Dolby Theatre Tour Review

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The Dolby Theatre, located in Hollywood, California is the permanent home of the Oscars and various other events. Guided tours of the Dolby Theatre are available multiple times per day, lasting around 30 minutes each. In this post, we will review our recent experience on the Dolby Theatre guided tour.

In theory, the Dolby Theatre tour could be pretty cool. Despite not having nearly as much history as other venues near it in Hollywood like Grauman’s Chinese Theater, El Capitan Theater, and the Cinerama Dome, there is a lot of potential interest here. For starters, there’s its transition from the Kodak Theater to Dolby Theatre.

There’s also the architecture. The interior design of the Dolby Theatre is pretty impressive; as it was designed to be the permanent home of the Academy Awards, it was lavishly designed, with inspiration from European opera houses. The theatre lobby has a grand spiral staircase and other features that are visually stunning. It’s also home to one of the most technically-advanced imaging and sound systems in the world for the ultimate sensory experience. Unfortunately, the potential interestingness of the Dolby Theatre is unrealized, as the tour is laughably bad–a complete waste of time and money…

I was actually a bit surprised by this. If you read TripAdvisor, reviews are generally pretty positive (as of the time of this post, it has a 4/5 score there, and is ranked #4 of 115 concerts and shows in Los Angeles).

Honestly, in re-reading those before posting this, I cannot really disagree with what most of the individual reviews say. Yet, we reach dramatically different conclusions.

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If you’re only concerned with stepping inside of the venue where the Academy Awards are held, seeing an Oscar statue in person, and maybe a couple of backstage rooms, then maybe this tour is for you. That’s literally all it is. (If you want to see an Oscar in person, the better options are the Warner Bros. or Sony studio tours, both of which let you actually hold one.)

Our tour lasted 22 minutes and at a cost of $23, was more than $1 per minute. Granted, we did not pay out of pocket for the tour since we used the Go Los Angeles Card, but we did pay in terms of time, parking, and opportunity cost, and I felt ripped off even without directly paying the $23.

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When our tour was over, another guest on the tour said, “that’s it?!” to our tour guide, which seemed like both a legitimate question and an expression of disgust given the cost of the experience. Given the conversations in the lobby afterwards, I think this was the general consensus.

My opinion of the tour was not helped by our tour guide, who was clearly disinterested and gave off the vibe that chaperoning a bunch of tourists around the venue was beneath him. Had he shared some interesting anecdotes or even been remotely engaging, it could’ve been a far better experience. However, he didn’t–instead aiming to go for speed and complete the tour as quickly as possible.

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Nor did it help that photography was not allowed anywhere in the venue except for of the main theater itself and the Oscar statue. I learned this the hard way when I snapped the above photo of a pretty bland waiting area, and was yelled at for it. Even in places like the lobby, photography was not allowed. This seems odd, given that we’ve been to the Dolby Theatre for events before that are open to the general public, and there has been no such restriction.

Now, you might be inclined to write off my experience as an outlier due to the poor tour guide. That’s a fair point. Even with a perfect tour guide, though, the substance would not have been incredibly compelling, in my opinion. You might also recall my Guide to Visiting Hollywood, California, which fairly harsh. While I still hold some of that sentiment towards Hollywood, with more time spent in Hollywood, it has grown on me a bit (particularly the less touristy areas).

If you’re obsessed with the Academy Awards and want a peek inside this venue, my advice would be to find another way inside if there are offerings during your trip to Los Angeles. Many events at the Dolby Theatre give away tickets and the ones that don’t are often moderately-priced. If you’re just generally a movie buff, consider one of Hollywood’s historic theaters (I’m partial to the Cinerama Dome), instead. Based on my experience here, I cannot recommend the Dolby Theatre guided tour to anyone, even those who have it included in their Go Los Angeles Card for “free.” There are far better uses of your time.

If you’re planning a California road trip or vacation, check out my California category of posts for other things to see and do. If you enjoyed this post, please use the sharing buttons above to help spread the word via social media. I greatly appreciate it! 

Your Thoughts

Have you done the Dolby Theatre guided tour? If so, what did you think of the experience? Did you think it was worth the time and/or money? Would you recommend it to others? If you haven’t done the Dolby Theatre tour, is it something that interests you? Please share your thoughts and questions in the comments below!

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