Being the home of so much of the entertainment we enjoy daily, it’s no surprise that Hollywood is filled with experiences made especially for film and TV lovers. And they’re adding new ones all the time.
We’re not talking about celebrity house hunting with TMZ or your local movie star maps here. These are experiences that make you not just feel like you’re part of the movies in Hollywood, but actually be a part of them. Or, at least live like the local celebrities too for a minute or two.
Here now are the five best ways movie fans can experience Hollywood, California.
1. Visit the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures
The long anticipated Academy Museum of Motion Pictures opened its doors in September 2021, finally bringing a dedicated film museum to Hollywood.
It’s quite bewildering to think that the place that is arguably the centre of the world’s entertainment didn’t have one until now. Even Melbourne has had the brilliant ACMI since 2002.
Perhaps for a city that is so enveloped in film culture – with tours and attractions all over the city – the need just didn’t appear to be there. After all, as you’ll see in this article, there are more immersive experiences for film fans than a museum to take in on a trip to LA.
But it was clear that when a museum did open its doors it had one simple – yet lofty – directive: be the world’s best. And while the verdict won’t come on that for a little while yet, one thing is for sure – Los Angeles and Hollywood finally have the world class film museum that it’s always deserved.
Like ACMI, and other museums of its kind, the museum will sit with a mix of rotating, permanent and visiting exhibitions. On the visiting front, until 5th June 2022, guests can enjoy a remarkable Hayao Miyazaki retrospective on the museum’s top floor.
Elsewhere you’ll find memorabilia from Spike Lee‘s personal collection, a specially devised audio experience from Academy Award winning composer Hildur Guðnadóttir (Joker), a tribute to the works of Pedro Almodóvar, and even the original E.T., C3PO and R2D2 costumes, Dorothy’s ruby red slippers, and Citizen Kane‘s “rosebud”. You can also hold your very own Oscar as part of “The Oscars® Experience”, which is available for an additional fee.
Photo Credit: Iwan Baan
And sitting adjacent and attached to the museum is the architectural splendour, 1000-seat David Geffen Theater, which hosts regular events and film screenings. This week alone, the room will welcome special screenings of The French Connection (featuring a discussion with director William Freidkin), 2001: A Space Odyssey and Hayao Miyazaki’s Castle in the Sky. To see what’s playing when you’re in town, head HERE.
The outstanding museum is open Sunday to Thursday: 10am–6pm, and Friday to Saturday: 10am–8pm. And you don’t need to go all the way to Hollywood to experience some of the content they have on offer. Head to their website for tickets to the museum, details on upcoming special events, and a lot more exclusive digital content.
2. Take The Studio Tour at Universal Studios Hollywood
The heart of the theme park that promises you the experience of letting you “ride the movies” is their Studio Tour, which on its opening in 1964, was the park’s only attraction – though backlot “tours” of the studios date back as far as 1915.
Hosted on video screens by Jimmy Fallon, and accompanied by whoever your tour guide happens to be that day, the Studio Tour takes place on a tram (April 15th Editorial Update: some of which will soon be electric!), as you travel through a mix of areas devised just for the tour, and sets where live filming is taking place.
You might be lucky enough to see a scene being filmed, or the actors taking a break between shots. Sometimes your tram may stop for a while so the noise doesn’t affect filming. Unsurprisingly, this is a common occurrence on any live set (a sign on entry tells you what they’re filming that day to give you an idea of what you might see in action), and the overall experience can range anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour.
Along the way, you’ll go through recreated sets of films, like Psycho and War of the Worlds, and special digital experiences from the King Kong and the Fast and the Furious series – all complete with water and movement effects. At times it’s very much a ride – and an immersive one at that. And for those that want a tour that takes them off the tram and even more into the action, look no further than the park’s VIP Experience.
Speaking of immersive experiences, while at the park, you can also visit the Wizarding World of Harry Potter with their impressive recreation of Hogsmeade and Hogwarts, ride roller coasters like Revenge of the Mummy, arguably the world’s best water drop ride in the recently upgraded Jurassic World, and transform into pets on the 2021 family dark ride addition The Secret Life of Pets: Off The Leash!. And yes, after all these years, you can still see the Waterworld stunt show. And really, would any visit be complete without it?
More details on the park can be found at their official website. Fun Fact: It’s also the only theme park in the city that can be accessed directly via the city’s underground rail network.
3. Book in a WB Studios Movie Tour
While Universal Studios set the benchmark for turning a backlot tour into an immersive experience, there are fewer more comprehensive dedicated tours in the world than the one that Warner Bros. offers at their Burbank studios.
Warner Bros. takes their Studio Tour guests on a semi-private tour through active and inactive sets around their backlot, with portions of the tour taking place on the tram, and portions on your feet. Like you’d expect any studio tour to be, it’s an ever-changing experience, based on what’s filming at the time, and what they can provide for fans of their most popular IPs.
At the moment, this includes exhibits like DC Super Heroes and Super Villains, with costumes and vehicles from films in that universe, and the opportunity to sit on the Friends Central Perk set, or Big Bang Theory sets.
You can also currently see the Peacemaker costume on display at the entrance to the WB Studio Store (pictured above), and Selena’s iconic purple jumpsuit has been added to one of the other exhibitions on the tour, “Stage 48: script to screen”.
That’s just a taste of what’s on offer on this 2-3 hour tour, which will please Gilmore Girls and Batman fans alike. There really is a little something for everyone. For more details about the tour, which starts from US$57, head to their official website.
4. Request a ticket to be in the audience!
Why just look from the outside? Why not be a part of the Hollywood film and TV experience?
Websites like 1iota.com offer a numbers of free experiences one can have while in Los Angeles, where you’ll get to sit in the audience for everything from a late night talk show, the taping of a sitcom (like Night Court, which is currently taking ticket requests) or even a big Hollywood premiere.
While you never quite know what’s going to be on when you’re there, most weeks you can request tickets to be in the audience of Jimmy Kimmel Live!, or the Late Late Show with James Corden, which thankfully aren’t usually filmed live, so you can usually knock that out before dinner time.
1iota isn’t the only way to be in the audience for an event – you can also get selected by just walking around the streets of Hollywood to attend a pre-screening of an upcoming film (you just have to fill out a questionnaire after the screening), or other events, including award shows.
Seats to other events and TV shows are made available directly through the websites of the studios that produce the event – so if there’s any show you know is filmed in LA with an audience, Google for more details! You’ll be surprised how easy it is to be a part of it all.
5. Go for a run at Runyon Canyon
Since you can walk to any of its three entrances from the residential areas of Hollywood, Runyon Canyon – with its incredible views of Hollywood and the Hollywood sign – is one of the favourite spots for locals (famous or otherwise) to go for their daily exercise. You might even meet some famous doggos, as it’s an off leash trail! Keen eyed movie fans will also spot it as a popular location for film and TV shows. The Runyon Ranch, for one, was seen in Beverly Hills 90210 and Scream 3, amongst others.
The trail is open Sunrise to Sunset daily. More details can be found HERE.
Getting to Los Angeles from Australia
Daily flights out of Australia’s East Coast have now returned with most airlines who frequented the route pre-pandemic; Delta, American Airlines, United and Qantas all have direct routes from Sydney or Melbourne to Los Angeles. Qantas resumed its Brisbane to Los Angeles direct service this week.
At the time of printing, pre-flight Covid tests and proof of vaccination remain requisite for travel. You can see America’s most up to date arrival requirements HERE.
Headline Photo Credit: Joshua White