On this day in 1922, the Hollywood Bowl, one of the world’s largest natural amphitheaters, opens with a performance by the Los Angeles Philharmonic. Since that time, a long, diverse list of performers, including The Beatles, Luciano Pavarotti and Judy Garland, have appeared on stage at the Hollywood Bowl. The venue has become a famous Los Angeles landmark and has been featured in numerous movies.
As the official summer home of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Hollywood Bowl has hosted such famous conductors as Arthur Rubinstein, Itzhak Perlman and Vladimir Horowitz, along with opera singers Jessye Norman, Beverly Sills and Placido Domingo. Dancers from Fred Astaire to Mikhail Baryshnikov have graced the stage, as have entertainers including Abbott and Costello, Al Jolson, Billie Holiday, Garth Brooks and Elton John.
When the Hollywood Bowl opened, its stage was a wooden platform with a canvas top and audiences sat on moveable benches set on the hillsides of the surrounding canyon. In 1926, a group of Los Angeles architects built the Hollywood Bowl’s first shell. Since that time, various architects, including Frank Lloyd Wright’s son, Lloyd Wright, and Frank Gehry, have made improvements to the venue’s structure and acoustics. Today, the Hollywood Bowl seats nearly 18,000. Its paid attendance record of 26,410 was set in August 1936 for a performance by French opera star Lily Pons.
As a Los Angeles icon, the Hollywood Bowl has been featured in a number of films, including A Star is Born (1937) and Beaches (1988). In one particularly memorable appearance, in the film, Olly Olly Oxen Free (1978), according to the Bowl’s official Web site, Hollywoodbowl.com: “Katharine Hepburn, having refused a stunt double, lands a hot-air balloon herself in front of the Hollywood Bowl stage during a performance of the 1812 Overture.”