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What is the ideal Christmas landscape? This question triggers so many images—the Hallmark Christmas Card scene of rooftops cake-frosted in snow. For children, perhaps it is some scene out of the North Pole, with Santa standing in the polar wind and snow-flakes, dressed in bold red and white ermine, assembling his reindeer team for the annual launch into the cold Christmas night.
While the ideal Christmas landscape may not conjure images of sun-baked hills, sandy beaches and palm trees—the icons of the Los Angeles landscape— Los Angeles is the best place on earth when it comes to creating the Christmas landscapes of the imagination. After all, who has been more involved in the invention of popular Christmas imagery and Christmas film classics than Hollywood?
And what do people like to do during the Holidays after installing the Christmas Lights and finishing the holiday decorations? What do families do when they need that break from the frenetic grind of Christmas shopping, or after all the gifts have been unwrapped?
It’s simple. Gather up grandma, grandpa, and the kids, buy a tub of buttery popcorn, pop a straw into that Cherry Coke and escape again into the silver screen glow, the screenscape of a Christmas film classic.
But where do you go? What do you watch? How can you choose when there are so many Christmas classics, so many hallowed theaters to choose from all over the city that invented the Christmas movie-going experience? To help you narrow it down this Holiday Season, we at Mobile Illumination, a Los Angeles company founded on Christmas family spirit, want to invite you and your family out to the movies this year with our very own Hollywood Christmas Movie Theater Guide.
Where to Go
This vintage revival house theater has been many things over the years; it was a candy company in the ‘20s, and an ice cream factory in the early ‘30s before becoming the launching-pad for Hollywood legends like Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis in the ’40s. Less than ten years ago, this theater was on the verge of re-development until none other than Quentin Tarantino swooped in to buy the building and make this pledge: “as long as I’m alive, and as long as I’m rich, the New Beverly will be there, showing double features in 35mm.” If you want to ditch digital for 35mm film screenings in a classic theater, the New Beverly Theater is the perfect cinematic Christmas present.
What to Watch
Need a Christmas Eve nostalgia break? Catch the double-feature of Scrooge and Die-Hard, a pairing as eclectic as Tarantino’s film-narratives. Scrooge, the 1970 classic starring Albert Finney (he won a Golden Globe for his turn as Scrooge), and Sir Alec Guinness (see him pre-Obi Wan), is still the only live action version of Dicken’s A Christmas Carol to be nominated for multiple Oscars. Oh, and while we are on the subject of “live” and “action,” what movie delivers hard-core holiday action better than Bruce Willis, aka Officer John McClane in Die Hard. To borrow the movie’s famous tag-line: “Twelve terrorists…One Cop” and too many explosions to count. Can you say “yippee-ki-yay”?
Where to Go
Originally built in 1939 for aircraft workers, this quintessential theater, nestled in a posh quarter of Santa Monica’s Montana Avenue, was once Robert Redford’s favorite childhood cinema. While Mr. Redford has come a long way since those childhood trips to the movies, his favorite theater still beckons the Christmas film-goer with its flashing marquee lights.
What to Watch
If you are going to rediscover a landmark theater why not also rediscover a Hollywood Christmas classic? Yes, Mr. Jimmy Stewart stars as Mr. George Bailey, the everyman, the family man, the small business owner, who battles suicidal self-doubt, near financial ruin, and the wicked town miser, Mr. Potter (played by legendary Lionel Barrymore). George Bailey battles these foes and wins with the help and prayers of family, friends, and perhaps the frumpiest Angel to ever earn his wings, Mr. Clarence Odbody.
Will Ferrell stars as Buddy, the world’s largest elf, who discovers his humanity and leaves the North Pole to search for his biological father in the Big Apple. Co-stars include James Caan and Bob Newhart, in perhaps his funniest role since co-starring on Newhart with Larry and his brothers Darryl and Darryl. The movie reaches its literal climax as Santa’s sleigh, grounded, flies again, fueled by the Christmas spirit of a Manhattan crowd singing “Santa Claus is Coming to Town.” Since its holiday debut in 2003, Elf has joined the short-list of top Holiday classics.
Where to Go
If you are looking for a premier modern theater with THX surround sound, multiple screens and stadium seating, the ArcLight is the place to watch Hollywood movies at an ultra-modern Hollywood theater. While it features all the latest blockbusters, you can also find special event screenings of Christmas movies under the ArcLight’s white dome.
What to Watch
Yes, almost everything from the early ‘80s seems dated these days, and yet A Christmas Story remains ageless. The plot is simple: Ralphie, a nine-year-old, lusts after a RedRyder BB-gun, but the movie transcends the single-minded obsession of its protagonist through a flurry of memorable scenes from flagpole-licking, to Deranged Easter Bunny outfits, to decoder rings, and one of the biggest bully beat-downs of all time. Although you can’t go home to your Christmas childhood, this movie is the next best thing.
Four years after Ghostbusters, Bill Murray returns to his ‘80s habit of confronting ghosts in New York City as Frank Cross, a cold and cynical T.V. Executive, in this modern adaptation of A Christmas Carol. Though Hollywood has churned out many remakes of Dicken’s famous holiday novella over the years, few have been funnier or more irreverent than this version. The film’s highlights include a former New York Doll frontman (David Johansen) co-starring as the Ghost of Christmas Past (who also doubles as a New York cab-driver), and ends with a reformed Frank going on an ironic diatribe, promoting time with the family over time in front of the tube.
Where to Go
The TCL corporation may have bought the naming rights, but Grauman’s Chinese Theater is a priceless Hollywood jewel. If you live in Los Angeles and are playing host to family members this Christmas, you owe them a trip to the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and to the Hollywood theatre of all theatres. Where else can you touch cinematic history and compare hand and footprints with John Wayne, Clint Eastwood, and Jack Nicholson?
What to Watch
What better Holiday treat than the final film in Peter Jackson’s epic Hobbit trilogy? In this final installment, the film begins with the gargantuan dragon Smaug and culminates with the clash of five armies under the shadow of the Lonely Mountain. If you thought the first Hobbit movie was a little slow in the action department (dude, the Dwarves spent half the movie eating breakfast), don’t worry, because this film is heavy on the action, staging those spectacular battle scenes that Jackson is so famous for.
Time to Go
So there you have it, a hit collection of Los Angeles theaters and Christmas movies in the place that invented holiday movie magic. We may not have snow in the City of Angels, but we have butter, popcorn, and the greatest silver screenscapes on Earth.
Better yet, we have stories. Not just stories, but the greatest holiday stories ever told. Isn’t that why we all still go to the movies? We go to anticipate the great story. We go for that rush of excitement, that anticipation when the lights suddenly dim, and the theater chatter goes silent. We go to watch the grand story unfold on the big-screen, and we go to feel the Holiday blues, and any other blues, instantly melt away.
There are too many reasons to count why we still and always will go to the movies; our time with family and friends around the holidays is far too precious to linger any longer on this subject. It’s time now to gather up the family and head out for the nearest and brightest marquee. Yes, it’s time now, time for lights…camera…Christmas.