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Grauman's Chinese: vintage auditorium views

6925 Hollywood Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90028 | map |

The Grauman's Chinese pages: 
| Chinese overview | street views 1926 to 1954 | street views 1955 to present | forecourt | lobby | lounges | vintage auditorium views | recent auditorium views | upstairs boxes and offices | booth | stage | basement | attic | Chinese Twin | Chinese 6 |



1927 - A  Mott Studios view in the collection of the California State Library.



1927 - A look at the west wall of the auditorium in a detail from the cover photo of a 1969 special issue about the Chinese done by Terry Helgesen for Console magazine.



1927 - Another side wall shot from the the Terry Helgesen Console magazine Chinese Theatre issue. The caption reads "Another view of the auditorium taken when stage curtains were opened and the bare stage could be seen." Thanks to Hillsman Wright for posting this one on the LAHTF Facebook page.



1927 - Standing on the great stage -- a photo located by Kurt Wahlner for his amazing site graumanshinese.org. It's from The American Architect issue of August 1927. The photo is included in the Projection Part One article on Kurt's definitive site on the Chinese Theatre's history. Thanks, Kurt!



1927 - A Los Angeles Public Library collection photo looking at rear of the main floor with the booth and what would later be the private boxes above.



1927 - A Mott Studios view in the collection of the California State Library. Check out that carpet as we look up the aisle. Several rows we see here at the back of the house are now part of the snack bar area.



1927 - Looking across the rear of the auditorium in a Mott Studios photo from the California State Library. 



1927 - This detail of a Chinese Theatre seat appeared in the August 20, 1927 issue of The American Architect. Thanks to Kurt Wahler for the scan from a copy in his collection. He says: "I imagine that this chair was along the center isle somewhere close to the front, as you cannot really see any risers. It is difficult to imagine carpet running around the plenum vents, but I understood that they had carpet between the seat rows originally. As did the Pantages.

"Something else that you get from this shot is the sheen on the seat backs. It is definitely leather or leatherette with an imprinted design (how, I don’t know). Must have been some sort of hard-assed way of doing it, though. While the seat bottom is your more usual sculpted velour. These seats were in the house until the CinemaScope refitting. The latest photo I have showing the Chinese designs on the backs dates from late 1949. On the other hand, I have a shot from 1944 which shows that some of the backs had been replaced by then.

"I think the colors they have on the standards today must have been lifted from an original that they found someplace when they were re-created for the 2001 remodel, then made over for the 2013 Imax remodel." There's lots more to learn on GraumansChinese.org, Kurt's extensive site about the theatre.



1927 - Another Los Angeles Public Library view -- looking at the rear corner of the auditorium.



1927 - A Los Angeles Public Library photo looking at the east side of the auditorium. Note that we don't yet have any drapes between th side wall columns.



1927 - The California State Library has this Mott Studios vista toward the ceiling and the rear of the auditorium.



1927 - A view looking toward the rear of the auditorium from the Terry Helgesen collection. It's one of many great photos of the theatre in David Naylor's wonderful book "American Picture Palaces, The Architecture of Fantasy," Van Nostrand Reinhold Company New York, 1981. The book is a lush tour through the country's movie palaces with many stunning photos that don't appear elsewhere. Many Los Angeles theatres are represented. It's available on Amazon.



1927 - The set for the prologue to "King of Kings," the opening attraction at the Chinese. The photo is in the Tom B'hend and Preston Kaufmann Collection, a part of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Margaret Herrick Library Digital Collections.



1927 - A collage by Kurt Wahlner on graumanshinese.org showing how the theatre would have appeared with an 18'x24' screen for its first film, "King of Kings." It's included in the Projection Part One article on his site about the Chinese Theatre's history.



1927 - A view of the front of the auditorium. Notice how the proscenium differs from more recent photos -- most of it was removed in 1958. It's a photo from the California State Library collection. And, no, we don't get an organ grille in this area. Like at the Egyptian, the organ spoke through the ceiling.



1927 - A detail from the view above. The crystal fountains inside the proscenium arch were removed ue to problems with audible vibrations when sound films came to the Chinese.



1927 - Another detail from the California Library photo. The "singer's boxes" on either side of the proscenium, where soloists could perform, were a casualty of remodeling. They got reduced in size in 1953 for the Cinemascope remodeling and that column on the left was removed. Although the screen stayed within the proscenium, evidently they wanted better sightlines from some of those side seats. There was more demo for the wide Cinemiracle screen in 1958 when the entire proscenium was  removed.



 c. 1929 - An early view of the proscenium. Note that the crystal fountains inside the proscenium have disappeared.  It's a photo in the California State Library collection.



1930 - A collage by Kurt Wahlner on graumanshinese.org showing how the stage would have appeared with a 23' x 50' screen for "The Big Trail" in the 70mm Grandeur process. It's included in the Projection Part One article on his exhaustively researched site.



 c.1930 - A Mott Studio look at the house left sidewall after the installation of curtains for sound absorption. It's a photo in the California State Library collection.



1931 - This view of the Etude Ethiopian Chorus on stage at the Chinese is in the collection of the Los Angeles Public Library. It was part of a prologue for the feature "Trader Horn."



1930s - This J.C Milligan photo formerly in the collection of Terry Helgesen gives us a wonderful look at the chandelier and ceiling. It's now in the Tom B'hend and Preston Kaufmann Collection, part of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Margaret Herrick Library Digital Collections. The chandelier was later reduced in size.



1932 - This photo by Harry Wenger of Oscar Baum at center conducting the Chinese orchestra is now in the AMPAS Tom B'hend and Preston Kaufmann Collection



 c.1944 - A look back toward the booth from Marc Wanamaker's collection on Hollywood Historic Photos. Check out the mess around the booth ports -- obviously some reconfiguration had been going on. Note that the statuary formerly on each side of the booth (where there are new spot ports) has been removed. Kurt Wahlner speculates that the new ports might have been added for the Oscars, first held in the theatre in 1944.

The seats we see in the photo are the 1927 originals. The reason for the divider in the seats is unknown. Perhaps to delineate the VIP section down front during the Oscar ceremony. Other items of interest are that single bentwood chair in the box on the right -- and no railing. Also note the banks of spotlights in front of the booth and in the box areas left and right.



c.1947 - A view revealing a little radio control booth upstairs. Kurt Wahlner comments that it could have been installed for the Oscar broadcasts. Or perhaps for the Dr. IQ broadcasts from the theatre from February to April 1947.  Also note that the rear section of seats that have been either slipcovered or reupholstered. It's a photo Kurt found in the Getty Images collection.


 
1944 - The Academy Awards were held at the Chinese 1944, 1945 and 1946. Thanks to Christopher Crouch for this photo of the March 2, 1944 ceremony appearing with a 2014 post about the Oscars on his blog Cinelog. You can also find the photo on Kurt Wahlner's fine page "The Academy Awards and Grauman's Chinese."



Summer 1953 - A proscenium view from the Los Angeles Public Library collection. Note that the orchestra pit has been covered and replaced with steps leading up to the stage as a transition. The covered item on the left is the organ console. On the right it's just a dummy for the sake of symmetry.

The photo shows the pre-Cinemascope screen as it was masked for "Shane," in June 1953. It was "Presented on Our New Gigantic Panoramic Screen" in a 1.66 to 1 aspect ratio. "Shane" was the first "widescreen" film to play the Chinese since the 70mm Fox Grandeur run of "The Big Trail" in 1930. Don't miss Bob Furmanek's very interesting page on "Shane" aspect ratios and other details. There's also a fine one he's done on widescreen transitions of the early 50s.

Kurt Wahlner calls our attention to the very bottom of the theatre's asbestos curtain hanging down just upstage of the proscenium. Another item of interest is a sliver of a column seen on the extreme left of the photo -- it (but not the proscenium itself) would be removed during Cinemascope renovations in the the fall 1953. Previously there had been films presented on substantially larger than normal screens (but in a traditional 1.37 to 1 ratio) including parts of "Trail of '98" (in "Fantom Screen," a rolling and enlarging screen process, 1928) and "Hell's Angels" (in "Magnascope," 1930). 



Fall 1953 - A sidewall view showing renovations for the first Cinemascope feature, "The Robe." It's from Marc Wanamaker's collection on Hollywood Historic Photos. The site has many interesting items to browse including many more Hollywood theatre photos.

Note the new surround speakers between the columns. Those palm trees at the far right are to distract you from all the empty space there where they pulled out a column to improve sightlines for front seats on the sides. Note also the butchered pagoda -- it formerly had a larger and more decorative balcony in front.



Fall 1953 - Kurt Wahlner's visualization of the Cinemascope look for "The Robe" in a 2:55 to 1 aspect ratio with a 24' x 62' picture after installation of the big new screen and the modifications to the side pagodas and columns at the proscenium. "The Dream Machines," his history of projection at the Chinese, has it on page two.

Kurt notes that from the time of "The Robe" in September 1953 until the theatre's closing for the Cinemiracle renovations in February 1958 only one feature wasn't run in Cinemascope. That was the "flat" run of "Giant" in October 1956.



c.1959 - Thanks to the wonderful Bruce Torrence Hollywood Photograph collection for this post-Cinemiracle renovation view. It also put in an appearance in a Chinese Theatre souvenir booklet published by National General Theatres. The Torrence collection dates this as 1955 but it has to be 1958 or later as the theatre shows the effects of the Cinemiracle renovations for "Windjammer."

Work in 1958 included removing the proscenium to allow for the new 100' wide screen. A new faux proscenium has been added to the side walls -- check out the painted wall area added in on the far right of the photo. Cinemiracle used a curved screen but a much shallower curve than that employed by either Cinerama or for the early TODD-AO installations.



 c.1959 - Thanks again to the Bruce Torrence Hollywood Photograph Collection for another late 50s view. Here showing one take on the theatre's masking down for 1.85 to 1 films after the huge Cinemiracle 100' wide screen was installed. Chinese Theatre historian Kurt Wahlner rightly calls this version "hilarious."   Visit the Torrence site for many more Chinese Theatre photos.



1970s - A look toward the rear of the house in a photo appearing in a National General Theatres souvenir booklet sold at the theatre. Note the main floor booth (installed in 1958 for Cinemiracle) and the former booth upstairs converted into a private box.



1980s - A photo by Walman Photography from another souvenir booklet, this time one issued by Mann Theatres. The booth is still downstairs and the private box upstairs. At the right center of the image we're looking into the booth ports. The 2001 remodeling would expand the lobby, take away a few rows of seats and move the booth back upstairs to its original 1927 position. The photo appears on a  page about Los Angeles theatres on the site Silver Screens.



1980s - A screen view on the site Silver Screens that was taken from the Mann souvenir booklet.



1986 - A look at the screen from a 1986 Mann Theatres souvenir booklet in the collection of Kurt Wahlner. Kurt uses the photo in the Sensurround chapter of his epic discussion of Grauman's Chinese Projection and Sound to show how the screen was masked for 'scope format with a 27' x 65' picture size for "Earthquake" in 1974.



1990s - An auditorium photo from David Levine on his site Bento Press. Note the older drapery treatment between the columns. They became red with the 2001 renovation. The drapes close during films to improve the acoustics.  Thanks, David!



1992 - A ceiling detail from Berger Conser Architectural Photography. It's from the book "The Last Remaining Seats: Movie Palaces of Tinseltown" by Robert Berger and Anne Conser.



1992 - A majestic view of the Chinese Theatre ceiling from "The Last Remaining Seats: Movie Palaces of  Tinseltown" by Robert Berger and Anne Conser. The book is available Amazon. Visit the Robert Berger Photography website where 16 photos from the book are displayed in the Last Remaining Seats section. This photo is #11 in the portfolio. Thanks, Robert and Anne!

The Grauman's Chinese pages: 
| Chinese overview | street views 1926 to 1954 | street views 1955 to present | forecourt | lobby | lounges | back to top - vintage auditorium views | recent auditorium views | upstairs boxes and offices | booth | stage | basement | attic | Chinese Twin | Chinese 6 |

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