Shrine Auditorium


Seeing Stars: Hollywood Landmarks..  

649 W. Jefferson Boulevard,
Los Angeles, CA. / (213) 749-5123

When it was built by the Shriners back in 1906 (and rebuilt in 1920 after a fire) the world-famous Shrine Auditorium was the largest indoor auditorium in the world, with almost 6,500 seats. It is still one of the largest such theatres in America, and that sheer size is what has made the Shrine the preferred venue for Hollywood's most important awards shows, including long runs of both the Oscars and the Emmys Awards.

The appeal certainly didn't lie with the Shrine's location. Situated in a rough neighborhood (the northern edge of South Central) across the street from the U.S.C. campus, (near Exposition Park), it is quite clear that your not in Beverly Hills anymore.

The Academy Awards show was first presented at the Shrine back in 1947, and along with the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion at the Music Center (in downtown), hosted the show for decades.

Likewise, the annual Emmy Awards were held the Shrine for 10-years straight (from 1997 to 2007).

Over the years the Shrine has also hosted a variety of other dazzling award shows, including the Grammy Awards, the MTV Music Awards, the American Music Awards, the Screen Actors Guild Awards, the Soul Train Music Awards, the American Comedy Awards, and others.

But in the 2000's, the Shrine fell from grace with the two biggest award shows, as newer venues came on the scene to offer fresher locations. The Oscars moved to their permanent home at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood, while the Emmy's moved to the new Nokia Theatre in downtown. (And it's rumored that the Grammys may also move to the Nokia.)

The Shrine was also home to HBO Comic Relief (with hosts Robin Williams, Billy Crystal and Whoopi Goldberg) and the occasional gala movie premiere, such as the 1996 premiere of the film version of "Evita" (starring Madonna).

From the outside, the Shrine Auditorium resembles an exotic Arabian mosque from ages past, or some west coast Taj Mahal, replete with white Persian domes and Moorish arches. Inside, it is a lush, old-fashioned opera house, with red velvet seats and tiered balconies overlooking its cavernous interior.


The auditorium's unusual architecture (inside and out) has made it a favorite movie location. The Shrine has been seen in the original "King Kong" (1933, with Fay Wray), the 1954 version of "A Star is Born" (starring Judy Garland), "The Turning Point" (1977, starring Shirley MacLaine and Anne Bancroft), the 1988 comedy "Foul Play" (with Goldie Hawn and Chevy Chase), "The Doors" (1992, starring Val Kilmer as Jim Morrison), and many others.

The concluding scenes of the 1994 slapstick comedy "Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult," had a bumbling
Leslie Nielsen foiling an assassination attempt during an Academy Awards ceremony. The sequence included exterior shots of the stars arriving at that Shrine.

In 1996, it was the site of
Frank Sinatra's 80th birthday gala.

And years ago, Michael Jackson was filming a Pepsi commercial on stage here at the Shrine when his hair caught on fire, sending him to the hospital.

And all of this is in addition to the Shrine's regular schedule of concerts, operas, TV specials, the Bolshoi Ballet and other special events.

Not all of the concerts are classical in nature. The Grateful Dead played a memorable concert here in 1967, Sting did a TV spot there, and Bruce Springsteen appeared there in 1995.

In 2002, they finished a $10 million restoration of the Shrine which has brought back a lot of the old Hollywood grandeur to the fading auditorium, replacing rthe seats, restoring the wood floors and making the interior once again a bright, colorful venue. The exterior of the building is now beige with gold domes (instead of the previous faded white).

(I first visited the Shrine as a child, during a school field trip to see Mozarts opera "The Magic Flute." My initial impression then was that you couldn't see much from the back row of this huge auditorium, and that still holds true. It seems that size also has its drawbacks...)

Getting there: The Shrine Auditorium is located about five miles south of downtown Los Angeles, on Jefferson Blvd at Royal Street, across the street from the USC campus, and not far from Exposition Park. Take the Harbor (110) Freeway to the Exposition Blvd exit. Turn west on Exposition one block to Figueroa Street, then turn right (north) on Figueroa and go one long block to Jefferson Blvd. Turn left (west) on Jefferson, and the Shrine will be on your right (north) side. You can't miss it.

[You can see a seating chart of the Shrine online here.]

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