This being L.A., the city is saturated with megaplexes catering to high-budget, high-profile flicks featuring the usual big-ticket lures such as Hanks, Jolie, and DiCaprio. But there are times when those polished Hollywood-studio stories just won't do. Below are some nonmainstream options that play movies from bygone eras or those with an indie bent. Consult L.A. Weekly (www.laweekly.com) to see what's playing when you're in town.
Film festivals are another great way to explore the other side of contemporary movies. In addition to the American Film Institute's yearly November fete, the Film Independent's Los Angeles Film Festival (tel. 866/345-6337 or 310/432-1240; www.lafilmfest.com) looks at what's new in American indies, short films, and music videos during a weeklong event in late June. Every July since 1982, the Gay and Lesbian Film Festival (tel. 213/480-7088; www.outfest.org), also known as Outfest, has aimed to bring high-quality gay, lesbian, bi, and transgender films to a wider public awareness. In 1998 the festival became Los Angeles's largest, with more than 32,000 audience members.
Promoting moving pictures as this country's great art form, the American Cinematheque in Hollywood (tel. 323/466-3456; www.egyptiantheatre.com) presents not-readily-seen videos and films, ranging from the wildly arty to old classics. Since relocating to the historic and beautifully refurbished 1923 Egyptian Theatre, 6712 Hollywood Blvd. in Hollywood, American Cinematheque has hosted several film events, including a celebration of contemporary flicks from Spain, a tribute to the femmes fatales of film noir, and a retrospective of the films of William Friedkin. Events highlighting a specific individual are usually accompanied by at least one in-theater audience Q-and-A session with the honoree. Note: Sister property, the Aero Theatre, 1328 Montana Ave. (tel. 310/260-1528), in Santa Monica presents similar programming.
The Leo S. Bing Theater at the L.A. County Museum of Art, 5905 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles (tel. 323/857-6010; www.lacma.org), presents a variety of themed film series. Past subjects have ranged from 1930s blonde bombshell films to Cold War propaganda flicks to contemporary British satire (complete with a 3-day Monty Python's Flying Circus marathon).
Despite being a multiplex in a bright outdoor mall, Laemmle's Sunset 5, 8000 Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood (tel. 323/848-3500; www.laemmle.com), features films that most theaters of its ilk won't even touch. This is the place to come to see interesting independent art films. There's often a selection of gay-themed movies as well.
The Nuart Theatre, 11272 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles (tel. 310/281-8223; www.landmarktheatres.com/market/losangeles/nuarttheatre.htm), digs deep into its archives for real classics, ranging from campy to cool. It also features frequent in-person appearances and Q-and-A sessions with stars and filmmakers, and screens The Rocky Horror Picture Show (yes, still!) every Saturday at midnight.
Now operated by film enthusiast organization the Cinefamily, fans of silent-movie classics will enjoy the Silent Movie Theatre, 611 N. Fairfax Ave. (1/2 block south of Melrose Ave.), near the Miracle Mile (tel. 323/655-2520 for recorded program information, or 655-2510 for the main office; www.cinefamily.org).
The Paley Center for Media, 465 N. Beverly Dr., Beverly Hills (tel. 310/786-1025; www.paleycenter.org), celebrates this country's long relationship with the tube. The museum often features a movie of the month, and it also shows free selections from past television programs.
The World's Most Private Public Theater
Part of the culture of L.A. is to always avoid standing in line because you're far too important and busy. So it was only a matter of time before someone came up with the idea of treating everyone like a VIP at the movie theater. ArcLight Cinemas (tel. 323/464-4226; www.arclightcinemas.com) is specifically designed for anyone who abhors rude patrons (ushers keep it quiet), late arrivals (forbidden), searching for seats (reserved in advance by customer preference), uncomfortable chairs (think La-Z-Boy), neck strain (the first rows start 25 ft. from the screen), pimply teenage employees (most of the staff are struggling actors or film students), crappy popcorn (real butter and freshly made caramel popcorn), and paying for parking (4 free hr. are included in the ticket price). And it only gets better: There's a full bar and a groovy lounge where themed cocktails such as the Mordor are served with appetizers.
The ArcLight shows a mix of indie and Hollywood films, and ticket prices -- as you would expect -- are higher than the industry average: typically $14 for regular shows and up to $16 for weekend nights and holidays, with a $3.50 supplement for 3D films. But the rewards are worth the occasional splurge. The sound and picture quality are so good that filmmakers come here to host Q-and-A sessions, and celebrities such as Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio prefer the ArcLight's reserved seating system. Be sure to review the "Now Playing" and "Coming Soon" sections at the ArcLight's website to see what movies and Q-and-A sessions are scheduled. It's located at 6360 W. Sunset Blvd., between Vine and Ivar streets. Note: There are now 3 additional locations, including Sherman Oaks, 15301 Ventura Blvd. (tel. 818/501-7033); Pasadena, 336 E. Colorado Blvd. ([tel 626/568-8888); and El Segundo, 831 S. Nash St. (tel. 310/607-9630).
Cinema at the Cemetery
If you prefer your movie settings to be slightly macabre, boy, are you in luck. Every other Saturday in the summer, the Hollywood Forever Cemetery hosts civilized screenings of movie classics, which are projected against the cemetery's massive mausoleum wall. Guests are encouraged to arrive early for a BYOB picnic on the lush lawn while listening to DJs spin records. Admission is $10 per person, and parking is $5 per car within the cemetery. Bring a sweater, a flashlight, and -- if you're having a picnic -- bring a trash bag as well. Hollywood Forever Cemetery is located at 6000 Santa Monica Blvd., between Gower Street and Van Ness Avenue. For more information, log on to www.cinespia.org.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.