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  • Writer's pictureCarrie Specht

TCM Movie Locations Tour Los Angeles

The TCM Movie Locations Tour in Los Angeles is a very fun and fact filled three hours you’re bound to enjoy as you bask in the sights and history of the movie worlds most prolific source for all things cinema, covering everything from the classics to the latest releases.

The TCM Classic Film Festival is just a few weeks away, and in celebration of the upcoming event Turner Classic Movies has created a Hollywood edition of their Movie Locations Tour, which has been running successfully since last August in New York City. The tours run for only a month from March 14 through the last day of the festival on April 14, are totally free of charge and completely booked solid since the first week tickets became available (naturally). However, you can try and go standby, which I highly encourage you to do. As someone who got a sneak peek, I can’t speak highly enough about a fun and informative tour that will appeal to all movie fans.

On Thursday, April 13th I was part of a bunch of lucky individuals who got an early peek at the three-hour bus tour created in partnership with Starline Tours (link). The trip features movie locations around the heart of L.A. as seen from a state-of-the-art bus specially designed for TCM Movie Locations. The vehicle is equipped with stadium-style seating, a 65"-inch HDTV, and features not only retractable side windows but skylight windows to allow better viewing of the cityscape and movie locations. I’ve never been on a bus like it and the unimpaired view came in handy especially in the skyscraper packed streets of downtown.

Since the tour begins at the historic Chinese Theatre I drove into town the night before from Riverside to stay at my sister’s Hollywood apartment. I was so excited I didn’t want to take the chance of over-sleeping or getting stuck in traffic. In fact, I got there early enough to be the second civilian on board. As I waited anxiously I saw many familiar faces of fellow TCMFF press pass holders. In my hyper excitement I even thought I saw a guy who looked like TCM host, Ben Mankiewicz hanging out on the sidewalk. And then it was pointed out to me that it was Ben Mankiewicz. He was going to ride with us on the first outing of the locations tour. Obviously, TCM wanted to be sure to impress us... and they did.

Ben made a short welcoming speech before the bus took off, carrying us throughout many parts of Hollywood, into downtown and back again through the surrounding areas. It was a cleverly devised route that tells the history of the region through the story of the movies featuring such sites as Echo Park (Chinatown), the 2nd Street Tunnel (Blade Runner, The Terminator), the Bryson Apartments (Double Indemnity, The Grifters) and the Gilmore Gas Station (L.A. Story), to name only a few of the sites on the tour. Obviously, we drove passed the Roosevelt Hotel (home of the very first Academy Awards and host hotel for the TCM Classic Film Festival) and Hollywood High School (which includes such alumni as Lana Turner and Judy Garland) just to get on our way.

Additionally, the tour makes two stops, first at the Bradbury Building (Blade Runner, The Artist) and later at Union Station (The Way We Were, Silver Streak). TCM hosted us to a great box lunch as we re-boarded after basking in the glorious architecture of the Bradbury (link). And Union Station served as the official pit stop for those needing a bathroom break, which allowed the rest of us to escape into the fantasy of living in the noir-like world that the beautiful old train station evokes. Although I lived in Hollywood for more than a dozen years, I had never been to the Bradbury. I have been through Union Station many times, but never had the time to stop and enjoy my surroundings. Inspired by my recent visit, I plan on making a point of returning to both much locations sooner than later.

And even though I have worked on just about every studio lot in the area, and at most of the notable buildings, sites, and landmarks I learned something new about every place our Hollywood Starline tour guide, Michael pointed out. He provided the kind of expert commentary and behind-the-scenes insights for which TCM is known. Of course, numerous film clips and photos were presented via the TV monitor to help us envision the downtown of yesteryears, what the original locations of the first movie studios and other film sites of interest looked like as they appeared in days gone by. Many of the video segments feature Ben Mankiewicz, whose family has a long and illustrious connection to the movie industry, providing additional insights and a true insider's view.

For me the three hours flew by and we landed all too soon back at Hollywood and Highland. I had a ball playing along with the trivia games between sights, and loved waiving at the enthusiastic locals who honked and waived fanatically at the great big TCM bus. As we disembarked there wasn’t a single rider who left more energized than when they first got on. It was a true one of a kind experience for which I am incredibly grateful. TCM says they’re hosting this impressive tour to all comers as a way for them to thank their community of fans for their passion and devotion. And to that I say an enthusiastic, thank you right back at ‘em.

For those who would like to take their chances on going standby the following is a complete schedule of dates and times for the TCM Movie Locations Tours: Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, March 14 through April 6 with one tour daily at 10 a.m. Wednesday, April 9 thru Friday, April 11 they’ll be two tours daily at 9:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. with the April 9 tour having just one tour at 1:30 p.m. Saturday, April 12 through Monday, April 14 there will be just one tour daily at 9:30 a.m. Good luck getting on board! I think the wait will be worth it.

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