40 Best Performing Arts Venues in Los Angeles, California

Dorothy Chandler Pavilion

Downtown Fodor's choice

Though half a century old, this theater maintains the glamour of its early years, richly decorated with crystal chandeliers, classical theatrical drapes, and a 24-karat gold dome. Part of the Los Angeles Music Center, this pavilion is home to the L.A. Opera though a large portion of programming is made up of dance and ballet performances as well. Ticket holders can attend free talks that take place an hour before opera performances.

Reservations for the talks aren't required, but it's wise to arrive early, as space is limited.

Greek Theatre

Fodor's choice

With a robust lineup from May through November, acts such as Bruce Springsteen, John Legend, and Aretha Franklin (RIP) have all graced the stage at this scenic outdoor venue. Located at the base of Griffith Park, there's usually slow pre-show traffic on concert nights, but that'll give you a chance to take in the beautiful park foliage and homes in the Hollywood Hills. Paid lots are available for parking, but wear comfortable shoes and expect to walk as some lots are fairly far from the theater. Or you can park and enjoy cocktails in trendy and chic Los Feliz before a show, then walk up to the venue.

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Walt Disney Concert Hall

Downtown Fodor's choice

One of the architectural wonders of Los Angeles, the 2,265-seat hall is a sculptural monument of gleaming, curved steel designed by Frank Gehry. It's part of a complex that includes a public park, gardens, shops, and two outdoor amphitheaters, one of them atop the concert hall. The acoustically superlative venue is the home of the city's premier orchestra, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, whose music director, Gustavo Dudamel, is an international celebrity in his own right. The orchestra's season runs from late September to early June, before it heads to the Hollywood Bowl for the summer.

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Recommended Fodor's Video

A Noise Within

Named for one of Shakespeare's stage directions in Hamlet, A Noise Within is the Los Angeles area's preeminent place to see classic theater. The Bard's own works are told alongside those of Oscar Wilde and the Greek tragedies, often with a twist. The company boasts fierce talent among its revolving repertory of resident actors, many of whom also work in Hollywood. Audience members are never more than eight rows away from its platform stage, creating a sense of intimacy for all in attendance.

3352 E. Foothill Blvd., Pasadena, CA, 91107, USA
626-356–3100
Performing Arts Details
Rate Includes: $65

Aero Theatre

Look like a local and attend an event at this Santa Monica–based American Cinematheque theater first opened in 1940. The name refers to its roots: this Streamline Moderne-style theater was built by the Douglas Aircraft Company to entertain its armies of workers during the war effort. Newly renovated, it offers new projection equipment, improved sound, and cushier facilities. In addition to now-standard digital films, the theater is equipped to show 35mm and 70mm reels. American Cinematheque also hosts industry events like filmmaker discussions and revivals.

Ahmanson Theatre

Downtown

The largest of L.A.'s Center Theatre Group's three theaters, the 2,100-seat Ahmanson Theatre presents larger-scale classic revivals, dramas, musicals, and comedies like Into the Woods, which are either going to or coming from Broadway and the West End. The ambience is a theater lover's delight.

Atwater Village Theater

With two stages and year-round performances, Atwater Village has aligned with three L.A. theater companies: Ensemble Studio Theatre, Circle X Theatre Co., and Echo Theater Company, and presents fresh works from new local playwrights.

Billy Wilder Theater

Specializing in restored archival film, the Billy Wilder Theater, home of the UCLA Film & Television Archive, presents a number of acclaimed screenings, including both silent and foreign films. The Hammer Museum produces its own events for the theater, including readings, lectures, and conversations with artists. Authors Jonathan Lethem and Roxane Gay, and director David Lynch have all made appearances. Hammer Museum programs are free; screenings by the UCLA Film & Television Archive have charged admission with a ticket.

Center for the Art of Performance at UCLA

An array of arresting events happens here, from the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, to storytelling series The Moth, to performances by activist artists Silencio Blanco, and more. The Los Angeles Ballet is one of the frequent guests here.

Center Theatre Group

Downtown

The Center Theatre Group is comprised of three venues: the Ahmanson and the Taper (both at the Music Center campus Downtown) and the Kirk Douglas Theatre in Culver City. They show an array of productions, from the Tony Award winner Dear Evan Hansen to touring productions of Broadway hits like Jersey Boys.

Dolby Theatre

Hollywood

The 3,400-seat theater and host of the Academy Awards is housed in the shopping and entertainment complex known as Hollywood & Highland, just steps away from the Walk of Fame on Hollywood Boulevard. If no concerts or events are happening when you’re in the area, take one of the daily tours offered by Dolby Theatre and see a world only Hollywood bigwigs and movie stars are privy to.

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East West Players

Little Tokyo

Plays at this Little Tokyo theater focus on the Asian American experience and feature an Asian American cast. Its Theatre for Youth Program is a traveling production that promotes racial tolerance and understanding among students. It is also home to the David Henry Hwang Writers Institute.

El Capitan Theatre

Hollywood

The theater packs in as much preshow entertainment as it can, such as an immersive light-and-projection show before movies such as Beauty and the Beast. There's also an on-site organ player to entertain folks as they find their seats. VIP tickets are available and include reserved seating, popcorn, and a drink.

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Fountain Theatre

Hollywood

The multiple award–winning (Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle, NAACP Theater Awards, Ovation Award, to name a few) Fountain Theatre is committed to diverse theater and dance performances. Although the 80-seat venue may be intimate, it's a powerhouse at producing original plays in addition to revivals.

Fremont Centre Theatre

This theater centers on original material and world premieres with professional actors year-round. The small venue is known for its dedication to diversity and its inclusive atmosphere, with “talkbacks" (Q&As between actors and audience members) after certain shows. Ray Bradbury regularly produced shows here for five years before his death in 2012, including a stage adaptation of Fahrenheit 451.

Geffen Playhouse

Westwood

Well-known actors are often on the bill at the Geffen, and plays by established playwrights, such as Neil LaBute and Lynn Nottage, happen regularly. With two stages hosting world premieres and critically acclaimed works, there's always something compelling to watch. Free events are frequently put on for ticket holders, including Wine Down Sundays, which feature music and wine sampling before evening shows.

Kirk Douglas Theatre

This theater, located in a walkable Culver City neighborhood (close to cocktail bars and trendy restaurants), stages modern works and world premieres. The smallest venue of the group at 317 seats, the theater also hosts intimate workshops and readings.

Los Angeles Ballet

Going on its 11th year presenting world-class productions, Los Angeles Ballet (LAB), the city's one and only professional classical ballet company, performs at a number of venues across the city, showcasing both classical and modern ballet.

Mark Taper Forum

Downtown

Both dramas and comedies dominate the stage at the Mark Taper Forum, next door to the Ahmanson Theatre in Downtown. A showcase for new and experimental plays, quite a few shows that premiered here have gone on to Broadway and off-Broadway theaters (a number of Pulitzer Prize–winning plays have also been developed here).

Microsoft Theater

Downtown

The Microsoft Theater is host to a variety of concerts and big-name awards shows—the Emmys, American Music Awards, BET Awards, and the ESPYs. This theater and the surrounding L.A. Live complex are a draw for those looking for a fun night out. The building's emphasis on acoustics and versatile seating arrangements means that all 7,100 seats are good, whether you're at an intimate acoustic concert or an awards show. Outside, the L.A. Live complex is home to restaurants and attractions, including the GRAMMY Museum, to keep patrons entertained before and after shows (though it's open whether or not there's a performance).

Nuart

West L.A.

Foreign, indie, documentaries, classics, recent releases, Oscar short-film screenings—there’s not much the Nuart doesn’t show. Midnight showings, like the long-running Rocky Horror Picture Show with a live "shadow cast" on Saturday nights, continue to bring in locals. Q&A sessions with directors and actors also happen here frequently.

Odyssey Theatre

West L.A.

Odyssey Theatre presents largely traditional dramas in an intimate space, typically with astute direction and powerful acting. They also produce contemporary, experimental plays (or thoughtful explorations of the classics) throughout the season.

Orpheum Theatre

Downtown

Opened in 1926, the opulent Orpheum Theatre played host to live attractions including classic comedians, burlesque dancers, jazz greats like Lena Horne, Ella Fitzgerald, and Duke Ellington, and later on rock-and-roll performers such as Little Richard. After extensive restorations, the Orpheum once again revealed a stunning white-marble lobby, majestic auditorium with fleur-de-lis panels, and two dazzling chandeliers. A thick red velvet and gold-trimmed curtain opens at showtime, and a white Wurlitzer pipe organ (one of the last remaining organs of its kind from the silent movie era) is at the ready. The original 1926 rooftop neon sign again shines brightly, signaling a new era for this theater. Today the theater plays host to live concerts, comedy shows, and movie screenings.

Pantages Theatre

Hollywood

For the grand-scale theatrics of a Broadway show, such as Hamilton and The Book of Mormon, the 2,703-seat Pantages Theatre (the last theater built by Greek American vaudeville producer Alexander Pantages) lights up Hollywood Boulevard on show nights, when lines of excited patrons extend down the block.

Ricardo Montalban Theatre

Hollywood

The Ricardo Montalban Theatre is more than just a live performance and outdoor movie screening space. While it is famous for its comedy shows, small film festivals, and rooftop movie screenings, collaborating with well-known chefs for its food service as well as artists to create art and commerce together, its biggest goals are to support performing arts and create employment in Hollywood. So, beyond having that quintessentially L.A. experience of watching movies outdoors, you're also supporting a local business that in turn supports the local community. For a true local experience in Hollywood, this is the spot to go and check out a show.

Ricardo Montalbán Theatre

Hollywood

Plays, musicals, and concerts all happen at this midsize theater, mostly focusing on Latin culture. When the weather warms up, they host the Rooftop Cinema Club, where you can watch a flick on the roof (they give out blankets on cold nights), indulge at the snack bar, and take in views of Hollywood.

Saban Theatre

This historic art deco theater in Beverly Hills plays host to rock and soul artists and legends, as well as comedy shows.

Santa Monica Playhouse

Housing three theaters and boasting the same artistic direction for 50 years, this venue brings a number of original plays, touring companies, poetry readings, spoken-word events, and revival shows to the stage. The Family Theatre Musical Matinee Series features family-friendly reworked classic plays. Educational programs and workshops are available for all ages.

Shrine Auditorium

Downtown

Since opening in 1926, the auditorium has hosted nearly every major awards show at one point or another, including the Emmys and the GRAMMYs. Today, the venue and adjacent Expo Hall hosts concerts, film premieres, award shows, pageants, and special events. The Shrine's Moorish Revival–style architecture is a spectacle all its own.

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