The Hollywood Bowl is known for its band shell, a distinctive set of concentric arches that graced the site from 1929 through 2003, before being replaced with a larger one beginning in the 2004 season. The shell is set against the backdrop of the Hollywood Hills and the famous Hollywood Sign to the northeast.
The "bowl" refers to the shape of the concave hillside the amphitheater is carved into. The bowl is owned by the County of Los Angeles and is the home of the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, the summer home of the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the host of hundreds of musical events each year.
Discovery and founding
The site of the Hollywood Bowl was chosen in 1919 by William Reed and his son H. Ellis Reed, who were dispatched to find a suitable location for outdoor performances by the members of the newly formed Theatre Arts Alliance headed by Christine Wetherill Stevenson. The Reeds selected a natural amphitheater, a shaded canyon and popular picnic spot known as 'Daisy Dell' in Bolton Canyon.
On 11 November 1921 the first Sunrise Service took place at the bowl, in one of its first major events. The Bowl officially opened on July 11, 1922.
At first, the Bowl was very close to its natural state, with only makeshift wooden benches for the audience, and eventually a simple awning over the stage. In 1926, a group known as the Allied Architects was contracted to regrade the Bowl, providing permanent seating and a shell. These improvements did provide increased capacity for the all-time record for attendance set in 1936, when 26,410 people crowded into the Bowl to hear opera singer Lily Pons, but were otherwise disappointing, as the regrading noticeably degraded the natural acoustics, and the original shell was deemed acoustically unsatisfactory (as well as visually unfashionable, with its murals of sailing ships).
For the 1927 season, Lloyd Wright, (Frank Lloyd Wright's son) built a pyramidal shell, with a vaguely Southwestern look, out of left-over lumber from a production of Robin Hood. This was generally regarded as the best shell the Bowl ever had from an acoustic standpoint; unfortunately, its appearance was deemed too avant-garde, and it was demolished at the end of the season. It did, however, get Wright a second chance, this time with the stipulation that the shell was to have an arch shape.
For the 1928 season, Lloyd Wright built a shell in the shape of concentric 120-degree arches, with movable panels inside that could be used to tune the acoustics. It was designed to be easily dismantled and stored between concert seasons; apparently for political reasons this was not done, and it did not survive the winter.
For the 1929 season, the Allied Architects built the shell that stood until 2003, using a transite skin over a metal frame. Its acoustics, though not nearly as good as those of the Lloyd Wright shells, were deemed satisfactory at first, and its clean lines and white, almost-semicircular arches were copied for music shells elsewhere. As the acoustics deteriorated, various measures were used to mitigate the problems, starting in the 1970s with an inner shell made from large cardboard tubes (of the sort used as forms for round concrete pillars), which were replaced in the early 1980s by large fiberglass spheres (both designed by Frank Gehry) that remained until 2003. These dampened out the unfavorable acoustics, but required massive use of electronic amplification to reach the full audience, particularly since the background noise level had risen sharply since the 1920s. The appearance underwent other, purely visual, changes as well, including the addition of a broad outer arch (forming a proscenium) where it had once had only a narrow rim and the reflecting pool in front of the stage that lasted from 1953 till 1972. Sculptor George Stanley designed the Muse Fountain.
He had previously done the Oscar statuette.
Shortly after the end of the 2003 summer season the 1929 shell was replaced with a new, somewhat larger, acoustically improved shell, which had its debut in the 2004 summer season. Preservationists fiercely opposed the demolition for many years, citing the shell's storied history. However, even when it was built, the 1929 shell was (at least acoustically) only the third-best shell in the Bowl's history, behind its two immediate predecessors. By the late 1970s, the Hollywood Bowl became an acoustic liability because of continued hardening of its transite skin. The new shell incorporates design elements of not only the 1929 shell, but of both the Lloyd Wright shells. During the 2004 summer season, the sound steadily improved, as engineers learned to work with its live acoustics.
The current sound reinforcement system is a line-array configuration of multiple loudspeaker enclosures hung vertically in a curved manner, with the lower enclosures facing the front sections, and the upper enclosures angled towards the rear sections. It is manufactured by L'Acoustics, and includes state-of-the-art audio processing allowing each individual loudspeaker enclosure to be "tuned" and directed towards the near-precise location of the listener, regardless of where in the venue they are sitting. This results in the audience in the rear sections hearing the same audio, at the same level, as in the front sections. This electronic processing includes sound level, frequency equalization, occasional special effects, and time delay (sound passes through wire much faster than through air, therefore the sound coming from the speakers must be delayed, allowing the actual sound from the stage to "catch up" so both sources reach the listeners' ears simultaneously). The system is maintained by Rat Sound Systems, the same company that has provided audio for the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival commonly known as the Coachella Festival, since its inception.
The 2004 shell incorporates the prominent front arch of the 1926 shell, the broad profile of the 1928 shell, and the unadorned white finish (and most of the general lines) of the 1929 shell. In addition, the ring-shaped structure hung within the shell, supporting lights and acoustic clouds, echoes a somewhat similar structure hung within the 1927 shell. During the 2004 season, because the back wall was not yet finished, a white curtain was hung at the back; beginning with the 2005 season, the curtain was removed to reveal a finished back wall. The architectural design for the shell was developed by the Los Angeles-based architectural practice Hodgetts and Fung, with the structural concept developed by the local office of Arup.
At the same time the new shell was being constructed the bowl received four new video screens and towers. During most concerts, three remotely operated cameras in the shell, and a fourth, manually operated camera among the box seats, provide the audience with close-up views of the musicians.
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On July 11, 1922, with the audience seated on simple wooden benches placed on the natural hillsides of 'Daisy Dell' in Bolton Canyon, conductor Alfred Hertz and the Los Angeles Philharmonic inaugurated the first season of music under the stars at the Hollywood Bowl. While much has changed in the ensuing years, the tradition of presenting the world's greatest musicians and striving for musical excellence has remained a constant goal of this famed Los Angeles cultural landmark.
The Hollywood Bowl has been the summer home of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, since its official opening in 1922, and, in 1991, gave its name to a resident ensemble that has filled a special niche in the musical life of Southern California, the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra.
In 1945, Leopold Stokowski formed the Hollywood Bowl Symphony Orchestra, drawing its players from among members of the Los Angeles Philharmonic and various film studios orchestras. He made a number of 78 rpm recordings with them for RCA Victor during his two seasons there (1945–46) before returning to New York. The Hollywood Bowl Symphony's name was retained for a series of Capitol LPs made in the 1950s under such conductors as Felix Slatkin and Carmen Dragon.
In 1951, a financial crisis closed the Hollywood Bowl during its summer season. Dorothy Chandler chaired a committee that organized a series of fundraising concerts that was able to reopen it.
The film-and-orchestra concert Bugs Bunny on Broadway, subsequently called "Bugs Bunny at the Symphony," has played the Hollywood Bowl a record 21 times—19 times with the Los Angeles Phiharmonic, and twice with the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, all conducted by George Daugherty. In September 2003, "Bugs Bunny On Broadway" was the final Los Angeles Philharmonic concert to be performed in the 1929 shell before its demolition started the following day, making way for the new shell.
Public Figures – that have appeared at the Bowl throughout the years include President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Mickey Rooney and Edward G. Robinson, as well as such "teams" as Fonteyn and Nureyev, Nelson Eddy and Jeanette MacDonald, Simon and Garfunkel, and Abbott and Costello.
Musicians – Al Jolson, Judy Garland, Billie Holiday, Louis Armstrong, Art Tatum, Buddy Rich, Harry "Sweets" Edison, Nat "King" Cole, Oscar Peterson, Ella Fitzgerald, Carrie Underwood, The Doors, José José, Kylie Minogue, Elton John, Alicia Keys as well as various other Jazz and non-Jazz musicians have headlined star-studded shows at the Bowl.
The Hollywood Bowl has provided a showcase for the world's greatest musicians. Bernstein, Walter, Monteux, Mauceri, Koussevitzky, Stokowski, Karajan, Klemperer, and Leinsdorf, as well as Mehta, Giulini, Rattle, and Salonen are just a few of the conductors who have led the Los Angeles Philharmonic in summertime concerts over the past seven decades. Jerry Hadley, Philip Glass, Itzhak Perlman, Gregor Piatigorsky, Arthur Rubinstein, Thomas Hayward, Alfred Brendel, Vladimir Horowitz, Andre Watts, Horacio Gutierrez, Jessye Norman, Plácido Domingo, Beverly Sills, Isaac Stern, Kathleen Battle, Jane Eaglen, Marilyn Horne, Alexander Frey, Jennifer Larmore, Sylvia McNair, Andrea Bocelli, Gil Shaham, Stephen Hough, Luciano Pavarotti, Kygo—and other distinguished vocal and instrumental soloists too numerous to mention—represent the illustrious talent that has graced the stage. But never during its long and illustrious history has the Bowl's programming been limited solely to symphonic events; fully staged operas were a regular part of the season in the early years, and the famed Bolshoi Ballet appeared during the 1950s.
- August 7, 1936: The Hollywood Bowl's all-time attendance record of 26,410 paid admissions was set for a performance by the French opera star Lily Pons.
- September 1950: California's official state centennial show, The California Story, ran for five performances. The production, directed by Vladimir Rosing, was immense. A chorus of 200 and hundreds of actors were employed. The shell of the bowl was removed, the stage was enlarged, and the action was expanded to include the surrounding hillsides. Lionel Barrymore provided the show's dramatic narration.
- August 15, 1956: A Jazz at the Philharmonic program featuring Louis Armstrong and His All Stars, Ella Fitzgerald, Art Tatum, and Oscar Peterson became the best-attended event of the venue’s history.
- The Beatles performed at the Hollywood Bowl in 1964 and 1965, which resulted in the live album The Beatles at the Hollywood Bowl that was released in 1977. This recording was re-released in 2016 with the screams of the fans significantly reduced and sound improved with new technology by Giles Martin.
- July 5, 1968: L.A. rock band The Doors performed at the Hollywood Bowl. Recordings from this show were released in 1987 as the live album Live at the Hollywood Bowl. The Bowl was also home to the final performance of The Doors on September 10, 1972.
- August 16, 1968: Eric Burdon & The Animals performed at the Hollywood Bowl. A live tape of rather poor quality of their performance exists.
- September 14, 1968: The Jimi Hendrix Experience appeared at the Hollywood Bowl.
- 1972: Pink Floyd played "Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun" with a flammable gong. At the finale there was a fireworks session.
- June 17, 1972: Ron "Pigpen" McKernan played his last show with the Grateful Dead.
- July 29, 1973: The World of Sid & Marty Krofft, a one performance only live show was filmed here and aired as a television special The World of Sid & Marty Krofft at the Hollywood Bowl. The show featured performances by Johnny Whitaker, Jack Wild with H.R. Pufnstuf characters and The Brady Bunch Kids.
- September 7, 1973: Elton John played a concert here that was filmed for inclusion in the Bryan Forbes documentary film Elton John and Bernie Taupin Say Goodbye Norma Jean and Other Things.
- 1979: the inaugural Playboy Jazz Festival was held. It has taken place at the Hollywood Bowl ever since.
- 1980: The Monty Python comedy troupe performs. A filmed performance is released as Monty Python Live at the Hollywood Bowl. (see below)
- July 2–4, 1991: The newly formed Hollywood Bowl Orchestra made their debut performance with Independence Day concerts on conducted by John Mauceri. The program included works by Aaron Copland, Leonard Bernstein, John Williams, George Gershwin & Jerome Kern, among others.
- October 11, 1997: Prince performed at The Hollywood Bowl.
- July 1, 2002: The Who performed their first concert after the death of John Entwistle.
- April 29–30, 2005: Cher performed the final two concerts of her Living Proof: The Farewell Tour.
- October 1, 2005: Nine Inch Nails Live with Teeth
- November 6 and 8, 2005: The Rolling Stones A Bigger Bang Tour concert.
- October 12 and 13, 2007: Genesis performed the last two concerts of their Turn It On Again: The Tour. These are the last concerts the band has ever performed. At the last of the two concerts, lead singer Phil Collins said, "there was nothing else planned for Genesis after this show." Phil Collins would retire from the music industry in 2011.
- August 16–17, 2009: Depeche Mode performed at the amphitheatre as part of their Tour of the Universe, in front of a crowd of 34,919 people.
- October 4, 2009: Kylie Minogue performed at the amphitheatre on during their For You, for Me.
- May 20, 2011: Kylie Minogue performed during her Aphrodite: Les Folies Tour.
- August 2011: Phish made their Hollywood Bowl debut.
- June 2, 2012: The Beach Boys played a concert here as part of their The 50th Reunion Tour.
- November 8, 2013: Avicii performed at the Hollywood Bowl, becoming first EDM artist to headline the venue.
- April 26, 2014: Black Sabbath played in front of 18,000 people to start off the Hollywood Bowl season.
- May 16, 2014: Journey and The Steve Miller Band appeared at the Bowl along with opening act Tower of Power.
- May 17, 22 and 27, 2014: Three sold-out crowds saw Billy Joel as he made his Hollywood Bowl debut during his Billy Joel in Concert tour.
- June 2014: Barry Gibb, closing show of his first ever solo tour called "Mythology Tour" Royksopp Röyksopp and Robyn Robyn concert.
- July 21, 2014: Mötley Crüe were seen by a sold-out crowd of 16,488 on their Mötley Crüe Final Tour concert
- August 25, 2014: Nine Inch Nails & Soundgarden: North America 2014
- September 17, 2014: Linkin Park and Thirty Seconds to Mars performed in front of 18,000 fans with AFI as their opening act.
- May 18, 2015: Lana Del Rey performed with Courtney Love as her opening act as part of The Endless Summer Tour.
- May 30–31, 2015: Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett performed together as part of their Cheek to Cheek Tour.
- June 20, 2015: Journey performed with a youth orchestra.
- September 20, 2015: Empire of the Sun performed for the first time during their Ice on the Dune tour.
- September 25–26, 2015: Kanye West performed his 4th solo album 808s & Heartbreak in full for the first time ever.
- October 16–17, 2015: Florence and the Machine performed during their How Big Tour.
- March 25–26, 2016: David Gilmour performed during his Rattle That Lock Tour.
- July 1, 2016: Garrison Keillor recorded his final episode of A Prairie Home Companion from the Hollywood Bowl.
- July 22–23, 2016: "Weird Al" Yankovic performed during his Mandatory World Tour
- September 9, 10, 11, 2016: Electric Light Orchestra performed during their "Alone in the Universe" tour.
- September 18, 2016: Kraftwerk makes their debut performance during their 3D US Tour.
- October 1, 2, 2016: Dolly Parton performed during their "Pure & Simple" tour
- October 8,9 2016: Sia Furler performed during her Nostalgic For The Present Tour
- June 3, 2017 New Kids on The Block headlined the Total Package Tour with Paula Abdul and Boyz II Men
- June 23, 2017: Jason Mraz's 40th Birthday party and concert.
- June 26, 27, 2017: Queen + Adam Lambert performed during their Queen + Adam Lambert Tour 2017-2018
- July 2, 3, 4, 2017: Pentatonix performed during their Pentatonix World Tour 2017
- July 31, 2017: Lionel Richie and Mariah Carey performed during their All the Hits Tour 2017
- September 8, 9, 10: The Muppets perform
- September 17, 2017: Mon Laferte performed during her Amarrame Tour alongside La Santa Cecilia and Cafe Tacvba
- September 21, 22, 25: Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers completed their 40th Anniversary World Tour; final shows of Petty's career before his death on October 2.
- October 1, 2017: Imagine Dragons will perform during their Evolve Tour
- October 3, 4, 2017: Chance the Rapper will perform during his Be Encouraged Tour
- October 5, 2017: Lauryn Hill and Nas will perform during their Powernomics Tour 
- October 7, 2017: Kings of Leon will perform during their WALLS World Tour
- October 8, 2017: Janet Jackson will perform during her State of the World Tour
- October 12, 14, 16, 18: Depeche Mode performed a record-breaking four-night stand as part of their Global Spirit Tour
- October 27, 2017: Linkin Park held a tribute concert for Chester Bennington
Hollywood Bowl Museum
The Hollywood Bowl Museum features photographs, audio and video recordings, memorabilia and artifacts about the history of the Hollywood Bowl and performances. The museum includes the Hollywood Bowl Hall of Fame, whose honorees include John Williams, Reba McEntire, Garth Brooks, Stevie Wonder, Brian Wilson, Henry Mancini, Sarah Chang, Bernadette Peters, Frank Sinatra and more.
The Hollywood Bowl is featured in the following motion pictures:
- Moonlight Murder (1936), in which police detective Chester Morris solves a murder during a performance of Il Trovatore at the Bowl.
- A Star Is Born (1937)
- Hollywood Hotel (1937) in which Rosemary Lane sings to Dick Powell.
- Double Indemnity (1944)
- Anchors Aweigh (1945) with Gene Kelly, Frank Sinatra and Jose Iturbi.
- Long-Haired Hare (1948); Bugs Bunny short film
- It's a Great Feeling (1949)
- Tom and Jerry in the Hollywood Bowl (1950); Tom and Jerry short film
- Champagne for Caesar (1950); Ronald Colman, Celeste Holm, Vincent Price.
- Dixieland Droopy (1954) MGM short film with Droopy
- Hollywood or Bust (1956)
- Baton Bunny (1959); Bugs Bunny short film
- Two on a Guillotine (1965); with Cesar Romero, Connie Stevens and Dean Jones – directed by William Conrad.
- A Perfect Couple (1979)
- Xanadu (1980)
- Monty Python Live at the Hollywood Bowl (1982)
- Some Kind of Wonderful (1987)
- Beaches (1988), where Bette Midler's character CC Bloom is rehearsing for her concert at the Bowl, and where she performs at the end of the film.
- Jimmy Hollywood (1994)
- Pink, Plunk, Plink (1966) Pink Panther prefers the orchestra performing at the Hollywood Bowl to play The Pink Panther theme than their scheduled program to an audience consisting of the composer Henry Mancini.
- Escape from L.A. (1996)
- Lost & Found (1999)
- Shrek 2 (2004), in the animated Far Far Away Idol DVD extra
- Yes Man (2008)
- Zombieland (2009) Bill Murray mentions that he saw Eddie Van Halen at the Hollywood Bowl.
- The Beverly Hillbillies (1963) in season 1 episode 23 "Jed Buys the Freeway," a conman attempts to sell the Clampetts the Hollywood Bowl, Griffith Park Zoo, and the freeway connecting the two.
- The Simpsons (1995) in episode 23 "The Springfield Connection" in season 6. There is a parody of the Hollywood bowl in Springfield, named the Springfield Bowl.
- Sleeper Cell (2006) in episode 7 "Fitna" in season 2. The Hollywood Bowl is the target of a dirty nuclear bomb.
- Californication (2008) in episode 9 "La Ronde" in season 2. Ashby steals Karen away on a date and surprises her with a private Lili Haydn concert at the Hollywood Bowl.
- CSI: Miami (2010) in episode 16 "L.A." in season 8. Horatio Caine meets Captain Sutter at the Hollywood Bowl at the end of the episode.
- Columbo (1972) Étude in Black starring Peter Falk and John Cassavetes. Most of the episode takes place at the Hollywood Bowl.
- The New Adventures Of Old Christine (2008) Season 3 Episode #6 "The New Adventures Of Old Christine" Originally aired May 3, 2008. Christine tags along with her ex and her brother to the Hollywood Bowl.
- Freakazoid (1997) The final scene of the last episode of the 1997 animated superhero comedy Freakazoid features the cast singing We'll Meet Again at the Hollywood Bowl