rehabbing a 90-plus-year-old theater on Eagle Rock Boulevard (not too far from the slick new restaurant Chifa). The restored 200-seat Yosemite Theatre will screen repertory titles, new independent releases and hard-to-find and beloved classics, on both digital and 35mm. Plus, Vidiots will once again offer its 50,000-film-strong archive for rentals. The theater was slated to open this past fall, but it’s now eyeing 2021.

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