Location #23:

The Observatory

(Planetarium )

Q.  Where is it supposed to be?

54:43:  After the film breaks during Mia & Sebastian's viewing of the movie "Rebel Without a Cause" (during the scene where James Dean is driving up to the observatory), Mia suggests that they visit the actual observatory where the movie was filmed.  So they go there.

We see their car heading up the road towards the observatory,
matching the scene they had just watched in the
movie theatre.

Sebastian & Mia explore the interior of the observatory, and eventually wind up inside the planetarium theatre (which projects realistic stars on the ceiling), and wind up dancing together to a waltz called ( aptly enough ) "Planetarium".

The romantic dance eventually sees them rising and waltzing in mid-air, among the stars, in one of the most memorable, magical moments in the movie.

Here is a YouTube video of that
Planetarium waltz scene:

  Q.  Where was it really shot?

This may well be the most easily-recognized location in the entire film.

People who have never even been to L.A. can probably recognize the
Griffith Observatory, if only because it has appeared in so many different movies and TV shows ( not to mention its distinctive appearance ).

Located 1,134 feet above sea level on Mount Hollywood, in Griffith Park, the official address of the Griffith Observatory is 2800 E. Observatory Road, Los Angeles.

But in more practical terms, it is just south of N. Vermont Canyon Road ( which is an extension of Vermont Avenue, a street which runs north/south through the entire length of Los Angeles ).

It is about two miles south of the hilltop  location where they filmed
 the iconic"A Lovely Night " dance scene.

But don't try to drive where they're driving in the movie.  They're actually driving on the (pedestrian-only) sidewalk, heading towards the Observatory...

( And by the way, this time, the quaint lamp posts you see along that path aren't fake.  That's just how they look in Griffith Park . )

The Griffith Observatory was built in 1935, and has since welcomed 76 million visitors. Admission has always been free.

The Observatory is one of Hollywood's favorite filming locations.  ( Griffith Park as a whole is routinely rated as the most popular of all Los Angeles filming locations. )

They did indeed shoot "
Rebel Without a Cause" at the Observatory (you can see the knife fight scene here). In fact, there is a bust of James Dean on a pedestal outside the Observatory, commemorating that fact.

They also filmed "
The Terminator" at the Observatory, as well as "The Rocketeer", "Gangster Squad", "Transformers", "Nancy Drew"... even an episode of "Star Trek: Voyager".

 ( There's also a pretty good view of the Hollywood Sign from the Observatory's parking lot, if you're looking for one - which, if memory serves, is one of the few L.A. landmarks not seen in the movie. )

This is another major location from the film that you can easily visit.  You can even watch a show inside  the 300-seat Planetarium theatre. where Mia & Sebastian danced, complete with projected stars on the ceiling ( although expect to stay grounded on your visit... )

Speaking of that Planetarium, although they filmed scenes of both the inside and outside of the Griffith \ Observatory ( including those Foucault pendulum shots in the Central Rotunda ), for the big waltz scene (in the stars), they built a large replica set of the Observatory's planetarium theatre at the studio, in order to capture the old Art Deco look that the actual Griffith planetarium used to have, before it was recently remodeled ( and so they could use wires to make the dancers "float" ).

A personal aside.  In the movie "Rebel Without a Cause", James Dean's character first goes to the Observatory as part of a school field trip.  And so did I.   I was in elementary school at the time, not high school, like Jim.  ( But then again, I also didn't get into a knife fight while I was there. )   I even saw a show in the Planetarium with my class, but as a child, I wasn't terribly impressed.  ( The Planetarium theatre was completely redone a few years back, so it is now state-of-the-art. )

Suffice it to say, I couldn't fail to recognize the place when I see it. 

( They are still doing school field trips to the observatory - over 20,000 students per year, Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays, from 9 AM to noon.  If you want some peace & quiet on your visit, you might want to come on Monday or Tuesday... )

Here is a StreetView of the Observatory and it's view of the city:

Here is a link to a Google Earth 3-D view
of the Griffith Observatory.


Move on to the next movie location seen in "La La Land".


"La La Land" and its images are copyright Summit Entertainment
The rest of this page is Copyright  2020-Gary Wayne - All Rights Reserved

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