Hollywood encapsulates the LA dream of glamour, money and overnight success, with millions of tourists arriving on pilgrimages every year. Although many of the big film companies long ago relocated to blander digs in Burbank, and you’re still more likely to see a homeless person than a movie star, recent attempts at renovation have added a bit of the old glitz to the previously shabby streets.
The hub of Central Hollywood is the corner of Hollywood Boulevard and Highland Avenue, where, amid the flashy neon tourist traps, the modern Hollywood & Highland Center hosts a major hotel and chic restaurants, plus colossal pseudo-film-set architecture and the Dolby Theatre, where the Oscars are held annually (the fun guided theatre tours take in the posh Dolby Lounge and the chance to see a real statuette).
Also incorporated in the Hollywood & Highland Center is the historic TCL Chinese Theatre, which opened in 1927 and has since been expanded into a multiplex, its main auditorium restored to its gloriously kitschy origins. It’s an odd version of a classical Asian temple, replete with dubious Chinese motifs and upturned dragon-tail flanks; the lobby’s Art Deco splendour and the grand chinoiserie of the auditorium certainly make for fascinating viewing. After a guided tour linger in the theatre’s forecourt to see the handprints and footprints left in cement by Hollywood’s big names. You’ll probably encounter plenty of celebrity impersonators in the forecourt – Elvis, Marilyn and Star Wars characters among them – along with low-rent magicians, smiling hawkers and assorted oddballs vying for your amusement and money.