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Egyptian Theatre: earlier auditorium views

6712 Hollywood Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90028 | map |

The Egyptian Theatre pages: an overview | Hollywood Blvd. views 1922-1954 | Hollywood Blvd. 1955-present | forecourt | lobby - earlier views | lobby - recent views | auditorium - earlier views | auditorium - recent views | booth | backstage | Egyptian 2 & 3 | along Las Palmas Ave. | along McCadden Place

Vintage photos:

Sid Grauman atop the console and Douglas Fairbanks at the keyboard during the theatre's construction. It's a photo from the Wurlitzer Company that's now in the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History collection. The photo also appears on the Digital Public Library of America site. Thanks to organ historian Eric Schmiedeberg for spotting it.
That's the inner proscenium column behind Doug's head and a bit the painted traveler that we see in another photo behind Sid. Sid's feet are pointing at the shelf below stage level that the asbestos curtain would rest on when it came in. This layout was soon modified. In the lower left is a bit of the track for a fire door in the pit that would close off stairs down to the basement.  

Doug and Sid singing to a cat. This shot, presumably taken by Joseph C. Milligan, is now on display in the theatre's lobby. It's from the collection of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Margaret Herrick Library. 
The photo also makes an appearance on the website for the book "Douglas Fairbanks: The Fourth Musketeer" by Ralph Hancock, Letitia Fairbanks and Kelley Smoot (Rowan & Littlefield, 2019). There's a preview on Google Books. It was originally published by Henry Holt in 1953. The 2019 edition was augmented with many additional photos, including this one on page 189.

Sid and Doug pretending to work as seat installers. It's a photo by J.C. Milligan that Netflix has included in their lobby display. The headline on the copy of the Los Angeles Express in the background: "Extra: Bill Hart Threatens To Shoot Wife's Attorney." Also see a smaller but less cropped version that appears on page 188 of the 2019 edition of "Douglas Fairbanks: The Fourth Musketeer."
While the book doesn't credit the photographer, they do note that their copy of the image came from the AMPAS Margaret Herrick Library. A detail from the photo was used in an ad for American Seating that appeared in the April 14, 1923 issue of Motion Picture News. Milligan's 1922 city directory listing advertises him as "Commercial, Flashlight, Publicity and View Photographer." His business was located in the Mason Opera House Building. 

"Hollywood Theater Opens Next Month." Doug and Sid cavorting with the Sphinx between the house right proscenium columns. Thanks to Mary Mallory for locating this newspaper photo to share in a post on the SoCal Historic Architecture private Facebook group. Also see her 2022 Daily Mirror article "Egyptian Theatre: Where Grauman Put the 'Show' In Show Business, Turns 100." April Clemmer, of April's Old Hollywood walking tour fame, tracked down a later use of the photo and shared the copy that appeared with it on October 19, 1922: 
"'Doug' Fairbanks and Sid Grauman pose with one of the Egyptian mummies, which form a decorative feature of Grauman's new theater, thrown open to the public last night. Need we say 'Doug' is the figure on the left revealing a row of ivories and Sid is the gentleman with the slightly disheveled hair on the right?..."   


A look at the desert ruins appearing on the asbestos. Note how low the bottom of the curtain was in the original layout -- it was below stage level. Thanks to Comfortably Cool for locating this image by an unknown photographer for a post on Cinema Treasures. One use of the photo was to illustrate a Wurlitzer ad. Thanks to Ron Mahan for scanning the copy in his collection. 

A look across from house left with the asbestos curtain in view. The photo appears on the USC Digital Library website in a version from an unnamed publication that also listed many of the contractors and suppliers. It's also one of many photos in the March 1923 article about the Egyptian in Architect and Engineer. A cropped version of the photo is in the Los Angeles Public Library collection.

A 1922 look across the house. Note the ornately painted traveler. Here toward the back of the main floor you think there's a balcony overhead if you don't know the theatre. Like at the Chinese, it's actually just the booth and several private viewing areas.

The photo appeared with "A Theater Designed in the Egyptian Style," an article by Frederick Jennings in the March 1923 issue of Architect and Engineer. It included a discussion of structural and mechanical systems design along with photos and a floorplan. It's on Internet Archive. There's also a version of the photo in the New York Public Library collection.

Meyer & Holler's ground floor plan for the Egyptian. It appeared in the March 1923 issue of Architect and Engineer. Thanks to Mike Hume for this version, which appeared in Volume 1 (1927) of "American Theatres of Today" by R.W. Seton and B.F. Betts. The two volume work was reissued in 2009 as a single volume by the Theatre Historical Society. It's available on Amazon.

A section view that appeared in "American Theatres of Today" Mike has the two plans as well as several photos from the book in pdf format on the page about the Egyptian on his Historic Theatre Photography site.

Seating Capacity: 
1,742 - originally -- all on one level

1,538 - after a re-seating in the late 40s 

1,318 - following the 1955 TODD-AO renovations 

1,340 - after the 1968 D-150 renovations

616 - after the 1998 American Cinematheque renovations -- plus a 78 seat theatre in space excavated at the rear of the auditorium.

540 - the expected capacity after the Netflix renovations

Screen size: The screen size after the 1997-1998 American Cinematheque renovations was 27' x 53'. It was flat. See the backstage page for some stage data and information on earlier screen installations. 

A rare proscenium postcard of the Egyptian from Brian Michael McCray's Hollywood Postcards collection. His 400+ cards used to be on Picasa until Google decided to "retire" that platform. Thanks, Brian! Presumably the scenery we're seeing is from one of the Grauman prologues. 

The proscenium of the Egyptian in perhaps early 1923. It's a Mott Studios photo in the Los Angeles Public Library collection. This image is one of five included in the California State Library set #01413832. The AMPAS Tom B'hend and Preston Kaufmann Collection also has a version.
By this time they had extended the stage forward a bit, filling in the lower shelf in front of the foots that the asbestos originally had rested on. After this modification, the asbestos would just come in to stage level, as in a normal installation. Note the temporary platform on the centerline extending the stage out into the pit. This would have been in the way of the asbestos with the original stage front configuration. 

 A sunburst detail from the Mott Studios photo above. 

The top of the proscenium. 
The house left proscenium columns. It's another detail taken from the Mott photo. 

A curtain detail taken from another Mott view of the proscenium. The photo is in the California State Library set #01558905 along with a lobby view. 
The lighting of the auditorium was discussed in "Life o' the Show-House: Light," an article by Nellie Barnard Parker from the publication "Light" that was reprinted in the February 19, 1927 issue of Exhibitors Herald. In addition to discussing the Egyptian's forecourt, the article also covers the Orpheum, Carthay Circle and Forum theatres. Thanks to Mike Hume for finding it on Internet Archive. See the page about the Egyptian on his Historic Theatre Photography site for more of his research and photos. Ms. Parker comments on the auditorium:

"...The playhouse is a replica of a palace of ancient Thebes. Hieroglyphics and symbols abound, clearly discernible under proper lighting. The main luminaire -- a behemoth among fixtures -- is of Egyptian design in colors of gold with golden iridescent rays emanating from an ingenious system of concealed lighting, giving the effect of a colored sunburst. About 3,000 colored lamps give a magical, mystical beauty to this theatre and during the prologues the color effects are marvelously alluring."    

A c.1923 Mott Studios detail of the sidewall treatment and the singer's box house right near the proscenium. It's in the California State Library collection.  

A Mott Studios detail focused on that figure just to the left of the singer's box. It's in the California State Library collection.  

A c.1923 Mott Studios look at the auditorium sidewall and the singer's box. It's in the California State Library collection.
A similar rear corner view but with the photographer's floods off and the back wall and singer's box uplights on. The photo appeared in "American Theatres of Today" (1927). 

A c.1923 Mott Studios photo of the rear of the auditorium from the California State Library collection.
A look at the Egyptian end standards. And note the wire hat racks under the seats. It's a detail from the Mott Studios photo. 

A soffit detail from the Mott Studios photo. 
Another soffit detail from the Mott photo. 
A sidewall detail from the Mott photo.

Another look at that figure on the sidewall to the left of the Egyptian style fire hose cabinet. It's an undated photo in the Los Angeles Public Library collection. Perhaps in the 40s? Things are looking a bit worn.

A pre-opening view of the rear of the auditorium from the newspaper Holly Leaves appearing on October 27, 1922. It looks like the photo was taken when they were still working on the seats -- note the extension cords in the center aisle. Thanks to Cezar Del Valle for featuring the photo in a Theatre Talks post about the Opening of the Egyptian Theatre. It also includes an ad for "Robin Hood," the theatre's initial film. The caption:
"Interior view Grauman's Hollywood Egyptian Theatre - Where Douglas Fairbanks in 'Robin Hood' begins third week next Monday." 

A 1922 view from onstage. Note how far the seating goes back under the booth. All of that area was converted into lobby space during the American Cinematheque renovations of 1997-1998. Upstairs check out the light behind the curtains in the center private box on either side of the booth. The doors to the roof are open. The photo is in the Los Angeles Public Library collection. 
The photo appeared with "First Pictures of Opening of Grauman's Hollywood Theatre," a full page spread in the November 4, 1922 issue of Exhibitors Herald. It also appeared, with an image of Sid and two exterior views, in the November 4, 1922 issue of Motion Picture News. Both are on Internet Archive.

The photo from onstage also made an appearance in an ad for American Seating Company in the March 14, 1923 issue of Motion Picture News. Thanks to Jean Hunter for the find. She added the item as a comment to a "Don Juan" premiere photo posted by Richard Adkins on the Hollywood Heritage Facebook page. They credit the image on the left to J.O. Milligan. It was actually Joseph C.

A slightly different look toward the rear of the auditorium. It's a photo from the March 1923 Architect and Engineer article, available on Internet Archive. Note the open standee area at the rear of the auditorium -- later walled off for more separation between lobby and auditorium.

A sidewall view, perhaps c.1953. There's a surround speaker in place but we still have all of the proscenium plaster. Photographer and source are unknown.

A c.1954 photo by Harold Allen that appears on an SFO Museum page for a 2015 exhibition of Mr. Allen's photos of Egyptian Revival architecture. The photo is one of twelve on the page, but the only one of this theatre. It's from the Ryerson & Burnham Archives, Harold Allen Egyptomania Collection, Art Institute of Chicago.

Note here we have upgraded to larger surround speakers compared to the view above. Shortly after the photo was taken, much of the proscenium was covered with the 1955 installation of the deeply curved TODD-AO screen. The removal of some of the proscenium arch was done at that time.  

The TODD-AO screen at the Egyptian Theatre installed in 1955 for "Oklahoma!" The photo is from the Robert C. Weisgerber collection. It's one of many great items on Martin Hart's American Widescreen Museum, appearing on the first page of the TODD-AO section. The Egyptian was the first theatre in Los Angeles to be equipped for the process. The American Widescreen Museum site is an amazing treasure trove of information on technical innovations in the movies.

A more serious renovation project occurred in 1968 that involved additional demolition of the proscenium and stage for the installation of a 75' deeply curved Dimension-150 screen. 

A view of the demolition work being done in 1968 for the D-150 screen installation. The photo is courtesy of Robert Weisgerber and comes from a January 29, 1969 article in the Motion Picture Herald. It appears on Michael Coate and William Kallay's From Script To DVD Egyptian Theatre page, where you'll also find many other photos of the theatre.

The project was outlined in "A $250,000 Renovation in Six Weeks for UA's Egyptian Meets Film Deadline," a January 13, 1969 article in Boxoffice. See the full Boxoffice article. Several excerpts:

"Called one of the fastest and most comprehensive remodeling and refurbishing jobs on record, a $250,000 renovation of United Artists' 46-year-old Egyptian Theatre, in Hollywood, was completed in six weeks -- two days ahead of schedule. The project included installation of a D-150 all-purpose projection system, an Ampex solid state eight-channel sound system, widening and moving back the screen, lowering the projection room to seat level, widening the proscenium arch opening to 80 feet from 40 feet, completely redecorating the auditorium, adding new soundproofing, replacing carpeting and updating restrooms... Despite the area taken over by the new projection booth, the Egyptian actually was able to add 22 seats to its capacity. By utilizing the extra space provided by moving the screen back and by filling in the orchestra pit, the theatre increased its seating from 1,318 to 1,340... 

"Entire Proscenium Removed - One of the major tasks confronting the construction engineers in the Egyptian's six-week 'face-lifting' was removal of about 150 tons of concrete -- representing the proscenium. As jackhammers tore loose boulder size chunks of concrete non-stop, other workmen rushed construction of a new concrete beam to support the new proscenium. An example of the kind of time-and-labor-saving concepts employed was a novel method of completing two jobs at the same time. While workmen were busily engaged atop a three-story scaffold temporarily supporting the roof, other crews were pouring a new concrete floor around the scaffold legs. After the pouring had been completed and the scaffold was ready to be moved, acetylene torches quickly cut off the legs just above the new floor and work continued without a moment's loss..."

The D-150 screen being installed. It was located much farther back onto what had been the stage than the TODD-AO screen of 1955 had been. Draperies and masking were by R.L. Grosh & Sons. The photo comes from the January 13, 1969 Boxoffice article "A $250,000 Renovation in Six Weeks.." Thanks to Moviesjs1944 for posting it on Cinema Treasures. The photo's caption: 

"Huge 75-foot singe sheet Dimension 150 screen is laced into place two days ahead of schedule as one of the last steps in updating Hollywood's landmark UA Egyptian Theatre."

A view of the completed 1968 screen installation from a January 29, 1969 Motion Picture Herald article appearing on Roland Lataille's Egyptian Theatre page of his site The first film to play on the new screen was "Funny Girl," in a 70mm reserved seat run. Also see the rest of the Motion Picture Herald article: part 1 | part 2 | The caption with the photo:

"Completely remodeled in a $250,000 six-week round-the-clock project, United Artists' 46 year old Egyptian Theatre features first Dimension 150 installation in Hollywood. The new curved screen is 75 feet wide, 30 feet further back than the original one. Forty-foot proscenium was widened to 80 feet. Projection room was lowered to seat level. Seating was increased from 1,318 to 1,340."

The photo also appeared in the January 13, 1969 issue of Boxoffice as the cover of the Modern Theatre section. A November 1970 L.A. Times ad for the theatre while they were running a popular price engagement of "2001" in Dimension 150 noted that the screen was 70' rather than 75'. 

A 1990s post-closing view of the D-150 screen. It's minus the curtain and the top and side masking are set for their 1.85 format. It's a photo that appeared, uncredited, with the presentation Netflix made about their renovation plans to the city's Cultural Heritage Commission on January 7, 2021. 

A later look at the screen that appears in "Temple of Film: 100 Years of the Egyptian Theatre," an eleven minute documentary made by Angus Wall for Netflix to celebrate the the theatre's 2023 reopening. See the trailer on YouTube.

A shot of the rear of the house after the 1992 closing. Note the main floor booth, installed in 1968. In the upper right you get a bit of the valance for the D-150 drapery installation. Photographer and source are unknown. See some interior views of the closed theatre from the 1994 film "Jimmy Hollywood" on the Historic L.A. Theatres in Movies post about the film.

A look across to house right in the 1990s. Note the air conditioning diffusers added in the upstairs booth area and that the openings had been closed for the private box areas on either side of the booth. It's a photo that appeared, uncredited, with the January 7, 2021 Netflix presentation.

Another view across the rear of the house in the 1990s. It's another uncredited photo that appeared with the January 7, 2021 Netflix presentation.

The downstairs booth had been removed and the openings for the private boxes adjacent to the booth were open again in this rare c.1997 color view taken as the American Cinematheque renovations were beginning. The photo by Jennifer Minasian was on the now-vanished website as part of a history of the renovation process. Sorry, but there isn't a larger version.

The auditorium following the American Cinematheque renovations of 1997-1998: 

The renovated auditorium, sort of a theatre inserted within a theatre. The ornate beam with the decorative work is what's left of the original proscenium. Most of the black area beyond would have been onstage. Thanks to Mike Hume for his 2016 photo. For more treats visit his Historic Theatre Photography website, which includes a page on the Egyptian.

Hodgetts + Fung (Craig Hodgetts, Ming Fung) were the architects for the American Cinematheque renovation. Historic Resources Group were the preservation architects. The theatre was acquired by the Cinematheque from the City of Los Angeles for $1 in 1996. Reopening was in 1998.

On the main floor. The sidewall sound baffles opened during intermission to allow a view of the historic structure beyond. Photo: Bill Counter - 2010

The view across the auditorium toward house right with the sidewall sound panels open. Photo: Bill Counter - 2010

The regular screen at the Egyptian had been unlaced and pushed off to house right to clear the frame for the installation of a silver screen for the third World 3-D Expo in September 2013. The photo appeared on the 3-D Film Expo Facebook page.

The empty screen frame -- and a rare look at the speakers for the 5 stage channels + subs. The  silver screen was about to go up. The 2013 photo once appeared on the Egyptian Theatre Facebook page.

The silver screen going up in September 2013. For more about the history of 3-D filming and exhibition see the terrific 3-D Film Archive site curated by Bob Furmanek. More recent 3-D presentations at the theatre utilized the Dolby 3-D process, which works with a conventional white screen.

The perforated ceiling. Above is the tone chute that the organ once spoke through. Photo: Mike Hume - 2016

A ceiling plaster detail. Photo: Bill Counter - 2010

The scarab at the center of the ceiling beam. It was once backlit. Photo: Bill Counter - 2010

A fabulous shot from the balcony taken in 2014 by Franck Bohbot. It's part of his Cinema Series of over thirty movie palace photos, mostly California theatres. The photo also appears with a 2014 Huffington Post article that features Mr. Bohbot's work. It's also in a 2015 National Geographic article "A Night at the Cinema: Reviving the Glamor..."
The balcony was added, and the main floor redone stadium style, for the American Cinematheque renovation. Originally all seating was on one level except for tiny private boxes up adjacent to the booth. The balcony was removed in 2021 as part of the Netflix renovations. 

The rear of the house. The booth seen here is in its original location, although a bit higher than in 1922. It was downstairs from 1968 until the theatre closed in 1992. Photo: Bill Counter - 2010

Across the back of the balcony along the booth front wall. Photo: Bill Counter - 2014

The view from what would originally have been onstage. Much of that flat ceiling above us is area that was once flyspace behind the proscenium. We're standing at a point that would have been halfway upstage. Photo: Wendell Benedetti -  LAHTF Facebook page - 2012

A bit different look to the rear of the house -- with customers. It's a 2013 photo that appeared on the World 3-D Film Expo Facebook page

At the top of the house right aisle.  Photo: Bill Counter - 2014

Off to the right would originally have been the last few rows of seats. At the time of the photo it was part of the 78 seat Spielberg Theatre in excavated space below the original floor slab. The Spielberg was removed in 2021 during the Netflix renovations.

The wall and ceiling near the top of the house right aisle. They left those blob areas with a flat finish instead of replacing the ornament that was there. Photo: Bill Counter - 2010

Under the front of the booth as we look across to house left. Photo: Bill Counter - 2014

This strange construction was encountered part way down the side aisles. Above the walkway can be seen the contours of the original booth overhang. The steps got you to the rear of the seating area as it was then configured. Over toward the house left side were similar stairs plus an elevator to get to the balcony and the booth. Off to the left behind the gray wall there were originally a dozen more rows of seats at the rear of the auditorium, an area that was converted to lobby space.

Another house right aisle view. Photo: Mike Hume - 2016

The view back to the lobby from the auditorium entrance house right. Photo: Bill Counter - 2014

The ceiling as seen from the house right aisle. Photo: Bill Counter - 2010

Several participants at a Los Angeles Historic Theatre Foundation "all-about" tour in the house right sidewall singer's box. Access is up through the dressing rooms. Thanks to Don Solosan for his 2012 photo on the LAHTF Facebook page. Also see his auditorium view.  

Another house right aisle view. Note the singer's box in the upper left. Photo: Bill Counter - 2010

Looking across to the front of the house right aisle with the sliding panels open in "intermission" mode. It's a view from the Egyptian Theatre page on the site Spherical Panoramas. You can pan around for all sorts of interesting views.

A look across to the house left wall. It's a view from the panorama by Carel Struyken on the site 360 Cities. Also see the site's panorama of the Egyptian forecourt by Bryan Groulx.

The house left singer's box. For access to the box on this side you went outside and up a flight of stairs. Photo: Bill Counter - 2014

A view back into the auditorium from the house left aisle. Photo: Bill Counter - 2010 
On the roof: 

A view north from on top of the stagehouse. Photo: Mike Hume - 2019

Another look north but this time a view at the bottom of the frame of the sloped roof of the tone chute above the sunburst that's in front of the organ chambers. Photo: Mike Hume - 2019

Looking east. That sloped area is above the sunburst. The organ chambers and stagehouse are out of the frame to the right. Photo: Mike Hume - 2019
On top of the auditorium looking west. Photo: Mike Hume - 2019. Thanks, Mike! For more of his great work visit his Historic Theatre Photography website, which includes a page on the Egyptian. You can also find him on the Historic Theatre Photography Facebook page.

The Egyptian Theatre pages: an overview | Hollywood Blvd. views 1922-1954 | Hollywood Blvd. 1955-present | forecourt | lobby - earlier views | lobby - recent views | back to top: auditorium - earlier views | auditorium - recent views | booth | backstage | Egyptian 2 & 3 | along Las Palmas Ave. | along McCadden Place |

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