Griffith Observatory is in Los Angeles, California. Sitting on the south-facing slope of Mount Hollywood in L.A.’s Griffith Park, it commands a view of the Los Angeles Basin, including Downtown Los Angeles to the southeast, Hollywood to the south, and the Pacific Ocean to the southwest. The observatory is a popular tourist attraction with an extensive array of space and science-related displays.
3,015 acres (12.20 km2) of land surrounding the observatory was donated to the City of Los Angeles by Colonel Griffith J. Griffith on December 16, 1896. In his will Griffith donated funds to build an observatory, exhibit hall, and planetarium on the donated land. As a Works Progress Administration (WPA) project, construction began on June 20, 1933, using a design developed by architect John C. Austin based on preliminary sketches by Russell W. Porter. The observatory and accompanying exhibits were opened to the public on May 14, 1935. In its first five days of operation the observatory logged more than 13,000 visitors. Dinsmore Alter was the museum’s director during its first years; today, Dr. Ed Krupp is the director of the Observatory.
The first exhibit visitors encountered in 1935 was the Foucault pendulum, which was designed to demonstrate the rotation of the Earth. The exhibits also included a twelve-inch (305 mm) Zeiss refracting telescope in the east dome, a triple-beam coelostat (solar telescope) in the west dome, and a thirty-eight foot relief model of the moon’s north polar region.
Col. Griffith requested that the observatory include a display on evolution which was accomplished with the Cosmochron exhibit which included a narration from Caltech Professor Chester Stock and an accompanying slide show. The evolution exhibit existed from 1937 to the mid 1960s.
Also included in the original design was a planetarium under the large central dome. The first shows covered topics including the Moon, worlds of the solar system, and eclipses.
During World War II the planetarium was used to train pilots in celestial navigation. The planetarium was again used for this purpose in the 1960s to train Apollo program astronauts for the first lunar missions.
The planetarium theater was renovated in 1964 and a Mark IV Zeiss projector was installed.
RENOVATION & EXPANSION
The observatory closed in 2002 for renovation and a major expansion of exhibit space. It reopened to the public on November 3, 2006, retaining its art deco exterior. The $93 million renovation, paid largely by a public bond issue, restored the building, as well as replaced the aging planetarium dome. The building was expanded underground, with completely new exhibits, a café, gift shop, and the new Leonard Nimoy Event Horizon Theater. The Café at the End of the Universe, an homage to Restaurant at the End of the Universe, is one of the many cafés run by celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck. One wall inside the building is covered with the largest astronomically accurate image ever constructed (152 feet long by 20 feet (6.1 m) high), called “The Big Picture” (http://bigpicture.caltech.edu), depicting the Virgo Cluster of galaxies; visitors can explore the highly detailed image from within arm’s reach or through telescopes 60 feet (18 m) away. The 1964-vintage Zeiss Mark IV star projector was replaced with a Zeiss Mark IX Universarium. The former planetarium projector is part of the underground exhibit on ways in which humanity has visualized the skies.
Since the observatory opened in 1935, admission has been free, in accordance with Griffith’s will. Tickets for the show Centered in the Universe in the 290-seat Samuel Oschin Planetarium Theater are purchased separately at the box office within the observatory. Tickets are sold on a first-come, first-served basis.
Children under 5 are free, but are admitted to only the first planetarium show of the day. Only members of the observatory’s support group, Friends Of The Observatory, may reserve tickets for the planetarium show.
Centered in the Universe features a high-resolution immersive video projected by an innovative laser system developed by Evans and Sutherland Corporation, along with a short night sky simulation projected by the Zeiss Universarium. A team of animators worked more than two years to create the 30-minute program. Actors, holding a glowing orb, perform the presentation, under the direction of Chris Shelton.
A wildfire in the hills came dangerously close to the observatory on May 10, 2007.
VISITING GRIFFITH OBSERVATORY
Admission to the building and grounds of Griffith Observatory is free of charge, excluding some of the shows for a minimal price at the planetarium. The Observatory is open five days a week. There is a small parking lot next to the Observatory. Additional parking is along the steep road leading up to the observatory. Parking is free of charge.
There are photo opportunities and scenery at and around the Observatory, with views of the Pacific Ocean, the Hollywood Sign and Downtown Los Angeles. Ideal for tourist destination, field trips, dates and outings with the family and friends.
It has also appeared in a number of other movies:
The Phantom Empire (1935)
Phantom from Space (1953)
War of the Colossal Beast (1958)
The Cosmic Man (1959)
The Spy with My Face (1964)
Flesh Gordon (1974)
Midnight Madness (1980)
The Terminator (1984)
Earth Girls Are Easy (1988)
The Rocketeer (1991)
Devil in a Blue Dress (1995)
The People vs. Larry Flynt (1996)
The End of Violence (1997)
Queen of the Damned (2002)
Yes Man (2008)
Terminator Salvation (2009)
Valentine’s Day (2010) (In the opening scene of credits in the theater version a quick shot of the Observatory is shown)
The Observatory has appeared in episodes of the following TV shows:
- 24 (Day 1 3:00–4:00 pm; aired on March 19, 2002)
- Adventures of Superman (first episode, as Jor-El‘s laboratory on Superman’s home planet Krypton; some other episodes, as the Metropolis observatory.)
- Alias (“The Coup”)
- Angel (episode “Are You Now or Have You Ever Been,” with Angel wearing a red jacket in homage to James Dean’s Rebel Without a Cause character).
- Beverly Hills, 90210 (“Rebel with a Cause”)
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer (episode “Shadow“)
- Brothers and Sisters (“The Road Ahead”)
- Dragnet (“The LSD Story” aka “Blueboy” episode)
- Danny Phantom (The Amity Park Observatory modeled on The Griffith Observatory.)
- Jonas L.A. (Date Expectations)
- The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson (appears at the beginning of the opening title sequence, 2009 to present)
- MacGyver (pilot episode)
- Melrose Place (“Till Death Do Us Part”)
- Millionaire Matchmaker (Shown in random episodes)
- Mission: Impossible (opening pilot episode)
- Quantum Leap (“Goodbye Norma Jean”)
- Keeping up with the Kardashians on E! show shots of Griffith Observatory on a regular basis.
- Remington Steele
- Rocky Jones, Space Ranger
- Star Trek: Voyager (two-part episode “Future’s End“)
- The Man from U.N.C.L.E
- 90210 show shots of the Observatory many times.
- The New Adventures of Wonder Woman between 1977 and 1979.
- The Simpsons (duplicated as Springfield Observatory)
- The Wonder Years.
- 2010 MTV Video Music Awards. Linkin Park performed their single “The Catalyst” at the Observatory.
- Was a filming location for the music video for “Rush Rush” by Paula Abdul, which starred Keanu Reeves and was directed by Stefan Würnitzer. This video was based on Rebel Without a Cause.
- An image of the observatory is shown in a 2Pac music video, To Live And Die In L.A.. The video pays homage to Los Angeles and its best known landmarks.
- Some interview segments with rock musician Ringo Starr for the Beatles Anthology video were conducted on the observatory grounds during the early 1990s.
It is assumed to be in Grand Theft Auto V, after being seen in the second trailer