Last month, my mom told me about a little movie theater in El Segundo, CA that she heard about from a friend. The theater, named “Old Town Music Hall,” is particularly unique for two reasons:
- Old Town Music Hall opened in 1921 as a silent movie theater, and is still running today
- The theater exclusively plays classic films!!!!!!!!!!
As soon as my mom told me about it, I knew we’d be planning a trip, and immediately pulled up the theater schedule to see what was playing.
Cover Girl (1944) at Old Town Music Hall
We saw that one of my all-time favorite films, Cover Girl (1944), would be playing in celebration of its 75th anniversary! Cover Girl was one of the first classic films that my dad recorded for me on AMC back in the pre-DVR days. You know, when you checked the TV Guide, found what you wanted to watch, and then recorded it on a big, bulky VHS tape?
Cover Girl was the film that made 9-year-old-me a Rita Hayworth fan, introduced me to Phil Silvers, and showed me yet another set of innovative, show-stopping Gene Kelly dance numbers. I was excited to see that this special film would be playing on the big screen, and that Andrew and I would have the chance to watch it with Mary Jeanne for the very first time in such a cool environment!
Lunch at Nick's Manhattan Beach
We decided to make a day of it, and drove out a little early so we could explore a new restaurant before the show. We decided on Nick’s Manhattan Beach. Have you been?
Nick’s was PHENOMINAL! We started with the Castroville grilled artichoke and asparagus fries. The picture does not do these appetizers justice! Both were so fresh and amazing.
For the main course, we each got the house veggie burger and fries. Wow, this was a fantastic burger! With a sweet potato base, this veggie burger was the perfect combination of sweet and savory. The fries were expertly…well….fried, and seasoned, so this was one satisfying meal!
I would definitely recommend Nick’s Manhattan Beach if you are looking for a good meal in the Los Angeles area. The menu was full of vegetarian and non-vegetarian options alike, and we will definitely go back to try other things!
Off to Old Town Music Hall!
After lunch, we were off to the theater! Old Town Music Hall is just beautiful. I loved how they had a Cover Girl movie poster on display in front. Even the concessions were old-timey, with popcorn available for purchase in retro containers. There was also a small piano out in front of the box office, with a LIVE piano player playing from about 15 minutes before showtime. So so charming!
The interior of the theater was breathtaking! The theater has maintained the 1920s look, with ornate, gold ceiling, intricate chandeliers, and four paintings by one of my favorite artists, Alfons Mucha. Mucha is a Czech painter whose work epitomizes, in my opinion, the beauty of the Art Nouveau movement. To see four of Mucha’s masterpieces when we entered the theater just made our first Old Town Music Hall experience all the more special. (And also has me pining to go back to Prague even as I write this!!!)
A Vintage Movie-Going Experience at Old Town Music Hall
At Old Time Music Hall, films are presented in the style audiences would have enjoyed them in back in Hollywood’s Golden Age. So, our show started with a beautiful musical performance by the talented musician who had been playing piano by the box office. This time he was seated at “The Mighty Wurlitzer,” a Theater Pipe Organ from 1925.
Back in the days of silent films, this instrument was used to accompany the film. A musician sat at the Mighty Wurlitzer, played live music to set the tone of the film, and even used this instrument to make noises, like a car horn, to bring a little bit of sound to the silent film.
The Mighty Wurlitzer is complete with over 2,500 pipes, four keyboards, 260 switches, and several controls and pedals. All of these features are used by the single player seated at the instrument. Talk about multi-tasking! It was truly an awe-inspiring performance as our live musician that afternoon played popular old songs, even one from Cover Girl—the beautiful “Long Ago and Far Away” that Rita and Gene Kelly sing in the film.
A Surprisingly Entertaining Flash Gordon
After the live musical performance, we enjoyed an episode from the 1936 Flash Gordon TV series. And it was AWESOME. Honestly, I didn’t know how this part of our theater experience would go—I was worried Mary Jeanne wouldn’t be in to the episode, and that it would be a bit of a chore to get through for Andrew and me, but the 25 minute episode we watched, entitled “The Tunnel of Terror,” was so incredibly entertaining!
Super corny, and I’ll be honest, it was more comical than suspenseful for Andrew and me, but Mary Jeanne was enthralled as we watched Flash and his Nordic friend duke it out in space, then get together to save Dale Arden from Emperor Ming. Andrew and I soon realized that booty shorts/diapers seemed to be a pre-requisite for any character who wanted to fly a space ship in the episode. The velvet diaper of Dr. Zarkov was our particular favorite. As we watched, thoroughly entertained, it was just really neat to think that we were enjoying a movie experience the way audiences of the 1930s-50s would have.
The Feature Presentation!
Then Cover Girl started! I loved seeing these dance numbers and scenes that had been so important to me as a kid, now on the big screen as an adult. It was so fun, even a little emotional! (I’m a mom now, so I cry at just about anything…) And Rita Hayworth, larger than life…! No words can describe.
There can be no question whatsoever why Rita was the most popular pinup of the WWII era, and why so many of her co-stars either fell in love with her, or wanted to take care of her. That Hayworth magic is just amplified on the big screen, and I feel so lucky to have finally experienced it! And don’t even get me started on Gene Kelly! I’ll just say this: Astaire fans, I’m sorry, Gene Kelly is to me the most talented and charismatic male dancer of his time. Hands down, PERIOD, there, I said it. (:
Visit Old Town Music Hall!
Old Town Music Hall is an amazing experience. If you live in the LA area, or plan to visit sometime, I highly recommend catching a show at Old Town Music Hall. Check their website for the movie schedule. They play a new film every week, with showtimes on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. See when one of your favorite films is playing, and make a day of it! Maybe I’ll see you there. (: