The best theaters to view in Los Angeles

by Dorothy Guo

“City of stars, are you shining just for me?”

Los Angeles has long been known as not only the city of stars but also as the heart of the film and theater industry. Laying under the glittering Hollywood sign and enriched by international lights, this sprawling metropolis is home to a myriad of theater companies and venues filled with a tapestry of voices and stories. The UCLA campus, much like the city of LA itself, is crowded with theater lovers. This article will introduce some of the best theater-going places in LA and guide all the theater fanatics toward fulfilling their enthusiasms.

Hollywood Pantages Theatre

The Hollywood Pantages Theatre is located in the center of Hollywood and, as one of the most significant landmarks of Hollywood, signifies both the glorious past and adventuresome future of the world’s entertainment capital. It was built as early as 1930 and was the venue for the world-renowned Academy Awards presentations from 1950 to 1959. Now, although the theater has been redecorated and reopened several times, its 1930s luxury and glamour remains — the lights of the theater are said to shine upon the entirety of Hollywood Boulevard.

The Hollywood Pantages Theatre mainly features touring Broadway shows in LA. For the 2023-2024 season, the theater has presented world-famous Broadway musicals such as “Mamma Mia!,” “Chicago” and “Come From Away.” The theater even offers seasonal tickets for Broadway maniacs to get easier access to all the shows in a season.

The Hollywood Pantages Theatre is located at 6233 Hollywood Blvd. To commute from UCLA to the theater, students can choose to take the Metro 2 bus line from Hilgard/Wyton, getting off at the Sunset/Vine stop and walking two blocks north. If students choose to drive, independently managed parking lots are located adjacent to the theater on Argyle Street, both north and south of Hollywood Boulevard, and the northwest corner of Hollywood Boulevard and Vine Street.

The Ahmanson Theatre

The Ahmanson Theatre is at the Music Center and aims to produce and present pre-Broadway runs in addition to the best of Broadway and the West End. The theater features a state-of-the-art configuration and an elegant off-white stone exterior with a main facade of glass skin that extends the full 73 feet of the five-level structure, allowing patrons to view the Mark Taper Forum’s massive mural.

With its big capacity and specially-designed stage features to accommodate various theatrical productions, the Ahmanson Theatre has presented musicals “Hadestown,” “A Christmas Story” and Matthew Bourne’s “Romeo and Juliet” in 2023. Shows for the rest of the 2024 season are “Funny Girls,” “A Strange Loop” and “Clue.”

The Ahmanson Theatre is located in downtown Los Angeles at the Music Center, at 135 N. Grand Ave. Self-parking is available in the Music Center garage for $10 at the Grand Avenue entrance. Students can also take the Metro 720 bus, switching onto the Metro E line at the Wilshire/Vermont stop to get to the theater.

The Geffen Playhouse

The Geffen Playhouse was built in 1929 as the Masonic Affiliates Club, or the MAC, for students and alumni at UCLA. Originally named the Contempo Theatre and later named the Westwood Playhouse, the theater was purchased by UCLA in 1993 and has long been filled with vibrant student activities.

The Geffen Playhouse runs two permanent venues — the Gil Cates Theater, which usually features classic and contemporary plays, and the Audrey Skirball Kenis Theater, which has hosted concerts, play readings and family theater productions. For the 2023-2024 season, the Gil Cates Theater presents “The Engagement Party,” “Potus,” “Fat Ham” and “Tiny Father.” The Audrey Skirball Kenis Theater presents “Every Brilliant Thing,” “Black Cypress Bayou” and “The Hope Theory.”

The Geffen Playhouse is located at 10886 Le Conte Ave. and is within walking distance from campus. The playhouse often hosts lottery polls and special student discounts at UCLA’s Westwood Village Block Party.

The Nimoy Theater

The Nimoy Theater is named after the artist, actor, director and philanthropist Leonard Nimoy and is dedicated to producing live performances that aim to engage the audience in an immersive experience. It is a rehabilitation of the Crest Theater (the former UCLAN Theater) and features designer Joseph Musil’s Art Deco-inspired renovation and stylized murals of Hollywood and Westwood landmarks.

The Nimoy Theater welcomes a diverse range of innovative live performances that enrich the audiences’ artistic experiences. In the 2023-2024 season, it hosts Rapper Omar Offendum’s “The Little Syria Show,” the all-female Latin alternative band LADAMA and many others.

The Nimoy Theater is located at 1262 Westwood Blvd. and is within walking distance from the UCLA campus. Tickets for shows at the Nimoy Theater, as a part of CAP UCLA, can be directly purchased at the Central Ticket Office on campus. The theater also has easy access to a parking lot at 10866 Wilshire Blvd. $3 parking begins at 5 p.m. for evening performances and at 12 p.m. for matinee performances. If you enter before those times, you will have to pay a much heftier $30 parking fee.

The Greek Theatre

The Greek Theatre is located in Griffith Park, right next to the famous “La La Land” shooting spot — the Griffith Observatory. The theater was opened in 1930, initially serving as a World War II barracks site.

As the name suggests, the Greek Theatre has a stage modeled after a Greek temple and can accommodate up to 5,900 spectators. The theater has hosted various musical legends, including Sir Elton John, Aretha Franklin, Frank Sinatra, Bruce Springsteen and more. Due to its immersive environment and beautiful natural setting, it has also been the venue for a diverse range of stage shows and graduation ceremonies.

The Greek Theatre is located at 2700 N. Vermont Ave. Students at UCLA may find it easiest to drive or take an Uber to the theater, as there is no direct bus route to the location. The theater provides both on-site and off-site parking spaces, with a shuttle for off-site parking.

With so many theaters in Los Angeles, there’s bound to be one that suits your viewing interests and is within reasonable distance. Happy exploring!

Featured Image Courtesy of CAP UCLA

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