This was Sid Grauman's first Hollywood theatre
and was made possible by developer C.E. Toberman. The structure
reportedly cost $800,000. The Hollywood premiere was invented when the theatre opened and the Egyptian would remain a major first
run house for five decades until its closure in 1992. Grauman's first L.A. Theatre had been the Million Dollar, opening downtown in 1918. In 1923 he opened the Metropolitan, a downtown theatre later renamed the Paramount. The Chinese, also a venture with Toberman, opened in 1927.
West Coast Theatres (to become Fox West Coast in 1929) had taken over the Egyptian after Grauman moved on to the Chinese and it was spun off to the United Artists Theatre Circuit following various consent decree rulings against Fox in the late 1940s. American Cinematheque acquired the theatre after it had been sitting vacant for several years and renovated it for a 1998 reopening. It closed in March 2020 due to the Covid-19 lockdown. Talks had been in the works for a sale to Netflix, a deal that was consummated in May 2020. They project a 2022 reopening. The Cinematheque will continue to program Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays and manage the theatre, even when Netflix is holding their events.
Architects: Meyer & Holler. The firm's Milwaukee Building Co. division was the contractor for the project. The original plan was for a Spanish
style theatre but before construction began it was decided to change it
to an Egyptian theme. The stylistic change proved to be extraordinarily
prescient on Grauman's part when the public was whipped into an Egyptian
frenzy by the discovery of King Tut's tomb by Howard Carter the month
following the theatre's opening.
A drawing of the theatre's entrance from Meyer and Holler. Thanks to Tommy Dangcil for sharing the rendering from his collection. He posted it on the Facebook page Photos of Los Angeles but it has gone missing from that platform. Check out his Arcadia book "Hollywood 1900-1950 in Vintage Postcards." That obelisk is the theatre's fresh air intake, located above the fan room.
Historian Mary Mallory, in a 2012 Daily Mirror article titled "Hollywood Heights - The Egyptian Theatre," quotes Grauman talking to L.A. Times film critic Edwin Schallert about his plans for something more elaborate than most theatres. As he envisioned it:
Mary refers to the 1990 Bernadette M. Sigler and Kevin Stayton book,
"The Sphinx and the Lotus: the Egyptian Movement in American Decorative
Arts, 1865-1935" which heralds Grauman's as the first full
architectural expression of the Egyptian decorative scheme in this
country. The book notes that the theatre, inside and out was
"Supposedly based on temple ruins at Thebes, the exterior boasted
crouching sphinxes and Egyptian head pilasters." The proscenium was
crowned with the "winged scarab Khepri."
Cezar Del Valle notes in a Theatre Talks blog post that a month before the opening, the Egyptian was already inspiring religious fervor. He excerpts an article from the September 9, 1922 issue of the newspaper Holly Leaves reporting on a talk at the Krotona Institute on "Temples and religions of Egypt during the reign of Queen Hatsheput" by Captain Stuart Corbett, a "noted Egyptologist":
Meyer & Holler's main floor plan, a drawing that appeared with the article "A Theater Designed in the Egyptian Style" in the March 1923 issue of Architect and Engineer. It's on Internet Archive. A USC photo lists some of the subcontractors for the project. Raymond Kennedy, who would later work on the Chinese, was responsible for the decorative aspects of the building. 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.
The new theatre in "HOLLYWYOOD" was profiled in the November 11, 1922 issue of Moving Picture World. Thanks to Jean Hunter for finding the article. She added it as a comment to a "Don Juan" premiere photo posted by Richard Adkins on the Hollywood Heritage Facebook page.
Seating: On one version of the plans the capacity is listed as 1,742 seats, all on one level. That number is repeated in an account of the opening appearing in the October 20, 1922 issue of the paper Holly Leaves. Excluded are seats in the private "balconies" at booth level. It was reseated in late 40s for a
capacity of 1,538. After the TODD-AO installation, the capacity was
1,318. Following the D-150 renovations in 1968 the capacity was 1,340
despite the addition of a main floor projection booth. The pit was
covered and the screen was pushed farther back.
The 90s renovation by American Cinematheque resulted in a substantial downsizing to 616 seats plus the addition of a second 78 seat screening room in space excavated at the rear of the main floor. At that time the building was brought into ADA compliance. The Cinematheque named the main theatre the Lloyd E. Rigler Theatre, the smaller facility the Steven Spielberg Theatre. With the Netflix renovations it'll get even smaller. The Spielberg will be removed and the capacity is expected to be 540.
Stage specs: Originally it 25' deep and 67' wall to wall. The November 11, 1922 Moving Picture World article gave dimensions of 30' x 73,' a bit generous. The proscenium was 41' wide. Grid height was 54'. The screen size following the Cinematheque renovations was 27' x 53'. See the backstage page for more details.
A view of the west side of the theatre's stagehouse. The screen is now almost up against the back wall. Photo: Bill Counter - 2007
Pipe organ: It was a 3 manual 15 rank Wurlitzer style 260 with 7 tuned percussions and 14 traps. The main and solo chambers were on the roof just downstage of the proscenium wall and it spoke through the grillework in the ceiling in front of the proscenium. Some of the larger pipes were on a shelf about 25' up on the stage left wall. Neither the console nor the orchestra pit were on lifts.
An ad reproduced in an issue of the Tom B'hend / Preston Kaufmann publication Greater Metro L.A. Newsreel that's in the Ronald W. Mahan Collection. Thanks to Ron for scanning the ad.
The opening: The new theatre was discussed in an article in the October 13, 1922 issue of the Hollywood newspaper Holly Leaves. Thanks to theatre historian Cezar Del Valle for a Theatre Talks post offering these excerpts:
The cover of the opening night program, a "Souvenir Album." Thanks to Cristopher Crouch for the scan from the program in his collection. It's on "Hollywood's Egyptian Theatre," a post on his blog Cinelog. Normally focusing on Orange County theatres, Mr. Crouch makes an occasional foray into Hollywood. Also on Cinelog: page 3 - "Greeting" | page 4 - "New Policies" | page 9 - "Staff and Prices" | page 12 - "Masters in Charge of Music" | page 13 - "Robin Hood" credits | the full program in pdf format: Egyptian Album |
"Director Fred Niblo
acted as master of ceremonies for the premiere, with Los Angeles Mayor
Cryer, Rupert Hughes, Jesse L. Lasky, Hollywood Chamber of Commerce’s
George Eastman, and builder Charles Toberman making speeches, along with
actor Charlie Chaplin. Cecil B. DeMille presented Sid Grauman with a
laurel wreath on behalf of the Hollywood film community. Floral
arrangements honoring Grauman and his theatre decorated the forecourt.
"An Eyeful of Usherets [sic] Parked in an Oldsmobile. These lovely ones appear in person at Sid Grauman's new Hollywood Egyptian Theatre, where Douglas Fairbanks's 'Robin Hood' is being produced. If you can't find the way to your seat they'll help you." Thanks to Mary Mallory for the illustration, one that appeared with her 2012 Daily Mirror article "Hollywood Heights - The Egyptian Theatre." The article appears to have vanished from the Mirror site.
This article about the theatre's initial promotional push appeared in the December 2, 1922 issue of Exhibitors Herald. It's on Internet Archive.
The films were accompanied by Jan Sofer (succeeding Victor Schertzinger) conducting the "Hollywood Symphony Orchestra" with, in addition, numbers performed on the Mighty Wurlitzer. A nursery (adjacent to the ladies room) was provided for parents to leave their children. The opening program noted that "kiddies may be parked there with safety and convenience." On the staff, in addition to a nurse and storyteller in the nursery, were "Twenty-eight Egyptian Ladies in Waiting, Four Lobbymen, Three Porters, Footmen, etc." -- all costumed by Western Costume Co.
The program noted that "nothing but masterpieces of the cinema art" would be shown at the Egyptian where each "would have its world premiere months before being shown at any of the downtown theatres." At the beginning, the Egyptian was running only 2 shows a day (with reserved seats) at legit prices and getting long profitable runs from its pictures. In the first 3 years of operation, the Egyptian Theatre ran only 4 movies. "Robin Hood" ran nearly five months. The next two were "The Covered Wagon," opening April 10, 1923, and then a seven month run of "The Ten Commandments" starting December 4, 1923.
The fifth film to play the theatre was "Romola," opening December 6, 1924. Each picture was accompanied by an elaborate Grauman prologue, usually as much of an attraction as the film itself. Thanks to Ken McIntyre for finding the ad.
John Ford's "The Iron Horse" was up next, opening February 21, 1925. This photo is of several Pacific Electric Red Cars taking 180 boys from the Pasadena YMCA to the opening of the film. It's from the Mt. Lowe Preservation Society collection on the Pacific Electric Railway website.
The eighth film to play was "The Big Parade," opening November 2, 1925. This program is from the Silent Film Still Archive. Note that Grauman's "1918 Review" was advertised as having "100 - people on the stage - 100." He didn't exaggerate. Lots of extras were hired on a daily basis.
An ad for "The Big Parade" on the side of "America's First Trans-Continental Trackless Train." The photo is in the California State Library collection. It was evidently taken in Sierra Madre -- we have a guy's name embossed on the card from that town. Thanks to Noirish Los Angeles contributor Godzilla, who included the photo in his Noirish post #10861.
"Come early and enjoy the free attractions in the in the Egyptian Forecourt." Thanks to Ken McIntyre for locating this 1926 ad for the Grauman double feature for a post on the Photos of Los Angeles Facebook page.
Another shot of Sid and his staff in the forecourt. It's a photo in the Los Angeles Public Library collection from the L.A. Chamber of Commerce. That's Sid third in from the left.
Warner Bros.' "Don Juan" with John Barrymore opened August 20, 1926. Also on the program was an overture and a Grauman prologue called "A Venetian Festival." In an L.A. Times article on August 19 it was reported that for the premiere "Complete preparations have been made for an elaborate electrical display with its crowning feature a titanic rainbow projected by searchlights from the Egyptian roof and for the illumination of Hollywood Boulevard in the vicinity of the theatre like midday." This program cover is one of many interesting items once on the Cinema Treasures page on the Egyptian but now missing. Also see the credits page.
The Warner studios on Sunset advertising "Don Juan" at the Egyptian. Thanks to Cezar Del Valle for the photo from his collection. When the film had opened in New York on August 6, they were running various Vitaphone short subjects and a Vitaphone soundtrack for the feature. During the initial weeks of the run at the Egyptian the film was accompanied by the theatre's orchestra. There was no mention of Vitaphone in the ads or in the L.A. Times review appearing August 22.
Vitaphone arrives: The Egyptian was the first Los Angeles theatres to be wired for sound and belatedly got the equipment during the run of "Don Juan." The gear was shipped west on a special express car and was first heard by the public on October 27. An October 17 L.A. Times story noted that this would be the first engagement for Vitaphone west of Chicago. An October 21 Times story advised that "music lovers and film fans are eagerly awaiting the presentation here."
In an October 19 L.A. Times ad Sid Grauman stated: "I firmly believe that Vitaphone will be one of the greatest sensations the Los Angeles public has ever known." An October 20 ad declared Vitaphone "the most marvelous discovery of all time."
"The whole world was puzzled" about why Grauman was closing the prologue that was playing on the bill with "Don Juan." The last performances were on October 24 and the theatre went dark for two days to tweak up the new equipment. This October 21 Times ad explained that they would be reopening on October 27 with a big premiere of the Vitaphone version of the film along with a program of talking shorts including one of Will Hays introducing the new invention. These shorts were cranked out by the Warner Bros Vitaphone division in large numbers in the mid and late 20s and largely consisted of musical performances and recorded vaudeville routines. An October 25 ad modestly gave "Four big reasons why Sid Grauman closed his prologue...greatest in the world."
A great view of the dignitaries in front of the railroad car carrying the Vitaphone equipment west for "Don Juan." The photo is from the site George Groves, dedicated to the story of Oscar winning sound pioneer George R. Groves (1901-1976). It was once on the site's "Don Juan" page which has a nice history of the film but now seems to be missing this photo.
Another photo taken in front of the car that brought the gear west in 1926. Left to right are Jack L. Warner, Sid Grauman, Col. Nathan Levinson and Ray Schrock. Kneeling (and guarding the cargo with shotguns) are Bill Guthrie and a Captain Carillo. The photo is from Tom Wilson on Flickr. It's in his Vintage Photographs and Postcards collection of wonderful photos of early projection and sound equipment.
Trucks from the Warner studios loaded with the sound equipment for the Egyptian. Note the Western Electric horns on top of the load of the truck on the right. Thanks again to Tom Wilson for the photo from his Vintage Photographs and Postcards collection on Flickr.
A 1926 Vitaphone demonstration by Western Electric Engineer E.B. Craft (left) using a turntable geared to a Simplex projector -- but without a sound on film attachment. The 78 rpm records were designed to be good for twenty plays and then would be discarded. The photo is from the University of San Diego, appearing with Wikipedia's article on Vitaphone.
"Don Juan" got a second premiere on October 27 for the Vitaphone version of the film. This souvenir program from that event is in the collection of the University of Exeter Bill Douglas Cinema Museum. This time around there were prominent mentions of Bell Labs and Western Electric. Sid ran a big October 28 ad declaring the technology "Amazing..Astounding..Bewildering..Revolutionary..."
An October 29 ad touting the miracle of Vitaphone. The Vitaphone version of the film only ran three weeks. Thanks to Hollywood historian April Clemmer of Old Hollywood Walking Tour fame for researching the "Don Juan" engagement.
We don't know specifically what gear was in the booth for "Don Juan." It's unknown if, in addition to the Vitaphone turntables, Sid also got sound-on-film attachments so he could run Movietone optical sound format shorts. And there's no data regarding how long the equipment stayed in the theatre. For more about Vitaphone, see the main page on the Warner Hollywood. Also see the film and theatre technology resources page for information on early sound systems.
Ironsides," opening January 28, 1927, was known for (in some theatres)
its use of Magnascope, whereby at a climactic scene (such as a ship
coming toward you) the masking opened and the picture got larger and
larger. Then back to the regular format until the next "big" scene.
It's unknown whether or not Grauman used the technique at the Egyptian. This ad appeared in the L.A. Times on April 30.
"Topsy and Eva" followed as Grauman's 13th and
final presentation at the theatre. It opened June 16, 1927.
Opening of the Chinese: When Sid moved up the street to the Chinese (which opened May 18, 1927), the Egyptian's management was taken over by West Coast Theatres, a firm soon to be called Fox West Coast. It went dark July 20, 1927 and a few days later reopened under the new management as a moveover house with continuous performances and no more Grauman prologues.
The circuit had actually bought a half interest in the theatre back in 1922, shortly after the opening. Holly Leaves had the "Big Theater Merger" story in their November 24, 1922 issue. It was also noted in a November 25 listing in the Film Year Book that year. These are both on Google Books. Grauman's name stayed with the building for a number of years although he was no longer involved in the operation. It was still being called "Grauman's Egyptian" in the 1928 Fox ads. They had a nice tagline: "Where The Stars See The Pictures."
The Egyptian in the 30s and 40s: Fox West Coast kept the theatre a major attraction with some shows using packaged Fanchon and Marco "Ideas" stage shows along with the films. Others featured the stage portion of the show built around a popular bandleader. The forecourt used to have cages with various animals as well as occasional exhibits themed to the films. See the forecourt page for many vintage photos.
Cashier Totty Ames talked about coming to work there in 1943: "The Egyptian was in excellent condition then. They had just taken the monkeys out when I got there." She's quoted on page 193 of Paul Zollo's 2002 Cooper Square Press book "Hollywood Remembered: An Oral History of its Golden Age." In 1944 the Egyptian again became a first run venue as a showcase for MGM product, although still operated by Fox West Coast Theatres. Long a favorite house for Hollywood premieres, the Egyptian has had an amazing number of great runs of important pictures.
The Consent Decree: In 1949 management of the Egyptian was taken over by United Artists Theatre Circuit as a result of consent decree rulings forcing Fox West Coast to cede control of a number of prime Los Angeles venues. The Egyptian was one of them. Until this time United Artists had not actually been operating theatres themselves. The corporation had existed, separate from the UA distribution company (but with some overlap in management and shareholders) since the 20s. Any theatres in which United Artists had had an interest were being managed for them by Fox West Coast.
This November 27, 1949 L.A. Times story notes the transfer from Fox West Coast of the Egyptian, Loew's State, and the California in Pomona (renamed the United Artists) to the newly energized United Artists Theatre Circuit. Thanks to Mike Hume for finding the article.
The additional theatres DeCicco mentions in the article to get the circuit up to fifteen were twelve theatres that UA had built in the 1927-1932 period that had been managed for decades by Fox. The February 1, 1950 transfer of that bunch was discussed in "Twelve FWC Theatres Under UA Banner," a short article appearing in the February 4 issue of Boxoffice. The theatres included the United Artists downtown, the Four Star, and the United Artists houses in Inglewood, East Los Angeles, Pasadena and Long Beach. The article termed it the "last step in the complete severance of the joint interests of Fox West Coast and United Artists."
UATC gave the Egyptian quite a remodel before reopening December 1, 1949. Work included modern art in the lobby and the towering, wavy new facade out at the street. Boxoffice discussed the work in their March 4, 1950 article: "Few Touches Necessary in Brightening The Famous Egyptian Theatre - Reconciling The Pharoahs To '50." What's left of the UATC group of theatres is now a part of Regal Entertainment Group.
TODD-AO at the Egyptian: The Egyptian was equipped for the 70mm TODD-AO process for a long roadshow run of "Oklahoma" projected on a deeply curved screen perhaps 60' in width. It was the second TODD-AO installation in the country (the Rivoli in New York was house #1). The premiere of "Oklahoma" was November 17, 1955 with public performances starting November 18.
A Los Angeles Public Library photo of ladies getting the the neon on the Egyptian marquee ready for the roadshow presentation of "Oklahoma" in TODD-AO.
The invitation to the premiere of "Oklahoma" at the Egyptian Theatre "located in the Oklahoma Territory In the Heart of Hollywood." It's in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences collection and appears on their website in an article "Rounding Up the Cast of Oklahoma." Thanks to Michael Hudson-Medina for spotting this one.
Tickets for the show at the Egyptian. The illustration is from page seven of the TODD-AO section on Martin Hart's terrific site American Widescreen Museum. The first print of "Oklahoma" at the Egyptian was without sound. It was synced to separate 35mm mag reproducers for the 6 channel stereo. Later "Oklahoma" opened at the United Artists downtown while continuing at the Egyptian. It got a 51 week run at the Egyptian.
These are full size frames from a 65mm print of "Oklahoma" from page four of the TODD-AO section on the American Widescreen Museum website. Also see the site's fine "Oklahoma" page. Later prints were on 70mm stock with 6 channel sound on magnetic stripes. During the 1955 work for the TODD-AO installation the theatre suffered a substantial loss of decoration at the proscenium. The 3 manual 15 rank Wurlitzer organ was removed from the theatre.
"South Pacific," the third TODD-AO film, opened at the Egyptian May 22, 1958 for a 44 week run. The Carthay Circle Theatre got the second film, "Around The World in 80 Days." See the film and theatre technology resources page here on this site for information on other projection technology. For information on 70mm runs and theatres equipped for the process in the Los Angeles area, see the From Script To DVD site's section "70mm in Los Angeles."
The TODD-AO process was born out of Mike Todd's frustrations with the expense and inherent problems with Cinerama. Wide film was nothing new. There was a flurry of activity in the late 20s and early 30s and it might have become the new standard except the depression doomed further experiments. The Warner Hollywood ran several films in the 65mm Vitascope process and both the Chinese and the Carthay Circle had projectors installed to run the 70mm Fox Grandeur process.
The process borrowed the technique of mag striping on the film for stereo sound that was pioneered by Fox's Cinemascope. Where the 35mm Cinemascope had 4 tracks, TODD-AO had 6. There were two tracks outside and one inside the sprocket holes on each side. 5 channels were for behind the screen and one for surround speakers. This illustration of the dimensions of the TODD-AO frame is from page four of the TODD-AO section on the wonderful site American Widescreen Museum where you'll find a lively history of the process with many photos.
Phillips of Holland was commissioned to design a new projector for the process that would also run 35mm with either optical sound tracks or 4 channel magnetic. The projector heads were made in Holland with the bases and magazines manufactured by American Optical in the United States. The projectors currently in the Egyptian booth (from a theatre in New Orleans) are a later version of the original TODD-AO machines.
A look at one of the early TODD-AO projectors from "The Story of the DP70 Projector" on the wonderful website In70mm.com, which is all about TODD-AO and later 70mm processes. See the site's DP70 Projector section for as much detail as you can absorb. And check out the separate TODD-AO section.
Note the two motors --- one for 24 fps, one for 30 fps. Later models just had one motor and a clutch. On the machine seen in this photo the top motor has a pulley so it could be synched via Selsyn motors to a separate sound reproducer. Large screens, big arc lamps and short projection throws resulted in lots of focus drift from the beginning of a reel to its end. Some of the early projectors were equipped with motor driven "focus drift compensators" that reset at the end of each reel.
"Ben Hur" - MGM, MGM Camera 65 - opened November, 1959 and ran 98 weeks
"My Fair Lady" - Warner Bros., Super Panavision 70 - opened October 28, 1964 - ran 68 weeks
The first film after the D-150 remodel was "Funny Girl" (Columbia), a blow up from 35mm scope format. It opened October 9, 1968 for a 61 week reserved seat run.
The D-150 screen installation deep onto where the stage had been. It's a photo from a January 29, 1969 Motion Picture Herald article. See the auditorium page for a view of the screen partially installed. Thanks to Roland Lataille for the find -- he has the article on the Egyptian Theatre page of his site InCinerama.com. Also see the rest of the article: part 1 | part 2 |
Dimension 150 was a process developed by Dr. Richard Vetter and United Artists Theatre Circuit. It involved extreme wide angle camera lenses, a screen and masking system and projection lenses designed to give a sharp image on a deeply curved screen. It was installed in many UA roadshow houses (such as Cinema 150 in Seattle) as well as venues operated by other circuits. The Rosemary Theatre in Ocean Park was used as a test house for the process during the 1960s.
"The Bible" (1966) and "Patton" (1970) were the only features actually filmed in the Dimension 150 process. See the American Widescreen Museum's extensive coverage of the process and the Dimension 150 section on Roland Lataille's comprehensive In Cinerama website. Links to a few more resources can be found on the film and theatre technology resources page here on this site.
Adding Egyptian 2 and 3: In 1972 United Artists Theatre Circuit added 2 smaller theatres, the Egyptian 2 & 3, in a store building to the east of the theatre. The original theatre remained a single auditorium. That 2 and 3 building (with the center wall removed) is now a legit house called the Arena Theatre and is not part of the Egyptian's property.
Later Years at the Egyptian: The Egyptian enjoyed long runs of major films such as "Marooned" (Columbia, world premiere December 13, 1969 - a 23 week 70mm reserved seat run), "Alien" (Fox, 1979), "The Empire Strikes Back" (Fox, 1980) and "Return of the Jedi" (Fox, 1983). In the 70s and 80s United Artists Theatre Circuit had the Egyptian playing lots of Fox product -- especially after the 1977 "Star Wars" snafu at the Chinese. Frequently the Egyptian played day-and-date with the United Artists downtown.
In its last days prior to closure in 1992 United Artists was running the theatre as a $1.50 admission grind house. Through the efforts of the Los Angeles Historic Theatre Foundation and other organizations, the Egyptian was designated a Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument on September 23, 1993. The vacant theatre suffered some damage in the 1994 Northridge earthquake. The City of Los Angeles Community Redevelopment Agency ended up with the building.
The American Cinematheque renovations: The Cinematheque acquired the building for $1 from the Community Redevelopment Agency in 1996 and reopened the theatre in 1998 after a renovation designed by architects Hodgetts & Fung. What was envisioned as a $3 million project ended up costing $15 million by the time it was finished. The downsized main auditorium is now a smaller box enclosed by the shell of the original theatre. A smaller screening room was constructed in an area excavated at the back of the auditorium. The Cinematheque programming has been a mix of revivals, foreign films, indies and various festivals in all formats including 70mm. They also operate the Aero Theatre in Santa Monica.
The vertical sign installed as part of the 1998 renovations. It's a replica of one installed by Fox West Coast Theatres in the early 30s. The original, mounted on the other side of the opening, said "Grauman's." Photo: Bill Counter - 2007
In 2016 the Hollywood Foreign Press association gave the theatre a $350,000 grant, administered by the Film Foundation, for booth upgrades including a new digital projector and modifications so the theatre could show nitrate prints. A later $500,000 grant went toward roof and wall repairs, recovering the seating, some entrance terrazzo repair, and other projects. Deadline had an August 2016 story on the project.
The sale to Netflix: It was simmering for over a year but finally closed in May 2020. Earlier, Netflix had explored purchasing the Landmark chain but backed away from that. The American Cinematheque ends up with an endowment and will continue to program the theatre on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. Ken Scherer acted as consultant to the Cinematheque on the sale and later became the organization's director.
Deadline broke the news of a possible sale in April 2019 with Mike Fleming, Jr.'s story "Netflix in Talks..." Thanks to theatre sleuth Joe Pinney for spotting the story. Bloomberg had a followup story. Thanks to Mike Hume for spotting that one. And, of course, Ryan Faughnder of the L.A. Times added "Netflix in talks..." a few hours later but had nothing additional to add. A June letter to Cinematheque members confirmed that a sale of the theatre was underway although Netflix was not mentioned by name nor was the sale price.
Esorouric's Kim Cooper and Richard Shave, calling themselves Friends of the American Cinematheque, had a "Save the American Cinematheque at the Egyptian Theatre" petition up on Change.org along with an article titled "First Festival Cancellation Blames Netflix..." They were looking for more transparency. Chava Gourarie's "Behind the Netflix Bid for Hollywood's Egyptian Theatre," a September 3, 2019 article in the Commercial Observer, had quotes from all the usual suspects and comments that the Cinematheque's 1996 agreement with the city's CRA to operate the theatre (in return for some renovation funding) may have had a ten year expiration date.
"If it’s such a great thing, why does this all need to be shrouded in secrecy?" asked LAPL librarian Christina Rice in Ryan Faughnder's September 6, 2019 story for the L.A. Times: "What happens when Netflix buys Hollywood's iconic Egyptian Theatre? It's complicated." Faughnder noted: "Tony Arranaga, communications director for Councilman Mitch O’Farrell’s office, said the city has no jurisdiction over the management of the Cinematheque, the disbursement of funds from the sale or what happens if Netflix decides it no longer wants to own the theater. The CRA was dissolved by the state of California in 2012... 'It is my understanding that the agreements between the [CRA’s designated successor agency] and American Cinematheque have expired,' Arranaga said. 'The councilmember will work with any owner, existing or new, of the Egyptian Theatre to ensure that they are good stewards of this historic resource.'"
Status: The theatre is currently closed due to Coronavirus restrictions. Neither a schedule of renovations by Netflix or a reopening date has been announced.
This anarchist is on the roof of the current Musso & Frank location lighting a bomb in the Buster Keaton film "Cops" (First National, March 1922). The brown mess we see across the street is the construction fence at the Egyptian with remnants of an early building behind it. Thanks to famed silent film detective John Bengtson for figuring out the location. See the Historic L.A. Theatres in Movies post for more details as well as a shot of the Hidalgo Theatre on Main St. seen near the end of the film.
We get a drive east on Hollywood Blvd. with a quick glimpse of the construction site of the Egyptian Theatre at 5:14 into "Accidents Will Happen" (Universal, August 1922). William Watson directed the 17 minute film starring Neely Edwards and Bert Roach. The building on the far right of the image is on the corner of McCadden Place and Hollywood Blvd., now the home of Pig 'N Whistle. The void beyond with the construction fence is Egyptian's location. Thanks to John Bengtson for spotting the shot. See the Historic L.A. Theatres in Movies post for more about the film including other locations John has identified.
We get a fine ride down Hollywood Blvd. in the Harry Langdon film "His Marriage Vow" (Mack Sennett, 1925). Note the Grauman's vertical on the left as we head west toward Hollywood and Highland. Thanks to John Bengtson for the screenshot. He's identified many of the film's locations on his terrific Silent Locations post "Harry Langdon - His Marriage Vow."
We get the vertical signs of the Egyptian and Hollywood theatres behind the opening credits for "Nocturne" (RKO, 1946). Later we pay a visit to the Pantages as George Raft checks out an alibi for murder suspect Lynn Bari. Edwin L. Marin directed. See the Historic L.A. Theatres in Movies post for some shots.
Jeanne Moreau and Donald Sutherland are in the middle of Hollywood Blvd. as we look toward the Egyptian in a shot taken during the filming of Paul Mazursky's "Alex in Wonderland" (MGM, 1970). The photo appears on page 39 in the Arcadia Publishing book "Location Filming in Los Angeles" by Karie Bible, Marc Wanamaker and Harry Medved. The page with this photo is included in the preview on Google Books. See the Historic L.A. Theatres In Movies post for twenty shots from the film including views of the Los Angeles Theatre, the Vogue Theatre and the New-View/Ritz Theatre.
We get a brief look at the Egyptian's boxoffice as Richard Gere cruises down Hollywood Blvd. in "American Gigolo" (Paramount, 1980). Earlier in the film we get a view from above of Westwood and the Fox Westwood Village Theatre. There's also some action at the Bruin and the Music Box. See the Historic L.A. Theatres In Movies post for those shots.
We get a nice view west toward the Pussycat and Egyptian theatres near the beginning of "Cheech and Chong's Next Movie" (Universal, 1980). The film was directed by Tommy Chong. Thanks to Jonathan Raines for spotting the theatres. See the Historic L.A. Theatres in Movies post for shots of the Ivar and El Capitan theatres in the film.
In Barry Levinson's "Jimmy Hollywood" (Paramount, 1994) we end up at the abandoned Egyptian Theatre with Joe Pesci and Christian Slater. See the Historic L.A. Theatres in Movies post for more views in the Egyptian as well as a couple shots featuring the El Capitan and the Galaxy 6.
We visit the Egyptian in the Steven Peros film "Footprints" (Our Gal Pictures, 2009) where our amnesiac heroine, Sybil Temtchine, meets up with a former star played by Pippa Scott ("The Searchers," "Auntie Mame"). The story begins in the forecourt of the Chinese. See the Historic L.A. Theatres In Movies post for more shots from the film.
Paul Dano and Zoe Kazan buy a ticket for a show at the Egyptian in Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris's "Ruby Sparks" (Fox Searchlight, 2012). Personal problems intervene and we don't get to come back for the film. We also visit the Billy Wilder Theatre. See the Historic L.A. Theatres In Movies post for a couple shots there.
We get some lovely c.1959 background footage as we drive down Hollywood Blvd. near the beginning of Warren Beatty's "Rules Don't Apply" (20th Century Fox, 2016) featuring Alden Ehrenreich, Lily Collins and Annette Bening. Here the Egyptian has the neon up for "Ben-Hur" with the Vogue Theatre over on the left. See the Historic L.A. Theatres In Movies post for another Egyptian view as well as a look at the Chinese.
Shooting in front of the Egyptian for Quentin Tarantino's epic "Once Upon a Time...in Hollywood" (Sony, 2019). It's a shot from a featurette appearing on the DVD for the film. Leo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt star as an actor and his stuntman trying to find work in the changing Hollywood of 1969. See the Historic L.A.Theatres in Movies pages for several hundred shots related to the shoot on the block in front of the Vogue and the Pussycat as well as views of the Pantages, Vine, Grauman's Chinese, Cinerama Dome, Bruin and Fox Westwood Village theatres.
We get a quick shot of the Egyptian in Fred Durst's "The Fanatic" (Quiver Distribution, 2019). John Travolta plays a fan with behavioral issues who gets carried away when his favorite star won't give him an autograph. Also starring are Ana Golja as a friend who tries to help and Devon Sawa as the star who gets into big trouble by not being a good celebrity. See the Historic L.A. Theatres in Movies post for several shots of the Chinese, the El Capitan and the Dolby.
Information on 70mm roadshow runs at the Egyptian is on Michael Coate's terrific site fromscripttodvd.com. EC & M has a 1998 article about the electrical portion of the Egyptian renovation. There are oodles of Egyptian photos on Flickr to browse.
See Vanity Fair's 2008 article by Bruce Handy on Egyptomania as decor in movie theatres: "Watch Like an Egyptian." Also view the 2008 photographs of various Egyptian Theatres by Tim Street-Porter on the Vanity Fair site. Of course Wikipedia has an article on the Egyptian.
Pages about the Egyptian: back to top - Egyptian overview | street views 1922-1954 | street views 1955-present | forecourt | lobby areas | auditorium | booth | backstage | Egyptian 2 & 3 / Arena Stage |
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