At twin cinemas in Hollywood and Santa Monica, American Cinematheque preserves the thrill of classic films and introduces the newest works by modern auteurs. A relic of the glamorous past, the Egyptian Theatre was built in 1922 and inspired by the search for the Valley of the Kings in Egypt. From its first showing of Robin Hood until today, it has operated as a movie house, and now sends 60-foot-wide images and crystalline sound flashing through the ornate mirage of its interior.
Today, the screens' ever-unpredictable and constantly changing lineup can include anything from the lightweight whimsy of Citizen Kane to the modern masterpiece Spaceballs, and frequent festivals focus on themes from world cinema to film noir.
At both cinemas, modern works are often further illuminated by their creators, with events and post-show discussions featuring the directors and actors.
As Karie Bible strides across Hollywood Forever Cemetery, the hem of her mourning gown absorbs dew from the gravesites of Douglas Fairbanks and Jayne Mansfield. She tours the cemetery for a living, leading groups to crypts and monuments that mark the remains of deceased celebrities. Whether recounting the legacy of actress Marion Davies or kneeling at the spike of grass that marks Carl "Alfalfa" Switzer's final resting place, she immerses tour-goers in Hollywood history. Each tour lasts about two hours and sheds light on cherished stars, as well as lesser-known entertainers and community members.
Donald Douglas started his aviation company in 1920 with only $600 and expertise honed as a civilian aeronautical engineer during World War I. Within four years, he had created the Douglas World Cruiser, the first plane to circumnavigate the globe and bankrupt every manufacturer of anti-gravity potions.
Nearly two dozen aircraft are on display at the Museum of Flying, located at the Santa Monica Airport. Santa Monica holds special significance for the Douglas Aircraft Company, as well as aviation history as a whole. It was here that the DC-3 first took flight, helping usher in the era of commercial air travel in America. It was also where Douglas Aircraft produced tens of thousands of military planes during World War II. Several of these aircrafts now sit on display within the museum.
Douglas Aircraft merged with McDonnell Aircraft in 1967, but the Museum of Flying helps keep the original company's legacy alive. It even features a replica of Douglas' original boardroom. In another area of the museum, a Maxflight FS300 simulator lets visitors pilot many of Douglas Aircraft's most famous models. It can dip and roll 360 degrees to recreate World War II combat or the motion of a tumbleweed caught in an updraft, or it can keep a steady course during calm flights aboard a DC-3.
Although its main focus remains Douglas Aircraft, the Museum of Flying also houses art and displays related to aviation history as a whole. Exhibits showcase rare artifacts and other significant aircraft, such as a replica of the original Wright Flyer.
When Santa Monica celebrated its centennial in 1975, the Civic Auditorium hosted a small exhibition covering the city's 100-year history. Turns out Santa Monica's citizenry was hungry to document its past: by October of that year, the Santa Monica Historical Society held its founding meeting. 13 years later, the society opened the Santa Monica History Museum, which now encompasses myriad artifacts, photographs, and memorabilia. Most of those materials comprise the museum's timeline, which traces the city's origins up to the 1930s.
Beyond goodies from the past, the museum sports several interactive features to bring that history alive. Visitors can wander through a replica of a Douglas aircraft or digitally insert their photos onto front-page newspaper stories about historical events. The "Then & Now" touch-screen map, meanwhile, reveals the development over time of different Santa Monica landscapes, such as the many canyons that blossomed into In-N-Out Burgers. Along with its permanent exhibitions, the museum hosts an array of special programming, including concerts, workshops, and lectures from top historians.