Seeing Stars: Live on Stage

777 Chick Hearn Court
(next to the Staples Center)
Los Angeles, CA. / (213) 763-6030

There's a new place to attend a concert in L.A., and you'll be hearing a lot about it, so remember the name.

It's the brand new Nokia Theatre.

It opened in late 2007, on the southwest edge of downtown L.A., right next to the Staples Center and the L.A. Convention Center.

Since the Staples Center is itself a prime venue for concerts, one might ask why they wanted to build a smaller theatre right next door. But that smaller size is the key.

While the huge Staples Center, with its 20,000  seats, is fine for giant arena shows, the new 250,000-square-foot Nokia (with only 7,100 seats) offers a far more intimate concert experience.  And a more upscale one, with posh seats, great acoustics, lots of leg room, and perfect sightlines.  No baseball stadium-style nosebleed seats here...

Although the 180-foot-wide Nokia stage is the largest in L.A. (and flanked by gigantic LED screens), the farthest seat in the house is just 220 feet away from the stage. Of course, you can expect to pay more for tickets as well... Orchestra seats for the opening night Eagles concert sold for $265.

At first, it would seem odd that someone would invest $120 million to build yet another theatre in the already crowded L.A. market.

The L.A./O.C. region already has a large number of venues for live concerts & shows, besides Staples, we already have the Gibson Amphitheatre, the Honda Center, the Greek Theatre, the Cerritos Center, the Orange County Performing Arts Center , the Shrine Auditorium, the Forum, the Grove of Anaheim and the still new Kodak Theatre - not to mention the Pantages, the Hollywood Bowl and the Music Center.

So why build another theatre?

The answer is that a lot of people are sold on the coming renaissance of downtown Los Angeles.

After decades of languishing as a virtual ghost town on weekends and nights (when the workers go home), riddled with homeless panhandlers from the nearby Skid Row, downtown L.A. is finally starting to make a comeback. Disney Hall and the new Cathedral helped renew interest in downtown. And now the old brownstones and warehouses are being transformed into trendy lofts, as downtown becomes more residential. New restaurants are opening...

To a lot of people, it looks like downtown is about to catch fire. There have been so may false starts in the past that a "Cry Wolf" reaction is normal, but this time the long-heralded downtown rebirth may well be the real thing.

                                  (See the artists rendition of L.A. Live below.)

So, we have a new $2 billion project going up on the southern edge of downtown, called L.A. Live.

The Nokia Theatre is just the first part of this huge, 27-acre project, that will eventually (by 2010) include restaurants, nightclubs, an ESPN studio/broadcast center, a Grammy museum, movie theatres, and a 54-floor tower housing both posh Ritz-Carlton condos and a J.W. Marriott hotel (plus the largest ballroom in Southern California). The Conga Room will also move to the new center. All of which seems certain to benefit the adjacent Los Angeles Convention Center.

The Nokia Theatre opened on October 18, 2007, with a sold-out concert by The Eagles and the Dixie Chicks. Then, in November, the theatre hosted the 2007 American Music Awards.

A few months later, it was announced that the Emmy Awards show would be moving from the Shrine to the Nokia (where it will be held on Sept. 21, 2008).

The Nokia also seems likely to also get the Billboard Awards and the Latin Grammys soon, and may also pick up the Golden Globes show (which is produced by the same company) and perhaps the MTV Awards.

Other early concerts booked into the Nokia included John Mayer, Garth Brooks, Neil Young, John Fogerty, Aretha Franklin, Enrique Iglesias, Stevie Wonder, George Lopez and Willie Nelson.

In April of 2008, the Nokia even hosted a movie premiere, that of "Speed Racer".

A 40,000 square foot plaza outside the Nokia Theatre, studded with giant-screen monitors (and soon to be ringed with restaurants & clubs), promises to lend a Times Square / bright lights glitz to the area. (In fact, the developers like to refer to it as "Times Square West".) One can easily imagine a New Years Eve celebration here... The plaza will also be the scene of many red carpet arrivals as award shows flock to the new venue. (Chick Hearn Court itself can also be closed off to traffic, to allow celebratory crowds to spill out even farther south.)

( The competition among L.A. theatres has already forced one player to change its game plan. The Kodak Theatre, in Hollywood, which was built to be the permanent home of the Academy Awards, has struggled to book shows for the theatre during the rest of the year. When news of the Nokia got out, the Kodak basically threw in the towel.  They gave up on booking new shows and inked a 10-year deal with Cirque du Soleil to fill the space most of the year with one of Cirque's fanciful shows - a new, unique production with a Hollywood theme that will (hopefully) help attract even more visitors to Hollywood & Highland. )

To see a list of upcoming shows at the Nokia Theatre, click here.

 Getting there: The Nokia Theatre is located right next to (north of) the Staples Center (which is just north of the Los Angeles Convention Center), on the southern edge of downtown Los Angeles. It is located just to the east of the Harbor (110) Freeway, just north of the Santa Monica (10) Freeway. It's at the northwest corner of Figueroa & Chick Hearn Court, bounded by Olympic Blvd to the north, Chick Hearn Court (11th Street) on the south, Figueroa on the east, and Georgia Street (and the 110 Freeway) on the west.

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Copyright  2015-Gary Wayne
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