Hollywood and Highland - The Practical Guide

  • 01 of 09

    What You Need to Know About Hollywood and Highland

    The Corner of Hollywood Boulevard and Highland Avenue
    Zhu at Flickr under Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic License

    What Is Hollywood and Highland?

    The simple answer is that it's where two streets intersect: Hollywood Boulevard and Highland Avenue. At that location you'll find an active, three-story, shopping/dining entertainment complex, a twenty-first-century landmark that constantly tips its hat to the past.

    From references to D. W. Griffith's 1916 film Intolerance in the multi-story "gate" at the end of the courtyard and the elephant statues surrounding it, to the stories captured in the "Road to Hollywood," this place celebrates the film industry's past. And for that alone, it's fun to visit. You could spend almost an hour just reading all the stories and trying to guess whose they are.

    Hollywood and Highland is also a good base to start a walking tour of Hollywood Boulevard and the best place to park while doing it. See it along with Grauman's Chinese Theater, the Dolby Theatre and the  Hollywood Walk of Fame.

    Here's a tip to save money: parking is cheaper with validation. Even if you didn't buy anything, you'll save money if you get a coffee or bottle of water at Starbuck's. Some shops will validate if you ask nicely, even if you didn't buy anything there, but do be polite about it. And another tip from a friendly security guard who has to find his car every day in that big parking lot: park along the only wall that has parking spaces and it will be easy to locate your vehicle when you're ready to leave.

    You'll often find street performers on the sidewalk in front of Hollywood and Highland, dressed up as everything from Batman to Shrek. If you take a picture with them, keep in mind that they earn their living doing this and give them a tip.

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  • 02 of 09

    Road to Hollywood and the Babylon Courtyard

    Road to Hollywood and Hollywood and Highland
    ©Betsy Malloy Photography

    The Road to Hollywood starts at street level and runs up the steps. It's  a tribute to Hollywood's ability to transform even the most ordinary-seeming of individuals. Follow it up and across the courtyard to a tribute to the place where many aspiring starlets may have made their most desperate bid for fame.

    When the Road to Hollywood reaches the courtyard, it transforms into something a bit like the Yellow Brick Road, only this one is red and black. Along its length, stories of Hollywood wannabes are inlaid in mosaic tile, from a performing lion to a welfare mother-turned-superstar. The only credits are "Actress" or "Director." You'll recognize some, but not others. They're all fun to read and a great reminder of why Hollywood holds such a prominent place in some people's version of the American Dream.

    The Road crisscrosses the courtyard a few times and then heads toward the back of the complex, where you'll find a tribute to another piece of Hollywood lore.

    The Babylon Courtyard

    The Babylon Courtyard and the Babylon Gate that towers over it draw their inspiration from the elaborate set for a filmed called Intolerance made by director D. W. Griffith in 1916. If you thought some of today's films were long, this one was a 3.5-hour epic that followed four storylines over several centuries, one of them set during the fall of the Babylonian Empire to Persia in 539 BC.

    Curbed LA called Hollywood and Highland the ugliest building in Los Angeles shortly after it was completed. That was a bit of hyperbole we're sure, but if you step back and take a look you might agree. The thing is, you never do that unless you're an architecture critic. Instead, you're more likely to get caught up in all the references to Hollywood's glamorous past and its titillating excesses.

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  • 03 of 09

    A Movie Star's Story on the Road to Hollywood

    A Movie Star's Story at Hollywood and Highland
    ©Betsy Malloy Photography

    This is just one of the many stories on the Road to Hollywood, but one we think typifies the thrill of early-day Hollywood. A few other stories we like:

    I realized that if I didn't do something pretty soon I was going to be digging ditches in Chicago for another twenty years. So I came out here. I got work as a security guard for movie stars, and they helped me find an agent. I was just about to give up when I got my first part. Now I've got an Oscar nomination. - Actor

    I was working in an office in New York, and my boss said to me, "You're not good as a secretary; is there anything else you'd like to do?" So I moved to L.A. and began taking acting lessons. - Actress

    I bought a camera in a pawnshop and eventually managed to become a Life magazine photographer. At age fifty-seven I broke into films, becoming the first African American to produce and direct at major studio movie. - Director

    "You've got to come to Hollywood," they said. "Movies is the biggest business in the world. Safety razors is first, corn plaster second, and movies third. So I went. - Cowboy star

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  • 04 of 09

    Casting Couch

    End of the Road to Hollywood
    Shelly Munkberg/Flickr/CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

    This over-sized piece of furniture is the most popular spot for a photograph at Hollywood and Highland. The term "casting couch" originated with unscrupulous casting agents, whose office furniture could be used for sexual activity between them and aspiring actresses looking to get an advantage. The "cast" on this particular couch is more likely to be a gaggle of friends taking photos with their cell phones that end up on social media within minutes.

    This spot is the end of the Road to Hollywood. Looking out beyond the casting couch, you'll see the Hollywood Sign, another icon of Hollywood's long-lasting allure.

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  • 05 of 09

    Babylon Gate

    Babylon Gate at Hollywood at Highland
    jasperdof/Flickr/CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

    The arch structure frames a terrific view of the Hollywood Sign. If you go to the back, past the arch, you and your pals can pose for pictures on the larger-than-life "casting couch" with the Hollywood Sign in the background.

    At the rear entrance to Hollywood and Highland a massive recreation of the Babylon Gate from D.W. Griffiths’s Intolerance. Depicted on its facade are Assyrian gods Ashur and Nisroch (the one with the eagle's head). Walkways cross the center of the arch, and if you look very carefully, you can see the white swath of the Hollywood sign, just above the top walkway.

    In case you're wondering what the set of that original film might have looked like, you can find a picture of it at laist.com. But the look of that film was only the beginning. The Babylonian set for which the original gate was designed featured thousands of scantily-clad extras - a scandal at the time. We wonder how scanty their costumes were, but we're guessing that today's tourists sometimes wear far less.

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  • 06 of 09

    Elephant Statues

    Elephant Statues at Hollywood and Highland
    ©Betsy Malloy Photography

    This elephant statue is on of two. Like the gate, they are also from D. W. Griffith's Intolerance. They're the same size as the ones used in the original set - but even standing there looking at them, it's hard to imagine how grand it all must have been.

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  • 07 of 09

    Red Carpet Stairway

    Red Carpet Stairway to the Dolby Theatre
    jasperdo/Flickr/CC BY-NC-ND 2.

    On Oscars night, the stars arrive right out front and walk up a real red carpet to the awards ceremony, but the rest of us have to make do with this red-tiled tribute. Flanking the Grand Staircase are lighted columns bearing the name and year of every Academy Award-winning Best Picture since 1927. And the empty spaces should carry them well into the 21st Century.

    In case you've watched the ceremony on television and are thinking it doesn't look the same, you're right. Before awards night, draperies are hung to hide the storefronts and lots of lighting is brought in to set the scene. And we've heard (but can't confirm) that the steps were specially designed to make it easier for all those richly-clad celebrities to walk on in ultra-high-heeled shoes.

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  • 08 of 09

    Dolby Theatre

    Dolby Theatre
    ©2014 Betsy Malloy Photography. Used by Permission.

    Built as the permanent home of the Academy Awards in 2001 and initially called the Kodak Theatre, the Dolby Theatre is one of the largest entertainment halls in the country, specially constructed to facilitate the annual, televised awards extravaganza. The first Oscars ceremony was held there in 2002, just across the street from the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, where the first Academy Awards were given out.

    It's also is the site for other awards ceremonies and in the offseason, it was used as a concert venue until 2011 when Cirque du Soleil's IRIS moved in. The show closed in 2013 and it is now once again used for concerts and large traveling shows like the Chinese-themed extravaganza Shen Yun.

    And just so wondering about it doesn't keep you up at night, it's said that the Kodak Company paid a record $75 million for the naming rights, but then they let them go in 2012, which is why it's now called the Dolby Theatre instead. News reports were vague, but it was said that Dolby paid "substantially above" what Kodak's annual rate.

    Read more about the Dolby Theatre

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  • 09 of 09

    What You Need to Know About Hollywood and Highland

    Signs covering building at intersection, Hollywood at Highland
    Barry Winiker / Getty Images

    Hollywood at Highland is open daily, but hours for its businesses vary. There is no entrance fee, but you will have to pay for parking or come by public transit. The parking lot accepts validations and offers very low rates for the first few hours. Many businesses in the center validate, including the Starbucks.

    If you want to tour the Dolby Theatre or the Chinese Theater, there is an extra fee for that. Browsers should allow a half hour and shoppers could stay several hours

    Th e best time to go is in the afternoon or evening, especially in summer.

    Getting to Hollywood and Highland

    Hollywood and Highland
    6801 Hollywood Boulevard
    Hollywood, CA
    Hollywood and Highland Website

    From US Hwy 101, take the Highland Avenue exit and go south. The Hollywood and Highland parking lot entrance is on the right about half a mile down the hill.

    The Los Angeles MTA (Metro Transit Authority) Red Line Hollywood and Highland stop is just steps away from the entrance to the complex.