By On the occasion of our 20th anniversary
By Gustavo Arellano
By R. Scott Moxley
By Alfonso Delgado
By Courtney Hamilton
By Joel Beers
By Peter Maguire
By Charles Lam
Best Place to Remain Classy While Getting Aural
Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall
600 Town Center Dr., Costa Mesa
The 2,000-seat Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall, an estimated $240 million expansion of the Orange County Performing Arts Center, is a delirium-inducing cocktail of scale, architecture and acoustics. The three-tiered hall, which opened last year, was designed with aural pleasure in mind. It boasts an acoustic canopy, reverberation chambers and sound-sponging curtains to deaden certain frequencies from loudspeakers, when they are used. This world-class venue has already hosted renowned entertainers such as Placido Domingo and the American Ballet Theater, and it will likely continue to draw some of the most famous icons of highbrow entertainment for years to come.
Best Music Festival
It's in the desert of Indio, but, nevertheless, Coachella has to win this category. Despite profound and manifold flaws, Coachella is the Taj Mahal of music festivals in Southern California. If you can tolerate nearly constant clusterfuck conditions; infernal heat; long waits for everything; and the chronic reek of horse manure, cigarette smoke, human b.o. and, uh, chronic, then Coachella's rewards will resonate with you for years. The organizers deliver strong, diverse lineups, especially for an event of this magnitude, with an enticing mix of mega-stars, cult favorites and promising newcomers. Even picky bastards can find plenty to like in any given hour during Coachella's three days of stimuli overload. Plus, the sound quality is generally very good for an outdoor venue. And if the music on the five stages ain't pushing your buttons, you can partake of the clever, eco-friendly visual-arts exhibits scattered around Empire Polo Field; sample overpriced cuisine of several ethnicities; engage in scintillating badinage with your fellow festival-goers; flirt and ogle; and take awesome photos for your MySpace/Facebook profiles. Coachella is one of those rare entertainments where you're likely to have the best and worst experiences of your life—several times over.
Best Outdoor Concert
Lexus Summer Concert Series at Pacific Amphitheatre
100 Fair Dr., Costa Mesa
Concurrent with the Orange County Fair, the Lexus Summer Concert Series can't be beat when it comes to the band selection. Sure, it's no Coachella, but it lasts seven times longer, and that has to count for something. Like the fair itself, the Lexus Series has something for everyone, from top-notch legends such as Willie Nelson and Bob Dylan, to hipster-enthused hard-rock band Queens of the Stone Age, to the mindless pop of Fergie. Is there any other stage in America this summer that has Heart booked to play the night after Dylan? Imagine holding your date close as you watch Earth, Wind & Fire perform under the open night sky. It won't matter that you're both bloated from carnival food—you will feel the love.
Best Theater for Reruns
340 Main St., Seal Beach
The Bay isn't so much an art house/indie theater, though they do run those movies. If you don't want to watch a three-hour, black-and-white examination of human sadness—in French—but rather old American classics such as Jaws, Poltergeist and Animal House, then this is the place to go. The Bay plays movies you never thought you'd get to see (again) on the big screen. The Bay Theatre is a single-screen house that's been lowering the lights for 60 years in Seal Beach and continues to show movies, new and old, every day. So if you missed Xanadu the first time around, this is the place to see it.
Best Mainstream/Multiplex Movie Theater
AMC Theatres 30 at the Block
20 The City Blvd. W., Ste. 1, Orange
Thirty screens, and not a one of them bad, though the four main houses are clearly superior to the rest (and most others). Ample electronic ticketing kiosks with very little wait time, even when there's a huge line at the main box office. Location, location and location—plenty of great eats in the surrounding area, and it isn't difficult to sneak in food. What puts the Block over the top against other multiplexes is the way it screens all the new releases at midnight on Thursday, and we're not just talking Spider-Man 3or Transformers. No, everything is fair game, from kiddie movies such as Surf's Up to almost-direct-to-DVD fare such as Slow Burn or the less-than-epic Mormon sequel The Work and the Glory III. At times, you may very well be the only person in the theater for such openings, but that hasn't discouraged the good AMC people from keeping it up every week. For those who want to see a movie first, but either have to be at the office on a Friday morning—or have trouble getting up for the first show—this is a godsend.
Best Bargain Movie Theater
Westfield Mainplace Shopping Center
2800 N. Main St., Ste. 999, Santa Ana
Think back a couple of decades, when the mall multiplex was a new concept, THX sound hadn't been invented yet, and tickets cost only a buck. Nowadays, we have more technology, but don't you miss the good old days just a little bit? What can a dollar buy you today other than some processed hamburger on the McDonald's Value Menu? Well, if it's Tuesday, it can still buy you a movie ticket at the Picture Show six-plex; every other day, admission is only 75 cents more. Another dollar gets you a hot dog. And surprise—the screens and auditoriums are actually a respectable size! You'll be asked politely to please throw away your own trash, a concept long-since forgotten elsewhere, and get to see movies you may have missed the first time around just before they hit DVD, for less than the price of a rental—and on a bigger screen, to boot. There's also a party room if you want to rent the place out. It's not state of the art, but it's definitely an excellent bargain and a nostalgic throwback.