Have you ever wanted to go into one of those old theaters in downtown LA? The Orpheum, The Palace, The Million Dollar Theater, and The Los Angeles Theater. The LA Conservancy shows a movie in each of these theaters once a year in their Last Remaining Seats series. The Conservancy, which is run by volunteers, created this event in 1987 as a way to draw attention to the historic movie palaces of downtown Los Angeles, many of which were underused and in need of restoration. Now in its 25th year it has become their signature event, drawing over 10,000 people a year from around the country and the world.
Many of the theaters began as vaudeville stages, where lives acts like the Marx Brothers and Sophie Tucker entertained wealthy families. As film progressed and grew in popularity they were transformed into movie theaters. Behind their deceptively simple exteriors, these movie theaters from Hollywood's golden age are breathtakingly lavish temples.
We went to the bonus showing this past Sunday. The shows are usually on Wednesday however they had a Sunday showing to mark the 100th anniversary of The Palace Theater. The Palace was built in 1911 as part of the Orpheum chain and is now the oldest remaining Orpheum theater. It seats 1,167 and is a replica of a Renaissance Florentine Palace but is reduced in size. They were showing a fan favorite, the 1950's film Sunset Boulevard. The show was so popular they had to add two additional shows to their original one. We got tickets to the last show added which was at 10am on Sunday morning. Early! We went arrived at the theater at 9:00 to find a line already formed half way down the block. We stood in line anxiously waiting for the doors to open while the line quadrupled in size. The doors were supposed to open at 9:30 however they were having technical difficulties so it was delayed 15 minutes. We were allowed to enter and it was a rush to find good seats. There was a short program before the movie started on the history of the theater which was entertaining. Once the movie started the everyone was silent and enjoyed the show. The picture was great, as it was a newly refinished copy.
Overall this is a great event. Tickets are $20 each but the sale of them is tricky. Members of the conservancy get a first shot at ticket sales about a month before everyone else. The good shows usually sell out. After that, the general public has a chance to buy tickets. The good thing is, like any movie, seats are for the most part first come first serve, but you definitely need to plan ahead if you want to attend a show. The last show of the series is tonight at The Orpheum. If you're interested in this event look for tickets on the website in the spring.