Amid the bustle of Hollywood Boulevard stand two monuments to the silver screen. One, the TCL Chinese Theatre, oozes with history— imported Chinese stone lions, a 90-foot-tall copper roof, and concrete blocks that bear the handprints of Hollywood luminaries from years gone by each memorialize the celebrated role the building has played in Hollywood for more than eight decades.
Next door, Chinese 6 Theatres is a tribute to the cutting-edge. Six theaters, some with 3D capability, immerse viewers in ultra-realistic picture and sound better than sitting inside Steven Spielberg's android brain. Beyond the plush theater seating, a bar slings cocktails for in-movie sipping and a restaurant serves a full menu for cravings after the show. The service schedule varies for the bar and the restaurant but both will be open during Summer 2013. Whether they opt for the historic cinema or the ultramodern theater, visitors can catch a full slate of acclaimed new releases on their chosen big screen.
The storied history of TCL Chinese Theatre rivals those of the more than 200 celebrities whose handprints, footprints, and autographs are cemented into the theater's forecourt. Erected in 1927 and declared a historical and cultural landmark in 1968, the iconic theater stages movie screenings, premieres, events, and red-carpet ceremonies. Today, moviegoers walking through the theater's main courtyard can revel in the same opulence of those 1920s screen idols, craning their necks upward to take in the looming pagoda that frames the entrance. Inside, the theater's original 1927 screen towers high above the plush red-velvet seats, surrounded by wooden panels that rise to a ceiling with flowing Chinese-style drawings. This classic Hollywood setting is one of the reasons why the theater, in an echo of its origins, hosts celebrity-studded premieres, such as the 2012 opening for Life of Pi and the 2013 opening for Beautiful Creatures.
The historic fountain at the east end of Balboa Park’s El Prado pedestrian walk is a lure for visitors, thanks to its majestic and cooling spray. But a quick turn to the right is the entrance to the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center, another local draw. For the young, it’s a two story, interactive science playground. For the young at heart, there are sophisticated displays, rotating exhibits and the new, NanoSeam IMAX Dome Theater. Films splayed across the 76-foot wraparound screen plunge viewers into the depths of the sea and out into space, through jungles and between skyscrapers around the planet. Resident astronomers also create new shows monthly, using the latest SkyScan System software. The café near the entrance takes care of hungry visitors with a modest menu, a few tables indoors and patio seating in front of the fountain.
Its name may contain the word "museum," but The Tech Museum of Innovation prefers not to wallow in the past. Since its earliest days in 1978, it has exhibited the timeless principles of science while also celebrating the latest in technological achievement. In doing so, the institution inspires visitors to apply that same spirit of creative problem-solving to all aspects of life.
The Dark Room is a 50-seat performance space plunked in the Mission’s exact center, serving as a powerhouse of stand-up and underground theater for years. While not a black box, student-run space per se, guests definitely shouldn’t expect any frills at this former bar. Far from bad drapes and the standard comedy club’s brick wall background, this eccentric space pops with personality, including bathrooms plastered in historical tidbits from the SF theater scene from years past. Frequent shows include indie stand up sets, local talent shows and, lately, live renditions of classic TV episodes and a Sunday Bad Movie Night, which is something of a local tradition. For those looking to inquire, The Dark Room also doubles as a rentable space for rehearsals or shows.
Wielding his signature harmonica, delta-blues artist James Cotton has become a legend in blues circles, having started in the Muddy Waters Blues Band and since performed with B.B. King, Johnny Winter, Santana, Led Zeppelin, and other renowned artists. Watch the mouth-harp-playing phenomenon soulfully jam to classic blues tunes, such as “Don’t Start Me Talking” and “Sweet Sixteen,” as well as material from his newest record, Giant. Local blues-rockers Deja Blues will open, playing tunes that pay tribute to every style of American blues, from Mississippi Delta to Chicago shuffle to robot blues-rock, which focuses on the loneliness of 0s and 1s.
"Ornate" and "sweeping" only begin to describe the Crest Theatre, whose rich history extends back to 1912, when it was opened as a vaudeville house. Within its gargantuan auditorium, plush seats perch in subtly curved rows while elaborate lights and a sea-blue ceiling wash the space in ethereal hues. Moviegoers settle into the elegant confines to take in both new and classic films, reading the subtitles in a whisper to stuffed animals that forgot their glasses. Out in the lobby, a richly patterned carpet and bronzed floral motif cover the sprawling space as visitors belly up to the bar and snack on high-quality goodies.