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The Chinese Has Closed For Renovations...Again

Grauman's Chinese has closed.

Expect a fall reopening with improved sightlines, new projection and sound equipment and a 49' x 94' IMAX screen, the largest in the area.  It'll have a seating capacity reduced slightly down from the current 1,151 to 986. That capacity, according IMAX, will make it their third largest in the world by seating capacity.

The photo here shows the Chinese closed for its "$500,000 Reconstruction" to accommodate the three projector Cinemiracle process in 1958. It's a photo from the Richard Wojcik collection appearing on Vintage Los Angeles.

Check out an April 30 article on Curbed L.A. by Adrian Glick Kudler for a lovely final photo tour of the auditorium as it's currently configured  Here's a photo by Elizabeth Daniels, one of many great views that accompanied the article.

The theatre's announcement of the May 1 closing on their Facebook page noted: "...The renovations will not affect any of the historic architecture. We have been working closely with the Historic Resources Group every step of the way to ensure that we do not alter anything that is historically significant. We have also shared our plans with Hollywood Heritage, Los Angles Historic Theatre Foundation, and LA Conservancy and have their support for this project."

What's happening during the renovation includes:

Rear of the seating area gets raised--
Up to lobby level, that is. With the lobby pushed forward a few rows into the auditorium during the 2001 renovations, the last row of seats ended up down a flight of steps as you entered.  The photo here is one from Behr Browers Architects showing the rear of the auditorium after their work on the 2001 project.

After the 2013 construction the last row of seats will be at lobby level so entering the auditorium will be more like the original 1927 experience.

The floor gets re-sloped --
In addition to the rear getting elevated, the front will be excavated more deeply into the basement for a greater slope and more height at the front of the auditorium.  It'll be a modified stadium seating plan and a taller screen, ending up 49' high.

An April 2013  L.A. Times story by Richard Varrier included mention of the Los Angeles Historic Theatre Foundation's support of the project and its assurances that the essential historic fabric of the auditorium would be protected. Hillsman Wright of the LAHTF notes that the floor has been redone several times already beginning with the replacement of the original wooden flooring in the 40s and serious excavation and reconstruction during the 1958 renovations.

An April 2013 story on Curbed LA by Adrian Glick Kudler included this view from BB Architects showing a simulation of the look with the steeper slope after the renovations. The story noted:

"'[W]e're not changing anything that's historical about the building,' President and COO Alwyn Hight Kushner tells us. 'All of the beautiful character-defining features will stay as is.' The floor (changed many times over the years) will be put on a steeper slope and the enormous new screen will descend partway into what is now the basement, according to Hillsman Wright of the Los Angeles Historic Theatre Foundation, who's been working with the Chinese. The projection booth will also be moved forward and lowered a bit (over the theater's fake balcony)." 

The booth gets redone--
It's uncertain what that "moved forward and lowered a bit" means in terms of the look of the "fake balcony." The booth started upstairs in 1927. A new one was built on the main floor in 1958 for Cinemiracle as the process required something close to a zero degree projection angle. The main floor booth area became part of the enlarged lobby/snackbar area in 2001 and the booth was moved back upstairs.  We'll see what happens this time around.

New projection and sound equipment--
IMAX plans to install its new laser projection system at the Chinese but it won't be available until early 2015. The current generation of IMAX digital gear will be installed until then.  Deadline Hollywood and L.A. Times both had April 2013 articles about the project.  It's unknown if film capability will be included as part of the project.

Although most projection at the Chinese has been digital in recent years, the booth at the time of the closing still had a Norelco 35/70mm projector and a Christie platter. See our page on the projection booth for recent photos.

A bigger screen --
What won't be happening is any damage to the theatre's proscenium.   The new 94' wide screen will be be about the same width as the 1958 Cinemiracle installation, although that one had a much deeper curve than that favored by IMAX. The Cinemiracle screen size was 40' x 100' with an actual image size of 38' x 92' The full width has seldom been used in recent years.

 Here's a 2007 view of the 1.85 to 1 masking at showing how little of the available width and height was being used at that time. In scope format the image width in recent years has been approximately 75'. The basement will be affected by the renovations as the auditorium floor gets sloped downward to make more room for the taller screen.

Much of the original front of the auditorium  including the orchestra pit and the front of the stage were already demolished during the 1958 renovations so there's nothing historic there to be lost.  See our basement page for photos of the current situation there.

More about the Chinese --
See our main Chinese Theatre web page, where there are links to other pages about different areas of the theatre.

Update 5/2: The L.A. Times ran a story about the closure of the theatre.

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