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Los Angeles on the Silver Screen

February 25, 2014
This Sunday, Ellen DeGeneres and a cast of thousands will take over the Kodak Theater in Hollywood for the Academy Awards, and viewers at home will be treated to the view of a room full of movie stars. But, of course, Tom Hanks and George Clooney aren’t the only film-famous sights to see in Los Angeles. Tinseltown has long been immortalized on the big screen, and a tour of the city will visit any number of well-known vistas.

Holywood bench
500 Days of Summer Plaque
One of the best L.A.-spotting movies of recent vintage was “(500) Days of Summer,” which took place in the city’s newly revitalized downtown district. A daylong walk of the area can take tourists to the park where Zooey Deschanel’s Summer and Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s Tom bonded (Angel’s Knoll, where the bench at which they sat even bears a plaque commemorating the film), the bars they frequent (the karaoke scenes were filmed at the Redwood Bar, while Tom punches out a romantic rival at Broadway Bar) and even the building where (spoiler alert!) Tom gets his big interview (the Bradbury Building, also a major location in “Blade Runner”).

Of course, a film with a title like “L.A. Story” is going to be a treasure trove of on-the-street locations. The classic Steve Martin comedy takes place all over the city, with the Museum of Contemporary Art and Venice Beach each providing key settings for Martin and company (including a very young Sarah Jessica Parker). But the most noteworthy place seen might be during the film’s “graveyard” scene, featuring a cameo from Rick Moranis, at Hollywood Forever Cemetery. The gravesite has been seen in “The Player,” “Bonfire of the Vanities” and countless television shows, from “Six Feet Under” to “Columbo.” Along with its burial plots, Hollywood Forever is known as one of L.A.’s most morbid venues for movies (the Cinespa screening series in the summer) and concerts (at the cemetery’s Masonic Lodge).

While most of those locations are still in operation today, one famous L.A. film landmark sits empty, now existing almost solely to be used in television and movies. Johnie’s Coffee Shop sits at the corner of Fairfax Avenue and Wilshire Boulevard, non-operational since 2000, and stands out from the surrounding buildings thanks to its bright blue-and-white striping and neon signage. But even if it’s not still slinging cups of joe and diner food, Johnie’s is still a favorite of location directors; “The Big Lebowski,” “Reservoir Dogs” and an episode of “Mad Men” were all filmed here. But its most pivotal scenes might have been in the late ‘80s cult classic “Miracle Mile,” where it stood in as the café called “Fat Boy” and where Anthony Edwards first tells the assembled masses about an impending nuclear strike.