Very fittingly my first order of business when I arrived in Hollywood was to explore the numerous famous theatres within walking distance of Loews Hollywood Hotel.  I started with The Pantages which is a little less than a mile from the hotel.  After a five hour plane ride I happily welcomed a little walk down Hollywood Boulevard.

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I arrived at Hollywood & Vine just after 1 p.m. and rang upstairs to the Pantages offices to alert Benny, my tour guide, of my arrival.  Within minutes Benny greeted me with a friendly smile and endless enthusiasm for the historic Hollywood Pantages Theatre.  He led me into the lobby, a grand spectacle of 1930’s Art Deco design, and he started to tell the story of the theatre’s glory from its inception.  The theatre was the last to be built by Alexander Pantages and originally opened in 1930 as a vaudeville house.  Pantages had the foresight to create a sense of arrival for guests by designing a very large, ornate lobby which was unlike anything ever built in a theatre prior to its opening.  On NYC’s Broadway you may miss a theatre’s lobby if you blink!  Benny went through each detail of the gorgeous architectural and design feat, and explained the major changes that had been made over the years – from the Egyptian statues that spoke to the notable industries in 1930’s Los Angeles (film, commerce, agriculture, and aviation) to the original floor-to-ceiling Art Deco mirrors in the women’s lounge to the relatively new chandeliers that were placed where the originals had been prior to being removed during World War II.  Benny was extremely apologetic that he couldn’t share the actual theatre or backstage with me because they were bringing in the sets and preparing for the opening of The Wizard of Oz the very next night!  I will have to come see a production here next time I’m in town.  

After departing the Pantages, I stopped for a quick bite of lunch and then walked back towards the hotel.  The remainder of the theatres on my list were within a block of the hotel, so the location for one of our newest Loews Hotels couldn’t have been more central to the action!  As I strolled along Hollywood Boulevard, I enjoyed looking at all of the Stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame while wondering when bloggers might be added.  Wishful thinking.  As I approached the intersection of Hollywood and Highland, I felt like I was back on the streets of New York City with the street performers, bus tour invitations, and film crews.

I opted to check out the El Capitan Theatre first.  Just a few weeks before my trip, the El Capitan hosted the premiere of Disney’s newest feature film, Planes.  If only I had been here for all of that hype on Hollywood Boulevard!  The legendary building, originally opened in 1926 as a playhouse, was restored in an effort led by The Walt Disney Company in 1989.  It currently hosts live stage shows, world premieres, and other special events, but I was most interested in The Little Mermaid 3-D that was playing at the theatre while I was in town.  I’m going to have to try to sneak that into my schedule.

As I was admiring and photographing the elaborate exterior, a gentleman tapped me on the shoulder.  “Hi, I work for ABC.  Do you have a moment for a question?”  I paused momentarily in order to think of an excuse, but before I could say another word the gentleman continued, “We will tape you briefly answering the question and you may be on television this evening.”

I can only imagine how many people would be thrilled with this opportunity, but instead I shook my head and I continued walking.  As I approached the crosswalk to go to the Dolby Theatre, I looked to my left and saw the large banners hanging between columns on the building reading ‘Jimmy Kimmel Live’.  Oh thank goodness I didn’t answer that question.  Jimmy Kimmel was trying to embarrass me on National television!

I arrived at Hollywood & Highland Center and ascended the large staircase that I later learned is part of the red carpet entrance during the Academy Awards®.  That would be daunting in an Oscar get-up!  I purchased a ticket for the 30-minute behind-the-scenes tour and waited on level 2 for the tour to begin.  A charming gentleman approached the tour group from behind the glass doors of the theatre and invited us inside.  After taking our tickets, he started with the history of the theatre and the details of what it is like on its biggest day of the year, the Academy Awards®.  I was vaguely familiar with some of the Oscar happenings as Loews Hollywood serves as the hub for the press covering the award winners throughout the evening.

During the brief tour, we saw VIP areas, walked into the theatre, took a glimpse at historic Academy Award® photos, and saw an Oscar up close.  Did you know that each golden statue weighs 8.5 pounds?  Hmm…perfect dumbbell replacement.  I appreciated that the tour was to the point and gave me plenty of time to explore the rest of Hollywood & Highland, as well as fit in my last theatre visit of the day: TCL’s Chinese Theatre (formerly Grauman’s).

Grauman’s Chinese Theatre originally opened in Hollywood in 1927 and is still one of the most notable landmarks in the city today.  On either side of the grand red column entrance are two dogs imported from China, along with numerous decorative elements used on the facade and interior of the theatre.  Despite the over-the-top building, my eyes immediately focused on the cement handprints, footprints, and messages to Sid in the theatre’s courtyard.  From Marilyn Monroe to Sidney Poitier to Sandra Bullock, there are over 150 imprints to ogle.

After my full afternoon of theatre tours, I was ready to see a production, but instead I headed back to my comfortable room at Loews Hollywood to relax before getting ready for happy hour and dinner.


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