Here, There, and Everywhere: A Discussion of Hollywood’s Favorite Premiere Locations

In the great American institution known as Hollywood, there is perhaps no event so characteristic as the premiere. Premieres are sometimes referred to as special screenings, and they certainly are special events, as they tend to be known for searchlights, limousines, and big stars pouring across a red carpet to the sound of cheering crowds full of adoring fans, not to mention the cast party to follow. These events have always been rare in relation to the large number of movies that are released every year, but what they lack in frequency they more than make up for in size and scale. Even today, studios will sometimes spring for the full red-carpet treatment, often in an effort to publicize the new movie.

Of course, these premieres can’t happen just anywhere. It’s no good to go to all of the trouble of shooting and distributing a major motion picture, going so far as to stage a huge release attended by all of the crowned heads of the entertainment press, only to have it open first in an old drive-in off of the interstate. Not surprisingly, most premieres take place in Hollywood itself, and they can more or less be pinned down to a few specific locations.

Nearly all of the world premieres today are centered on either Hollywood Boulevard or in the nearby neighborhood of Westwood Village.

Until recently, the flagship location for premieres has to have been Grauman’s Chinese Theatre on Hollywood Boulevard. The site is closed for renovations at present but still offers hard-hat tours and plans to open again as an IMAX theater around September 2013.

Just to the east of Grauman’s on the same thoroughfare is the other prime location in the Westwood area: El Capitan. This theater also recently found itself in need of serious restoration, which was graciously provided by the Walt Disney company. This theater began its life in 1926 as a hot spot for live performances by the likes of Clark Gable, Will Rogers, and Buster Keaton, among others. It would eventually make the transition to films in 1942 as the Paramount, in which capacity it hosted the premiere of “Citizen Kane.” El Capitan also happens to be the site from which Richard Nixon broadcast his legendary Checkers speech denying the allegations of being a dishonest politician. Astute observers are invited to make their own observations about the quality of the acting at El Capitan.

Away from the bustle and confusion of the Boulevard proper, down on the southwest corner of Sunset and Vine, stands yet another favorite spot for special screenings, the Cinerama Dome. This theater, with its amazing seventy-two-foot geodesic dome, has seating for nearly a thousand people and was originally intended to display Cinerama-style films, a format that was briefly popular around the time the theater was built in 1963. The process involved no fewer than three 35mm projectors displaying on an enormous curved screen. It was popular for a time, but the hefty cost of the format proved to be too much for large-scale distribution, and the literally hundreds of Cineramas that were in various stages of planning wound up mostly scrapped. The best seats for appreciating the huge screen are located on the floor of the theater, somewhat near the center. While nothing will block a clear view from the large balcony, the effect of the tremendous screen is somewhat wasted if the viewer sits so far away.

As with just about every other historic Hollywood theater, the Cinerama had to undergo serious restoration recently. The $70 million project began in 2000 and required that the theater be shut down for a time. It reopened in 2002 and is now at the heart of a vast entertainment center with almost as much retail space as theater seating.

The history of Hollywood comes seeping through the cracks in the history of its most famous landmarks. Here is where they signed the contracts for “Gone With the Wind,” there is the spot where Dean Martin was sick in the grass, and through it all runs a kind of sweeping grandeur, as if Hollywood were not just a place but a destiny. There can hardly be a better way to examine the various ways that destiny has played out at ground level during the last century than by getting to know the theaters where so much of that history has played out. The studios could hardly have chosen more appropriate locations for the premieres of films that are intended to add to that legacy.

Wild, Wild West Rockies – Telluride Offers Visitors Year-Round Outdoors Adventures

We got a taste of the Rocky Mountain spirit when we first arrived at the tiny Montrose Junction Airport, about an hour and a half’s drive from our destination of Telluride. As my spouse and I loaded into the shuttle, I reminded our driver that we had requested a child car seat.

“Here’s what we’ve got,” he said, handing me a tattered booster seat.

“This is actually a booster,” I told the driver, trying not to sound too much like an LA diva. “My son is only two. He needs a car seat with a harness to keep him in.”

“No worries. This is Colorado. He can join us for a drink later if he wants,” the driver said with a laugh as he heaved our bags into the back of the van.

OK, it was time to let loose. I strapped my son into the booster with the lap belt and held him in with an arm across his chest. “Here we go. We’re in the Wild West now,” I told him as his eyes lit up looking at the magnificent mountain peaks surrounding us.

Onward and upward we went up the icy windy roads to Telluride, an old mining town that has become a winter wonderland for skiers and a year-round playground for hikers, rock climbers, mountain bikers and lovers of the great outdoors.

We had dreaded the trip to Telluride because we had booked late and couldn’t get a direct flight from Los Angeles, so we had a plane change in Salt Lake City, and a road trip through the mountains. All with a cranky two-year-old toddler. But our layover was short, made more bearable by a children’s play area at the SLC airport, and our driver regaled us all the way to town with local gossip, so before we knew it, we were there — and was it ever worth the trip.

Right away we felt welcome in the lobby of the Peak’s Resort. In front of us was the hotel’s Great Room, a splendid oversize living room of rustic leather and cowhide sofas, lounge chairs and ottomans. Guests in zipped-down ski gear were unwinding after a day on the slopes, warming themselves in front of a huge, crackling fireplace and enjoying beverages from the bar and casual dining from a menu of burgers, grilled cheese and hot dogs. It felt like home, only with a dozen suntanned, outdoorsy looking strangers lounging about.

Just through the grand foyer was the Peak’s spa, a world-class facility a full fitness center with state-of-the art cardio room, Cybex machines, a yoga studio and even a rock-climbing wall. The spa also offered massage, mani-pedis, tanning, sauna, Roman tubs and a eucalyptus inhalation room. None of that mattered to our toddler, but he could hardly contain his excitement to see not one but two heated pools and an indoor water slide. No wonder the resort was selected by Parent’s magazine as a top 10 family winter resort.

We checked into our room, and just as the hotel’s Web site had promised, our room indeed had a fabulous view, as does every room at the hotel. From our balcony we saw endless snow covered trees up to the mountain peaks. To our left we could see the ski slopes, with the chair lifts floating up to the mountain top. We couldn’t wait to get out in the snow.

It was our toddler first time in the white stuff. We bundled him up in his snow suit and headed out to explore the town. We hardly got past the hotel lobby doors when he bounded into the snow outside the doors where he made his first snow ball, snow man and snow angel. He was in snow heaven.

A three-minute walk from the Peaks we found ourselves in the Mountain Village plaza, a cute collection of boutiques and restaurants with an ice skating rink and bonfire pit. We followed the brick walkway of the plaza and directional signs everywhere to the base of the slopes. Truly a ski-in ski-out resort, snow bunnies bounded all around us, skis propped on their shoulders, walking directly out of their hotels and onto the snow to step into their skis and hop on the lifts.

At the base of the mountain, known as “the beach,” we caught the free gondola for a ride into the town of Telluride. A true delight for a toddler — and adults — the gondola whisked us up into the air and high over the trails where we watched skiers and snowboarders whoosh by underneath us. We learned that the gondola is the only free transit of its type in the US. It takes visitors and locals back and forth over the mountain at 11 miles an hour, all day from 7 am until midnight, from the town of Telluride to the Mountain Village Plaza, with an optional stop midway at St. Sophia Station, where Allred’s, the town’s premier fine dining establishment, is perched at 10,000 above sea level for the best food and best views in town.

Other than the gondola, another indispensable mode of transportation we discovered was the plastic toboggan. We learned the hard way that holding a 30-pound kid on your hip or even in a backpack carrier across icy walkways can be hazardous to everyone involved, so we got a tip from a local the best way to get around town with a toddler in tow was to literally tow him. We picked up a small sled and some twine to make an extra long pull cord at the local ACE Hardware. I was the best $16 we ever spent.

Dragging our little one behind us, we set off to explore the many adorable shops, galleries and restaurants. The town itself defines quaint. The the snow-covered streets are lined with story-book cute chalets and small independent boutiques. A couple local snowboarder girls who we shared a gondola cab with informed us that Telluride does not permit chain stores, so you will never see a Starbucks or Pottery Barn or any of the stores that populate Every Mall USA littering the landscape of this purist town. How refreshing.

We stopped for lunch at the charming TPK Bistro where we had a delicious and surprisingly reasonably priced lunch of Panini di Italian prosciutto ham and fontina cheese and Stromboli di pollo, served by a friendly and gracious wait staff, who seemed genuinely happy to serve us. Perhaps one reason the servers were so attentive was the fact that we were the restaurant’s only guests, at 12 pm.

Despite excellent food, great service and an ideal location on Colorado Avenue, a central thoroughfare, the eatery was empty, as was much of the town. This was partially due to the flagging economy which brought fewer visitors this year, and also partially because the ski season was nearly over, but according to locals, even during peak season the town is never over-run or crowded, as say Park City, Utah, during Sundance, which can be a bear.

Likewise, the Telluride gets two thumbs up for eschewing commercialism, which has nearly ruined Park City, which must have resembled Telluride before the film festival overtook it. Hopefully Telluride will not head that way, despite the fact that it also hosts the Telluride Film Festival each fall which continues to grow in popularity and rivals Sundance in the quality of films it features, such as Sling Blade, Brokeback Mountain and Slumdog Millionaire, which all had premiere screenings at Telluride.

While there are plenty of cultural scenes in town, including theaters and music venues, the main attraction of Telluride remains the great outdoors, where visitors can enjoy all sorts of activities year round, from fly-fishing and horseback riding to paragliding and hot air balloon rides.

Of course, the snow skiing is legendary, and after a few runs down the slopes it is clear why. Owing to the location of the resort nestled in a box canyon, the weather is ideal for snow and snow making. The snow was perfect. No ice, groomed, packed powder, and I had the trails almost to myself. It was absolutely the best skiing I had ever experienced.

While downhill skiing is why most winter tourists come to Telluride, the resort offers a host of other snow-capades, including cross-country and Nordic skiing, heli skiing, dog sledding, sleigh rides and snowmobiling. The latter was the adventure of choice for us, and on our final day we headed out for a snowmobiling tour with Telluride Snowmobiling Adventures, thanks to a few hours timeout arranged by the Peaks Resort with a local nanny service.

Our friendly guide, Sam Haury, suited us up with warm boots and goggles, and we hopped on our machines and sped off in the freshly fallen snow high into the mountains. Sam stopped along the way to give us an educational tour of the historic spots, such as the Alta Ghost Town where miners and their families once lived.

We also learned that Telluride was the first in the world to have electric street lights (a week before Paris) thanks to the world’s first hydro-electric power plant built in 1904 to power the Smuggler-Union Mine. By the end of our two-hour tour, we not only truly appreciated the beauty and history of Telluride, we were expert snowmobilers, flying over whoop-de-dos and winding our way around curves through snow-covered forests with ease.

Our adventures in Telluride were a blast, though our four-day visit was much too short to do all that we wanted to do during our stay. But just because the snow will be melting soon, that won’t stop us from returning in the near future, because as the locals kept telling us, “You can always come back, and the summer season is even better!”

Venice, Italy – Tour of Venice

Venice is the greatest architectural repository in the world. All six sestiere of the city contain palaces and churches in the three most impressive styles Europe has produced: Gothic, Renaissance and the baroque. What makes Venice even more remarkable is just how many of these buildings there are. Palaces are crammed against each other and churches appear around every corner. However, Venice is also a city of squares (campI) which means that buildings are displayed to best effect in a series of leafy outdoor “rooms” that crop up one after the other. There are no long roads in Venice unless you count the Canal Grande, the city’s high street, but even that curves like a snake so that new vistas are continually revealed. The canals of Venice divide the city into many manageable chunks and turn what might otherwise be a narrow dark alleyway into a luminous border down which float shiny black gondolas full of camera- wielding tourists.

The city of Venice occupies a special place in history. It was the first great republic since Rome. It had an elected head of state (il Doge) and an insatiable appetite for both making money and then spending it on ostentatious decoration. At its zenith, it had the most powerful navy in the world and a virtual monopoly on European trade with the Orient. As it declined, Venice became a byword for decadence, a city-state addicted to gambling, sex and intrigue. It was always stylish even if it wasn’t always beautiful. Nowadays, even the scruffiest campus is still distinctly and proudly Venetian. Its citizens remain in their hearts a truly independent people.

In 1797, this ancient Republic was dissolved by Napoleon, in 1815 their city was handed over to Austria and in 1866 they were absorbed into the new kingdom of Italy. But the mindset of Venice remains entirely Venetian. The people speak their own version of Italian and they resent interference from the mainland. Recently Venice’s first female gondolier started working for a hotel. There was an outcry among the other intensely chauvinistic gondolieri, not so much because she was a woman, but because she was not from Venice. For the traveller, Venice offers far more than one trip can achieve. You could easily visit ten times before you see all that is to be seen, and even longer to work out how to get from one place to another on foot. Venice is a maze, but one jam-packed with amazing treasures.

Fortunately, certain essentials can be covered in a day. Piazza San Marco, the Basilica, the Campanile, the Ducal Palace, the view across the Basin of San Marco to San Giorgio and a trip to Caffe Florian are all in close proximity to each other. Then the real fun begins as you follow a route, decide to explore everything there is to see in one area, use the public transport system to hop between islands in the lagoon or work your way through a personal must-see list of churches, palazzi, scuole and museums. At every stage of the day Venice will tempt you with delicious possibilities, whether you want to snack, drink or enjoy a long meal, the way Venetians do.

This is a city that appreciates the good things of life. Simple rules will help you enjoy this part of your visit more. Avoid restaurants where waiters invite you in. Avoid eating or drinking anywhere along the main shopping thoroughfares (the Mercerie) and be aware that if you choose anywhere picturesque to eat that you’ll be paying for the view. That said, you will find that certain views are worth the extra euros. It would be a crime not to have coffee in Piazza San Marco at least once and the view along the over- priced Riva del Vin is worth the mark-up. The legendary Harry’s Bar is small and expensive but it has that certain quality, to be found in very few places, of being something really special. Much the same rule applies to shopping. The further from the main thoroughfares, the better the price, but you may want to buy a carnival mask from a stall on the Riva for the thrill of having done so.

Carnival (Carnevale) is one of the high points of the Venetian year. This city-wide party is a gorgeous re-creation of 18th- century Venice that should certainly be experienced once, but the city in February is inevitably crowded and over-priced. Summer is also crowded and prices go up during the International Film Festival and the Biennale, so think about visiting Venice out of season. Whenever you go, you will find a city that is unforgettable, one that has been drawing tourists since the Middle Ages and one of the few cities in the world that genuinely deserves to be called unique.