With its impressive array of film studios, performing arts centers, theaters, museums and distinctive architecture, Los Angeles plays a starring role on the world stage of art and culture.
For planners seeking group-friendly venues with an artistic or entertainment-oriented vibe, the city can deliver on these as well or better than any other destination, according to Darren Green, senior vice president of sales for the Los Angeles Tourism and Convention Board.
“L.A. has more museums than any other city in the country and we even have more theaters per capita than New York City,” he said. “Our spaces for events bring an element of star power—when you have your meeting on the backlot where Back to the Future was filmed, it takes on a whole different atmosphere.”
Some of L.A.’s top cultural venues are found in the enclaves of Hollywood and Pasadena, both of which have developed strong arts districts in recent years.
“Arts and culture have become part of the fabric in Pasadena,” said Jeanne Goldschmidt, executive director of the Pasadena CVB. “For such a small city, we have world-class museums and cultural institutions. Just walking downtown, you get a feel for our commitment to public art.”
Hollywood and the Valleys
The NoHo Arts District, a walkable 1.5-square-mile neighborhood in North Hollywood linked to Downtown L.A. by the Metro subway system, is packed with dozens of small theaters, arts-related activities and classes, restaurants and bars. Among its iconic attractions is the Television Academy and its Hall of Fame Garden filled with bronze sculptures of luminaries, including Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz sitting on the steps.
New venues in the district include the El Portal Theater, which opened as a 1,400-seat vaudeville house in 1926. The restored and renovated Spanish Renaissance structure is now divided into three theaters, including the 360-seat Debbie Reynolds Mainstage, which presents theatrical productions and is available for private events.
Also in the neighborhood, the HaHa Comedy Club features nightly comedy performances that range from open mic to major headliners. The club also hosts corporate functions, training sessions, office parties, sales presentations and many other types of events. Accommodating up to 200 guests, comedy shows can be customized to reflect the particular audience.
Newly emerged from a complete renovation, the nearly 100-year-old John Anson Ford Theatres is a 1,200-seat outdoor amphitheater nestled in the Hollywood Hills. The venue, which presents a wide range of dance and music performances under the stars, is available for private events. Along with a new stage and sound and lighting equipment, the venue offers a new 150-seat picnic terrace.
John Anson Ford Theatres, Hollywood
Vermont Hollywood, a former movie theater at the corner of Vermont Avenue and Santa Monica Boulevard, is expected to open in the summer as a live music venue accommodating up to 1,200 people. The theater will be available for private events.
Hollywood and the nearby Valley communities are home to famous film studios, which open their doors to groups with VIP tours and offer event venues with sophisticated technology.
“The studios and their backlots give meetings a really interactive quality, with so much you can do in shooting videos and setting a theme for a meeting that needs no added decor,” Green said. “It becomes more than a meeting, but a real experience.”
Among the newest options for groups at Universal Studios Hollywood is the recently renovated and rebranded Universal Cinema, a multiplex of high-tech movie theaters on the Universal Walk of Fame. Available for private events, groups can rent the theaters, which boast reclining seats and reception spaces such as the Director’s Lounge.
Universal Studios Hollywood
Groups can do a partial or even full buyout of Universal, adding such embellishments as red-carpet entrances and branding with special lighting and banners. The many available areas include the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Simpsons Plaza, Streets of the World, Jurassic Cove Cafe and WaterWorld Arena. A VIP version of Universal’s Studio Tour is customized for groups and includes front-of-the-line access to all shows, rides and attractions.
Nearby, Warner Bros. Studio Tour Hollywood is also filled with atmospheric event venues, including the New York Street, French Street, Warner Village, Jack Warner Tennis Lawn, Warner Bros. Museum and Commissary Dining Room. Originally built for Hollywood premiers, the 516-seat Stephen J. Ross Theater can be used for private screenings and events customized with red-carpet touches.
Groups meeting in Pasadena will discover a wide range of ways to experience art and culture with a distinctly California feel, according to the Pasadena CVB’s Goldschmidt.
“You can go to a scheduled performance, take a walking tour of our public art and architecture or visit the Rose Bowl stadium, which is very historic and a bucket list item for many people,” she said. “If you go to a traditional museum, there will always be a garden element to it. Each place provides a Southern California experience.”
Among the city’s lesser-known gems is the USC Asia Pacific Museum, which is located in a Qing Dynasty-inspired mansion and features a collection of over 17,000 art objects, many of them rare, from Asia and the Pacific islands. Accommodating up to 300 guests, event spaces include an atmospheric courtyard with bonsai trees, lanterns and a koi pond.
Pasadena Civic Auditorium
Another charmer is the Feynes Mansion, home to the Pasadena Museum of History, a Beaux-Arts style structure that gives visitors a glimpse of the extravagant “Millionaires Row” lifestyle in early 1900s Pasadena. The museum, which was once owned by the Finnish Consul, is filled with family heirlooms and features collections of California plein-air art and Finnish folk art. Event spaces include a conference room with a garden view for up to 50 guests.
The area’s most notable venue is the Huntington Library in San Marino, with its galleries of art treasures and rare manuscripts and themed botanical gardens.
The library will begin a year-long centennial celebration in September 2019 with special exhibitions and programs.
Its many venues include the Lily Ponds, with an open-grass meadow accommodating up to 400 guests, and the Rose Hills Foundation Garden Court, an indoor space with a distinctive glass dome, frequently used for catered events for up to 250 guests.
Performing arts spaces available for private events abound in Pasadena. These include the Pasadena Civic Auditorium, which since 1932 has been the site of many entertainment awards ceremonies as well as concerts, ballets and other cultural events.
Groups can rent the 3,000-seat theater as well as the grand lobby and elegant Gold Room, which accommodates up to 300 guests.
The Pasadena Playhouse is a 1925 Spanish Colonial-style landmark where some of Hollywood’s most noted actors have performed on stage. Rental space includes the 686-seat Mainstage and a 99-seat theater available for live performances, receptions and other events.
Groups can gather for pre-show receptions in a cozy library with a fireplace or in a spacious open-air courtyard with ambient lighting and a bar.
Another legendary venue is the Ice House Comedy Club, which gave a start to some of the most famous comedians of the past 50 years. Along with the 200-seat main showroom, Ice House event space also includes the smaller Stage 2 as well as a VIP room and outdoor courtyard.
Pasadena’s Boston Court Performing Arts Center has a 99-seat theater and a 60-seat performance space. Available for meetings and presentations, the center also offers regularly scheduled performances that include plays and live music concerts.
Hollywood, Pasadena and the Valleys CVB Contact Information
Los Angeles Tourism & Convention Board
The Valley Economic Alliance
Visit West Hollywood
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