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Egyptian Theatre: an overview

6712 Hollywood Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90028
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The Egyptian, Sid Grauman's first Hollywood theatre, was a major first run house for five decades until its closure in 1992. The architects were Meyer and Holler, who were to do the Chinese for Grauman five years later. It's now operated by the American Cinematheque. Hodgetts & Fung (Craig Hodgetts, Ming Fung) were the architects for the organization's 1998 renovations.  Photo: Bill Counter - 2007

More pages on the Egyptian: street views 1922-1954 | street views 1955-present | forecourt | lobby areas | auditorium | booth | backstage | Egyptian 2 & 3 |

Phone: 323-466-3456

Website: american cinematheque.com | Cinematheque on Facebook | Egyptian on Facebook |

Opened: October 18, 1922 by Sid Grauman with Douglas Fairbanks as "Robin Hood" on the screen and a huge prologue onstage. The score was by Egyptian musical director/composer Victor Schertzinger.



The theatre's signage at night. Photo: Bill Counter - 2010

The Egyptian was Grauman's first venture outside downtown Los Angeles and was made possible by developer C.E. Toberman. The structure reportedly cost $800,000. In many early press accounts, the theatre is referred to as Grauman's Hollywood Theatre.

Historian Mary Mallory 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 "An Egyptian garden is to be one of the main attractions at the new Hollywood Theater. The interior decorations will be in keeping with this outward scheme, and particularly effective will be the colorful lighting plan."

On a Theatre Talks post theatre historian Cezar Del Valle excerpts an article from the October 13, 1922 issue of the Hollywood newspaper Holly Leaves: "Grauman's Hollywood will be the first photoplay theater in the West to maintain a policy of reserving every seat for every performance. For the convenience of Los Angeles patrons a downtown box office will be maintained at Barker Brothers', and seats will be on sale two weeks in advance. Two complete shows will be given daily, a matinee at 2:15 and an evening performance at 8:15. The scale of prices for the matinee will run from 50 cents to $1.00 and the evening prices from 75 cents to $1.50.

"Every production will be presented with an elaborate musical accompaniment by an orchestra which is now being organized and which it is hoped to make one of the representative musical organizations of the West. It is Grauman's intention to show the biggest feature attractions of all producers at the Hollywood Theater, the opening feature being Douglas Fairbanks in 'Robin Hood,' which has been seen as the really big photoplay triumph of 1922.

"Each production will be preceded with a prologue in keeping with the atmosphere of the story in which players who starred in the picture will be seen in their identical roles. 'Robin Hood' is to have the most elaborate prologue accorded. The Nottingham castle set, which drew thousands to the Fairbanks-Pickford studio is to be duplicated on the Grauman stage, and the $150,000 costumes worn in the play will be used in the prologue, which Sid Grauman has designated as the 'Nottingham Castle Pageant.' More than 200 persons are to take part in the Robin Hood pageant, which will precede every showing of the picture."


A "Robin Hood" ad from the November 17, 1922 issue of Holly Leaves. Thanks to Cezar Del Valle for the ad, reproduced in the Grauman's Egyptian post on his Theatre Talks blog. The opening night was the first real Hollywood premiere. The staff included usherettes in elaborate Egyptian costumes and robed Bedouin sentinels patrolling the parapet walls.



"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 that site.

Ms. Mallory discusses the opening: "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.

"Both inside and out, the site highlighted Egyptania. The walls of the auditorium featured hieroglyphics, with the ceiling painted to resemble the night sky. The constellations would change as the lighting effects altered and shifted. The forecourt featured oriental shops down its promenade, with an Egyptian village replicating one by the Pyramids, attracting attention. Rug makers and other artisans intrigued filmgoers."



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 |



A "Robin Hood" ad that ran in the the newspaper Holly Leaves on November 3, 1922. The ad is featured in a post on Cezar Del Valle's Theatre Talks blog about the Opening of the Egyptian Theatre. The post also features a photo of the rear of the auditorium from the paper. The October 20 report of Holly Leaves about the opening is excerpted by Cezar:

"A new era in the world's motion picture theaters and in the cinema art dawned Wednesday evening, when the new temple of art, Grauman's Egyptian Theater in Hollywood, was dedicated with the world premiere of 'Robin Hood,' the masterpiece of Douglas Fairbanks. Every one of the 1742 seats were filled, and an even if the seating capacity were ten times greater, the house doubtless would have been filled, so great was the demand for tickets.

"There was a regular metropolitan 'opening night' with a jam of people and motor cars outside and extending in all directions, while the great court had rows of people on either side of the aisle kept open by khaki-clad soldiers. Hollywood Post American Legion Band was in the court and gave a band concert before the program. The picture stars were wildly greeted and numerous flashlights taken of the kaleidoscopic human spectacle. Otto Olesen's great government searchlights played upon the heavens and added much to the spectacular effects.

"Before the picture, Arthur Wenzel, publicity director for the Grauman theaters announced that Fred Niblo would officiate as master of ceremonies. Mr. Niblo was a witty and facetious mood as he presented Mayor George Cryer of Los Angeles; George J. Eastman, president of the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce; Jesse Lasky, vice president of Famous Players-Lasky Company; Rupert Hughes, author and director, and Charlie Chaplin as surprise speakers. All were applauded to the echo with a double measure for 'Charlie.'

Then Cecil de Mille was presented and after a brief happy speech, he called for Sid Grauman, builder of the Egyptian playhouse. Mr. Grauman was greeted by a storm of applause and was tendered the rising salute. He made a few appropriate remarks and expressed feelingly his appreciation for all that had been said. All speakers heaped encomiums on Douglas Fairbanks for his marvelous production. The prologue was beautifully presented and delighted the house. The music proved a wonderful setting and the composer-conductor Victor Shertzanger [Victor Schertzinger] was given an ovation. Handsome souvenir programs in brochure forms were given to every first night person."

Architects: Meyer & Holler. The original plan was for a Spanish style theatre but before construction began it was decided to change it to an Egyptian theme. There had been numerous archeological discoveries that served to whet the public's appetite for Egyptian style. The firm was also the contractor for the project.

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.

Mary Mallory, in her Daily Mirror article, 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."

Many Egyptian themed theatres across the country would follow including the Egyptian in Long Beach and two in Pasadena, the Uptown and the theatre that's now the called the Academy.

Cezar Del Valle notes in another 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":

"Grauman’s Hollywood Theatre may not last a century but its art was old when the pyramids were built. The careful attention given to detail may be traced in the hieroglyphics on the walls. The reproduction of the cartouche from the royal scarab, bearing the inscription, 'O Let me not my Heart bear Witness against me,' is wonderfully exact in detail.

"Another notable bit of detail is the lighting system. Scientists and historians agree that the Egyptian temples were illuminated by a light said to have been handed down to the high priests of Egypt by the priests of Lost Atlantis. This effect is beautifully brought out by the hidden illumination in the Grauman Hollywood Theater, enhancing the beauty of the architecture and giving it an artistic and almost religious atmosphere. In conclusion the speaker complimented Mr. Grauman on the realization of his ideals in giving to Southern California the most beautiful and artistic cinema temple in the world."



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.

Seating: Originally 1,771 on one level, 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. The building is now fully handicap accessible according to Margot Gerber, the theatre's director of marketing and promotion.  The main theatre is now called the Lloyd E. Rigler Theatre, the smaller facility the Steven Spielberg Theatre.

Stage specs: Originally about 25' deep and 71' wall to wall. The proscenium was 41' wide. Grid height was 54'. The current screen size is 27' x 53'. See the auditorium 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

Status: American Cinematheque acquired the building for $1 from the City of Los Angeles in 1996 and opened the renovated theatre in 1998. The auditorium now is a smaller box enclosed by the shell of the original theatre. The programming is a mix of revivals, foreign films, indies and various festivals in all formats including 70mm.



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.

Early History: Grauman's Egyptian was the first real movie palace in Hollywood. His close connections with studio heads allowed him to succeed as an independent exhibitor. It also didn't hurt that he did a great job of creating a romantic atmosphere with decor, costumed staff and elaborate prologues along with the feature picture. Among the dancers in the prologues who went on to bigger things was Myrna Loy.

The films were accompanied by Jan Sofer 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 three were "The Covered Wagon" (April 10, 1923), a seven month run of "The Ten Commandments" (opening December 4, 1923) and Douglas Fairbanks in "Thief of Bagdad" (opening July 10, 1924).



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 "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.



Chaplin's "Gold Rush" opened June 24, 1925. 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.



The inside of the program for "The Big Parade."



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.

"The Big Parade" was followed by the only double feature to play during Grauman's tenure. So, of course, he held a massive double premiere. The films (opening May 14, 1925) were "The Black Pirate," in Technicolor, with Douglas Fairbanks and "Sparrows," with Mary Pickford.



A look at Sid Grauman (second from left) and his staff at the theatre in 1926. Check out the costumes for those usherettes. Thanks to the extraordinary Bruce Torrence Hollywood Photograph Collection for the photo. His collection has many more Egyptian Theatre photos to look at when you have the time.



Another shot of Sid and his staff in the forecourt. It was a post from Wendylou Napoles on the Facebook page Photos of Los Angeles. That's Sid third in from the left.

Vitaphone at the Egyptian: The Egyptian was one of the first Los Angeles theatres to be wired for sound and hosted the west coast premiere of Warner's "Don Juan," opening August 20, 1926. The equipment was shipped west on a special express car so the film could run simultaneously with the New York engagement.



A great 1926 view of the dignitaries in front of the railroad car carrying the Vitaphone equipment west for "Don Juan" at Grauman's Egyptian. 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. 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.



The Warner studios on Sunset advertising "Don Juan" at the Egyptian. We don't know specifically what gear was in the booth for the "Don Juan" engagement -- whether in addition to the Vitaphone turntables Sid also got sound-on-film attachments so he could run Movietone optical sound format shorts or not. Thanks to Cezar Del Valle for the photo from his collection.



 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 photo is from the University of San Diego, appearing with Wikipedia's article on Vitaphone.



The program for "Don Juan." It's one of many interesting items once on the Cinema Treasures page on the Egyptian but now missing. Also see inside the program cover (from the University of Exeter Bill Douglas Cinema Museum) and the credits page.

There was Grauman prologue early in the run called "A Venetian Festival." Evidently he thought the Vitaphone was novelty enough so it was later dropped and Vitaphone short subjects were added to the program starting October 27th. These shorts were cranked out by the Warner Bros Vitaphone division in large numbers in the mid and late 20's and largely consisted of musical performances and recorded vaudeville routines. 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.

Next up was Syd Chaplin's "The Better Ole" (opening November 17, 1926) -- again with no prologue. Some patrons complained about that. Actors who were out of work perhaps complained the loudest. The prologues were reinstated for Sid's final two presentations.

"Old 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 Grauman used the technique or not at the Egyptian. "Topsy and Eva" followed (opening June 16, 1927) as Grauman's 13th and final presentation at the theatre.

Opening of the Chinese: When Sid moved up the street to the Chinese (which opened May 18, 1927), the Egyptian's management was soon 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. 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: 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. Loew's State downtown (which Fox had been managing for Loew's) also ended up under United Artists management.

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.

Included in this group were the Four Star on Wilshire and the United Artists theatres in Inglewood, Pasadena, East Los Angeles, Long Beach and downtown. These and others now became managed directly by the newly active United Artists Theatre Circuit. UATC gave the Egyptian quite a remodel in 1950, including modern art in the lobby and the towering new facade out at the street. What's left of this company 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.
 
TODD-AO was noteworthy because its film format became the 70mm industry standard and the projector designed for it won an Academy Award. The aspect ratio is 2.21 to 1. Some later 70mm processes such as Ultra Panavision used anamorphic lenses to get a wider aspect ratio. TODD-AO was shot on 65mm film stock with 70mm release prints to allow soundtrack room outside the sprocket holes. It used 5 perforations per frame and was originally envisioned to run at 30 fps for improved picture quality. Only the first two features were shot at 30 fps -- for "South Pacific" and later it was 24 fps. The screen was deeply curved, similar in size and curvature to a Cinerama installation. TODD-AO, however, used a single sheet rather than the narrow vertical strips favored by Cinerama.

 

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.

The system was originally to be called "Magna," which was the name of the company set up to develop the technology and produce the films. It ended up as TODD-AO because Todd, ever the showman, wanted his name on it. American Optical, who developed the optics, wanted recognition also.

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.
 
More 70mm at the Egyptian: Other 70mm reserved seat runs included:

"Ben Hur" - MGM, MGM Camera 65 - opened November, 1959 and ran 98 weeks 
"King of Kings" - MGM, Super Technirama 70 - premiered October 12, 1961
"Mutiny on the Bounty" - MGM, Ultra Panavision 70 - premiered November 15, 1962
"The Cardinal" - Columbia, blowup from 35mm scope - opened December 20, 1963
"South Pacific" - Magna Pictures reissue, TODD-AO - opened April 1, 1964 - not reserved seats
"My Fair Lady" - Warner Bros., Super Panavision 70 - opened October 28, 1964 - ran 68 weeks
"Hawaii" - United Artists - blowup from 35mm Panavision - opened October 13, 1966 - 52 week run
"Around The World in 80 Days" - Magna /UA reissue - opened March 15, 1968 - not reserved seats
 
Dimension 150 at the Egyptian: A 1968 remodeling increased the screen width to 75 feet for a D-150 system installation. The 1955 TODD-AO remodel had left much (but not all) of the sides of the proscenium and the stage in place. In the new round of renovations the remains of the proscenium as well as the stage were removed and the orchestra pit was covered. The new screen went almost to the theatre's back wall. A new projection booth was installed on the main floor. The remodel was accomplished in six 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 film house called the Arena Cinelounge and is not part of the American Cinematheque campus.

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).

Until the theatre's closure, the Egyptian was operated by United Artists Theatre Circuit 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 Egyptian as a $1.50 admission grind house. Through the efforts of the Los Angeles Historic Theatre Foundation and other organizations, the theatre was designated a Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument on September 23, 1993.



The vacant theatre suffered some damage in the 1994 Northridge earthquake. Thanks to former Cinema Treasures contributor Hollywood 90038 for this great photo of the wounded building. The City of Los Angeles ended up with it. It was passed on to the American Cinematheque for $1 with the proviso that it be restored and returned to operation.

The Egyptian Theatre in the Movies:


Alice Faye plays Molly Adair, who gets an Egyptian premiere of her first talkie "Common Clay" as the film-within-a-film in "Hollywood Cavalcade" (20th Century Fox, 1939). Thanks to the Egyptian for the photo -- this lobby card appeared on the Egyptian Theatre Facebook page.

The lobby card gives us a better look at the entrance than the actual shots that are in the film. But the film (also starring Don Ameche, Buster Keaton and Al Jolson) does give us a Bedouin patrolling the rooftop -- and it's in Technicolor! See the Theatres in Movies post for several color frames showing the Egyptian.



Jeanne Moreau and Donald Sutherland are in the middle of Hollywood Blvd. as we look toward the Egyptian in a shot from 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 Theatres In Movies post about "Alex in Wonderland" for several more shots that include 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 Theatres In Movies post for those shots.



In Barry Levinson's "Jimmy Hollywood" (Paramount, 1994) we end up at the abandoned Egyptian Theatre with Joe Pesci and Christian Slater.



We have a view at one of the "singer's boxes" on the Egyptian sidewall in "Jimmy Hollywood" as Joe Pesci sits and contemplates his next move.



Joe Pesci taking a look at the strange entrance doors to the auditorium in "Jimmy Hollywood."



A shot up the aisle toward the lobby doors in "Jimmy Hollywood." See the Theatres in Movies post on the film 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 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 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. Sights include the Egyptian facade with signage up for "Ben-Hur" plus the Vogue Theatre over on the left. There's also a 1961 shot of the Chinese. We also get another trip down the same stretch of the street later in the film. See the Theatres In Movies post for more from the film including a closer view of the "Ben-Hur" signage.



 Deep in the forecourt near the theatre's entrance. Photo: Bill Counter - 2012

More Egyptian Theatre information:  See Charles Beardsley's "Hollywood's Master Showman - The Legendary Sid Grauman" (Cornwall Books, 1983) for a nice rundown of the productions at the Egyptian during Grauman's tenure. Our dates on the early shows are from his research.

See the page on Cinema Treasures for a nice history of the Egyptian by Howard B. Haas and Ken Roe plus miles and miles of additional comments. And now lots of photos as well. Go to the Cinema Tour page for more photos of the theatre. CNN.com has a 1998 article about the reopening.

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.

Sandi Hemmerlein ran a nice photo story on the occasion of the Egyptian's 90th anniversary on her blog Avoiding Regrets. The Egyptian is one of a number of revival venues discussed in Mark Olsen's 2017 L.A. Times article "A film festival every night: The new ecology of the old-movie scene in L.A." Seeing Stars has a page on the Egyptian.

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 |

Hollywood Theatres: overview and alphabetical lists | Hollywood Theatres: list by address | L.A. Theatres: main alphabetical listL.A. Theatres: list by address | theatre history resources | film and theatre tech resourceswelcome and site navigation guide |

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