There are a lot of theaters in Los Angeles. Thankfully, there are also a number of excellent venues for watching a film on the big screen.
The Village Theater, in Westwood Village, at the corner of Broxton and Kinross, right off of Westwood Boulevard, is the best theater in Los Angeles, perhaps North America.
One of the last single screen movie theaters in the world, I have heard that the Village Theater has the largest movie screen in North America. The movie screen here is immense, something like 60 feet tall, and makes even the worst film seem like an event. A while back, Mann Theaters upgraded the location to include Dolby Digital and THX sound systems and they recently added a digital projector. What this means, long and short, is that this theater has one of the largest screens, with the best sound and projection systems.
This is the theater to pick if any big, summer special effects-laden blockbuster is playing there. The combination of all of the different sight and sound elements with the crowd of college kids makes this a fun place to see a high octane film like "The Matrix" or the "Star Wars" films.
The first film I saw when I moved to LA was at the Village Theater. They had a trailer for the Dolby Digital sound system that featured a train locomotive starting and appearing out of the fog, every crank of the engine coming from a different part of the theater. After this was over, the film started. It was "The Fugitive" starring Harrison Ford and Tommy Lee Jones. I felt like I was living through the train crash with Harrison Ford. It was intense and helped to amplify everything about the film. Years later, I saw Michael Mann's "Heat" in this theater. During the fantastic bank robbery scene, it sounded like bullets were coming from every direction, helping to make the film's scene, in which bullets are coming from every direction, seem more real and exciting.
A couple of years ago, The Grove Theaters opened and it has further cemented people's feelings about stadium seating. It's nice to have stadium seating, but not always necessary. At The Village, the layout slopes fairly conventionally, like most theaters used to. However, the seats are almost recliners. They lean back fairly far. The only time I have ever had trouble was when someone very tall sat directly in front of me. The reclining seats and the huge movie screen help to make sure that most people will be able to see most of the screen.
An added benefit to the Digital projector is that if the film shown is playing in DLP (Digital Projection) in all likelihood you will be spared the extra ten minutes of commercials for Pepsi and Mazda. An added bonus in my book, because the companies are not yet creating these commercials for Digital Projectors.
Because the theater houses a single screen and was built during the Golden Age of Hollywood, it still has some of the majestic decorations common to buildings built in that era. The walls and ceiling of the theater are decorated with figures and frescoes instead of the more common drapes. There is also a rather large balcony.
If a film is sold out at Century City or The Grove, it may not be sold out here. Because the theater is so large and Westwood is not quite as popular as it used to be, you can often get a ticket for the latest blockbuster here. Not always, but it's worth a try. If you really want to see a film here on opening weekend, buy your ticket in advance and get here early. It's hard to tell, but there are occasionally huge crowds here.
This theater is not perfect. One of my biggest pet peeves is that they serve Pepsi. Hey, I hate the stuff. If I want to spend $3.50 for a coke, I want Coca-Cola.
Also, on opening weekend for the same blockbusters, it can get crowded and rowdy. It is not uncommon to have to wait in line around two blocks for a film here. This isn't always a bad thing. As I said, the theater is huge and if you have a ticket, you'll get a seat.
Also, parking in Westwood is a pain. I usually go to bargain matinees and end up paying $4 or $5 to park for the duration. There are a couple of lots that charge a flat fee. This may not seem like a lot, but why should anyone have to pay to park and then patronize businesses? It doesn't make sense. If you come for an evening show, you can get a partial refund on the parking, if you park in a designated lot, show your ticket at the box office, when you purchase a ticket. So, you have to remember to take your parking ticket with you, and to get the money back when you purchase your tickets. Not sure how it works if you have purchased your tickets ahead.
The popcorn is passable. They don't use real butter and I have occasionally spotted theater employees transporting huge bags of popcorn between theaters. Mann Theaters runs four of the theaters in Westwood Village and their employees seem to move back and forth. I have also been greeted by the smell of fresh popped popcorn upon entering the theater.
One nice thing that they have started is, during busy shows, they load up little carts with drinks, popcorn and candy and make them available at other locations throughout the theater. This helps make the lines at the concession stands move faster.
Dollar for dollar, the Village Theater is one of the best venues in town to watch a film, any film.