cone magazine

Top 5 Vintage Movie Theaters in Los Angeles

Words and photos by Ezgi Eren 

If your favorite summer activity is escaping the sweltering heat and diving into an air-conditioned movie theater, your time is almost here. Nothing beats waking up late on a scorching 90-degree Saturday, grabbing an iced coffee, and losing yourself in the nearest movie theater for over two hours of pure escapism. Follow that up with dinner and a cocktail on a nearby patio and your ideal summer is complete. 

If you live in Los Angeles or if you’re planning a visit, you’ll find no shortage of movie theaters to choose from—some more special than others. While there are certain movies that demand the grandeur of a multiplex’s biggest screens (I am a proud AMC Stubs A-list member), there are times that films call for the unique charm of a vintage movie theater. After all, seeing a movie is about more than just the movie; it’s about the experience. With a slew of exciting new releases on the horizon, here are a few of the best vintage theaters in LA that elevate the moviegoing experience with their rich history, stunning architecture, meticulously curated programming and boundless nostalgia. 

1. Vista Theater (1923) 

 Location: Los Feliz 

The Vista has always been a majestic theater, but it feels revitalized since Quentin Tarantino bought and reopened it in late 2023. Stepping into the Vista, it’s so easy to pretend you live in the 70’s, whether it’s the meticulously preserved architecture, the handprints of iconic filmmakers on the concrete of the lobby, or the old-school snack options like Care Bears and Moon Pies that contribute to the overall charm. Or perhaps it’s the whiff of Hollywood classics that were both screened and filmed here. If you think you recognize it from somewhere, it’s probably from the scene in True Romance where characters Alabama and Clarence first meet. 

This is the theater to go to when you want to see a movie “made for the big screen” but don’t feel like going to a multiplex. The sound quality is glorious, and everything on screen is always shown on gorgeous 35mm or 70mm film. I recently rewatched Dune Part 2 here after my initial iMax screening and was impressed with how beautiful and different the 70mm film looked (bonus points for the ticket attendant dressed in a full Fremen get-up).  After the show, walk to Little Dom’s on Hillhurst Ave. and ask for an Old Raj ‘slightly dirty’ martini to sip on while you process what you’ve just watched.

2. The Egyptian (1922)

Location: Hollywood 

Come for the Egyptian Revival-style architecture, stay for the impeccable American Cinematheque programming. The Egyptian is where the first-ever Hollywood film premiere was held for Douglas Fairbanks in Robin Hood in 1922. It’s another cinematic landmark that reopened in 2023 after renovations, with a screening of The Killer followed by a Q&A with David Fincher. 

The massive columns at the gate and the sprawling courtyard immediately set the scene for a special night at the movies, and that’s before you enter and take in the stunning, ornate ceiling of the screening room. The chic concession stand, the hieroglyphics, the artwork by the fountain in the courtyard, and the hustle and bustle of the Hollywood Walk of Fame seeping in are sure to transport you to the golden age of cinema. 

With American Cinematheque taking over programming, The Egyptian is quickly becoming a go-to theater to see classics you might have missed the first time around or wish to revisit. A recent  25th anniversary screening of Claire Denis’ Beau Travail drew a  packed crowd of cinephiles of all ages, all emotionally affected by the famously cathartic ending.  After the show, walk across the street on Hollywood Blvd. and grab a bite at Musso & Frank, where you’ll probably run into others who just left the same screening or even the filmmakers themselves.

3. New Beverly Cinema (1929)

Location: West Hollywood 

If you’re a West Hollywood resident this should be your go-to theater. Even if you’re not, it’s absolutely worth the trip. First opened in 1929 as a candy store, it’s fully committed to keeping the vintage cinema dream alive in every detail, from the posters adorning the lobby to the old-school soda machines. 

New Beverly is another theater owned by Quentin Tarantino, and is probably the closest we’ll get to watching his personal film collection. Everything is shown on 35mm and 70mm film, and the programming caters to not only the hardened cinephiles but also to anyone who enjoys movies. 

One of the best New Beverly offerings is the weekend cartoon matinees for children and families or anyone  who misses watching cartoons on a Saturday afternoon. Next time you’re in West Hollywood, stop by the New Beverly to catch a double-feature, and be sure to pick up one of their wonderful print calendars on the way out. (Fun fact: You can spot the same calendar on Mikey’s fridge in a scene in Swingers).  After the show, cross the street to El Coyote, another iconic LA establishment, for great Mexican food and frozen margaritas. 

4. Los Feliz 3 (1935) 

Location: Los Feliz 

Los Feliz is one of the best neighborhoods in LA, and there is a formula for the perfect day there: grab a book from Skylight Books, walk two doors down to Figaro Bistro to enjoy a coffee and read for hours, then head to the end of the block to catch a movie at Los Feliz 3.

One thing that sets this theater apart is the  smaller size of its screening rooms, making it the ideal choice for a quiet and cozy film experience. It’s the perfect place to catch that new release that require a massive screen and Dolby sound but still deserves a night out at the cinema. 

The central location ensures that it’s always packed, and you’re bound to run into a friend or a buzzing, young celebrity. To top it off, the largest of the three rooms are run by American Cinematheque, offering the best of both worlds in programming. You can enjoy the latest releases alongside foreign films, indies and older classics. After the show, get a cocktail at Pinky’s, hidden in the alley down the block.

5. Aero Theater (1940) 

Location: Santa Monica 

The Aero is where the now-iconic Donnie Darko movie theater scene with Frank the rabbit showing up during a showing of The Evil Dead takes place. That alone should qualify it to be on this list. This art-deco gem in Santa Monica is just a mile from the beach and was initially built to serve as a 24-hour theater for employees of a nearby aviation plant, which is just too cool. 

Another theater brought back to life by American Cinematheque, the Aero routinely screens an inspired selection of new and classic films and often hostsQ&As sessions with actors and filmmakers afterward. It’s the perfect stop to cap off any beach day. If you happen to be there in October, be sure to catch the annual Horrorthon— an all night marathon of exquisitely chosen horror films.  After the show, take a 30-minute stroll down Montana Avenue to the beach, and reflect on the movie you just saw. 



Features are free for all CONE Mag subscribers.
Sign up below