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Visitor Central of Hollywood Boulevard

In the 1950’s and 60’s the center of glamorous Hollywood was said to be Hollywood and Vine, but the Brown Derby is long gone and as the glamour only shows up once a year at awards time, now it can be argued that the heart, at least the tourism heart of the movie glamour capital is Hollywood & Highland. When it was first built it was a white elephant, literally, in both senses of the word. The massive shopping mall and entertainment complex built at the corner of Hollywood and Highland Boulevards which replaced a bank office building and a pair of movieplex screens which had replaced the best bratwurst coffee shop in Hollywood, was a monstrosity no-one paid attention to. The parking was too expensive, not enough shops and Hollywood was still in need of revitalization. And of course the real white elephants. But then came the Oscars to the Kodak Theater and the subway, then Jimmy Kimmel and Disney across the street at the El Capitan Theater, and the Renaissance Hotel. Today, the Hollywood & Highland Center is undoubtedly the hub of Hollywood.

Silent movie director D.W. Griffith made one of the first filmic extravaganza epics to be filmed in Hollywood in 1916. "Intolerance" featured four stories across the ages, one set in the ancient city of Babylon. Griffith built massive sets of the Gates of Babylon, flanked by rearing elephants and filled them with a cast of thousands of costumed extras. The real gates of Babylon can actually be seen in Berlin (see Pergamon Museum Babylon), with more lions than elephants, but the sets of Babylon from the epic film (actually built further east on Hollywood Blvd where it crosses Sunset) were chosen as the design motif for the Hollywood/Highland real estate development. The giant white elephants perch above the upper levels and the Gate of Babylon replicated from the famous movie (see Hollywood Heritage Museum) frames the distant Hollywood Sign from the right angle.

Hollywood & Highland is now the official center of tourist Hollywood. The Tourism Office is on the ground floor, with discount coupons to attractions (see Madame Tussauds Hollywood), maps and brochures. The famed Hollywood Walk of Fame with the stars in the sidewalk passes in front, often with someone stooping for a photograph. The station of Los Angeles’ only subway line – the Metro Red Line is underneath, for a short one stop trip to Universal Studios for the theme park tour (see
Universal Studios Hollywood Tour), or to the other end of “The Boulevard” where the new “W” Hollywood Hotel has sprouted near Vine Street, or continuing on to downtown LA Civic Center and ending at Union Station.

Awards Walk Sttors Shopping photoThe Hollywood & Highland Center has a wide and varied collection of stores and restaurants, upscale clothing to Hollywood memorabilia souvenirs - from Guess to Build-a-Bear Workshop. Restaurants from Johnny Rockets Hamburgers to recently opened Hard Rock Café, Starbucks, California Pizza Kitchen and the Highlands Nightclub upstairs with views of the lights of Hollywood Boulevard and LA's hottest DJ's, though frequently closed for special events and Hollywood glamour parties. With its entrance at street level on Highland Avenue, the Lucky Strike Lanes is Hollywood’s version of a bowling alley, more flashy nightclub and bar with bowling lanes. There’s now another one downtown near the Nokia Theater (see LA Live Los Angeles).

Oscar Stutue at Kodak Theater photoThe Highwood & Highland center is most recognized from its starring role once a year when the Academy Awards® are presented at the Dolby Theater (formerly the Kodak) (see Motion Picture Academy). For about a week every year the boulevard is closed off, with tents and stands erected, and the red carpet laid out for the movie stars and celebrities to pass through the Awards Walk concourse. The art deco style walkway and stairs past the upscale stores can be walked by the merely mortal the rest of the year, with the faux marble columns mounted with golden framed crystal plaques commemorating the Best Picture Oscar winning films since the first awards were held at the Roosevelt Hotel just a short distance away across the boulevard.

Hollywood & Highland Jimmy Kimmel Live view photoNot technically at the Hollywood & Highland mall property, but nearby are several of Hollywood Boulevard’s most popular attractions. Next door is the most famous of Tinsel Town landmarks, Grauman’s Chinese Theater with the footprints of movie stars embedded in concrete in the forecourt. The Chinese is still a massive theater of the golden age of Hollywood, seen as the site of glamorous premieres in many movies (see
TCM Starline Movie Location Tour). There are more Mann movie theater screens upstairs in the Hollywood and Highland complex, with ticket offices at street level and at the theaters. Across the street another grand old theater ediface the El Capitan – now owned by Disney, where that family oriented studio presents its big films (with a stage show during the holidays), and next to it the former Masonic Hall where the Jimmy Kimmel Live Show is taped. The Hollywood Bowl with its summer concerts is a ten minute walk up busy Highland Avenue. Various Hollywood tours depart from in front of the mall, double-decker busses and vans to the stars homes. Hotels nearby include the Renaissance Hollywood, the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, a Best Western, and Holiday Inn Express on Highland, a Quality Inn on La Brea, and just behind on Franklin, the Magic Castle Hotel (see Hollywood Magic Castle & Hotel).

Lucky Strike Lanes Highland Avenue photoParking at Hollywood & Highland is now one of the better deals in Hollywood. You can park for four hours for $2 with a validation, from the stores or restaurants. The maximum is $10 for the day and its open 24 hours, 7 days a week. The parking lot entrances are on Highland Avenue and Orange Ave. off Franklin. You can Valet Park for an additional $5. There are several other parking lots nearby and metered parking on Hollywood Blvd to the east of Highland.
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