TCL Chinese Theatre

6925 Hollywood Boulevard,
Los Angeles, CA 90028

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Manwithnoname on January 2, 2005 at 4:47 pm

Frankly, I don’t remember the net under the chandelier but I do remember the sound as my much earlier post indicated. In any event, the hype continued beyond the theatrical run. When the film premiered on network TV it was accompanied by an FM simulcast so viewers at home could crank up the volume and simulate the Sensurround experience. After a few more films (“Midway”, “Battlestar Galactica”) the Sensurround gimmick disappeared.

JimRankin on January 2, 2005 at 2:47 pm

AS anyone who read my comment carefully will know, I didn’t say it wasn’t fun, I simply said it wasn’t real in the sense of being able to damage any theatre. I enjoyed the film in “Sensurround” also, but I was under no illusion as to where the sounds were coming from and what was going to happen to me or the theatre during “Earthquake.” Further insight into the whole thing is the development and popularity then of true four channel sound, as on the ‘quad’ amplifiers that nobody could seem to live without then. Also, new high Q ferromagnetic high compliance speakers had just come upon the scene making the subwoofer possible at a smaller size and price than huge pro equipment, and I will bet that the speaker makers were in cahoots with the film maker to to promote this ‘new’ sound. “Now your living room can sound just like the theatre!!” is it easy to remember then saying. It may have all been fun, but just let’s keep the idea of old, falling-down movie palaces out of it!

Vito on January 2, 2005 at 1:28 pm

Christian, “Earthquake” played in 35mm four track magnetic sound. The “sensurround” control tones were located in the very low frequences, which would trigger the sub woofers. The sounds heard in the rear were from the surround (fourth channel)track.
Fun was it not?

trooperboots on January 2, 2005 at 10:41 am

Hi Jim, You are probably right about the “Sensurround” hype to gain audiences, but I can tell you without any reservation that when it came time for the earthquake sequences in the film, the huge black speakers at the back of the auditorium rumbled with some heavy ultralow frequencies, which were nothing short of terrifying. Added to that, they must have had other speakers somewhere else, because there were the sounds of screams and breaking glass at the rear of the theater along with the low rumbling sounds at the back of the lower floor. After the movie, I remember many of us went over to look at the massive speakers. I don’t recall any sound system that intense until the advent of THX sound.

I also totally agree with your comment that the old theaters were BUILT… and built far more sound proof and far more substantial than todays boxes. They were more spectacular, beautiful, stylish and atmospheric than almost any modern “theater” today. They were as much of the show as the movies were.

mattepntr on December 31, 2004 at 5:32 am

Still, the whole thing was FUN.

JimRankin on December 29, 2004 at 4:17 pm

Christian speaks of a “huge net under the ceiling to catch bits of plaster” supposedly falling due to the then sensation of low frequency sound of “Sensurround” for the 1974 movie “Earthquake.” I will bet dollars to doughnuts that the entire net and any seeming plaster in it were entirely props to promote the new sound technique (which was NOT all that novel nor convincing in actuality!) It was typical Hollywood hyperbole (‘hype’) that intended to scare the potential patron a little as if to say: ‘Are you man enough to sit in a place that might lose its plaster while watching LA being reduced to rubble?!!’ This ploy was used across the nation as advance men wrote letters to the local papers by a “concerned citizen” to have local theaters inspected for cracks before the film was allowed to play. Such ad men then prevailed upon local building inspectors to parade through movie palaces (there were a few more in business then) with a TV camera crew and supposedly ‘inspect’ and ‘certify’ the “old” building as resistant to their vaunted “Sensurround!!” And, yes, the theatres were in on the joke. It was free publicity as the local TV stations all took it seriously, not knowing or caring anything about ‘old’ theatres which they naively implied were close to falling down anyway. It all worked: people voiced concern about “old” buildings and the movie made millions without any theatre anywhere ever losing anything legitimately in a structural sense, even if some of the patrons came there to really experience something falling from a ceiling, as opposed to enjoying one of the first of the ‘Disaster films’. One cannot help but wonder how much more vandalism to the interiors of palaces was prompted by this disdainful approach to our theatres heritage.

Movie palaces were HEAVILY built and anyone having any real knowledge of construction would have laughed at their attempts to gain publicity at the expense of the “old” theatres. Any such man would have said that if anything were to fall, it would be the lightweight Fiberglas acoustic ceiling rectangles in the jerrybuilt cinemas then sprouting around the country. Earthquakes can take down theatres and their plaster, but not some silly contrivance of louder sound waves. (Yes, I know; sound waves of sufficient amplitude can, in theory, destroy a building, but had the sound been anywhere near that strong, the audience would have left, or died in their seats! Obviously not the outcome the promoters had in mind for maximum ticket sales.)

uncleal923 on December 29, 2004 at 3:50 am

Thanks Bway, I hope the family wants to see this place too. Hey, it you go to Hollywood, you must see a movie.

Bway on December 28, 2004 at 8:48 pm

No, the Chineese theater’s auditorium is completely intact. The extra screens were next door, not a part of the original auditorium itself.
They play many of the current movies in the original auditorium. For example, I have seen Dumb and Dumber in the Chineese theater when it was out some years ago.

uncleal923 on December 28, 2004 at 8:15 pm

I am planning a trip to California. I want to spend time in a original LA Picture Palace. Was the original auditorium divided to multiplex the theater?

trooperboots on December 25, 2004 at 9:32 am

I was raised in Hollywood and I remember seeing “Windjammer”, “Pepe” and the premiere of “Darby O'Gill and the LIttle People”… “Seven Faces of Dr. Lao” and “How the West Was Won” were spectacular memories. The last time I went there to see a movie was “EARTHQUAKE” in 1974 and it was towards the end of the run. I clearly remember they added a huge net under the ceiling to catch bits of plaster that had been falling down early in it’s run. It was very distracting to see it up there and wondering if something would fall during he Sensuround experience. I am happy they have decided to take away the clunky neon from the front. I visited the forecourt a few months ago and I think it looks gorgeous.

jmarellano on November 16, 2004 at 1:37 am

I agree with Manwithnoname, I live (actually close to him) in Monterey Park and go to the Chinese a lot. It will sell a lot of shows during the week, especially when a huge movie opens.

Manwithnoname on November 15, 2004 at 11:10 pm

I will definitely drive from Alhambra to Hollywood for the Chinese or the Dome. How many people in the world get to attend the most famous theater on the face of the Earth? There are advantages to living in So Cal.

Bway on November 15, 2004 at 10:56 pm

[i]I do believe people from outside the area see movies at Grauman’s Chinese.

Hey, I live in New York, and I always try to see a movie there when in California! Actually, I was pretty impressed in how Hollywood Blvd has improved over the last decade. I have been there for the first time around 1991, most recently in 2003, and many times in between, and each time I go it looks better and better.

ejaycat on November 15, 2004 at 10:25 pm

Regarding CConnolly’s comment, I do believe people from outside the area see movies at Grauman’s Chinese.

I know I do. As a teenager in the 1980s, I would drive to the Chinese Theatre with friends from my hometown of Cerritos, CA… a total tract house and shopping center kind of place; I just liked the gritty urban environment of Hollywood Boulevard back then and the history associated with the Chinese Theatre, it was so different from the “looks like everything was built yesterday”-environment that I grew up in. Some movies I saw back then: “The Lost Boys,” “The Witches of Eastwick.” In 1992 I saw the 50th Anniversary restored/re-released version of “Casablanca” at the Chinese Theatre. It was even presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.33:1. That really was a big treat.

I now live in South Pasadena. I still catch movies at the Chinese occasionally. Hollywood Blvd. is slightly more cleaned-up than it was in the 1980s, and now I don’t have to worry about driving there and parking because the Metro Rail now goes to my area; I can take the Gold Line train from South Pasadena to Union Station, transfer to the Red Line subway, go all the way to the Hollywood and Highland station, go up the escalator, and voila! I’m right there!

chconnol on November 15, 2004 at 9:09 pm

Question: does this theater do well? Do people come from outside the area to see movies here?

Quenty on November 15, 2004 at 8:37 pm

Going through my personal archives recently I pulled out an original Program from the Dedication of Grauman’s Chinese Theatre" “Presenting the premier of the supreme production of all times, past, present and future CECIL B. DEMILLE’S "The King of Kings” by Jeanie Macpherson on “Wednesday Evening May Eighteenth.” It is about ½ thick and is full of wonderful pictures and line drawings of everyone from May Robson, to Beatrice Joy, Sid Grauman, Cecil B. Demille, Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks, on and on. It has artist drawings of the Theatre’s interior and even4 color Art Deco graphics of the theatre, plus of course, advertising. It shows some wear but really is quite remarkable. Has anyone seen one of these?

RobertR on November 5, 2004 at 4:02 am

I was at the Chinese a few times but never saw a movie in the old twin. Thanks for sharing the pics.

Meredith Rhule
Meredith Rhule on November 5, 2004 at 12:44 am

Thanks “GraMann” for the wonderful photos. Now, I am homesick. I absolutely love the Chinese. Your photos really bring back fond memories. Did you ever get a photo of Ted Mann and his wife’s wax figures in the lobby?

As mentioned above on this page, I did relief work as a projectionist there, off and on, for 20 years.

Performances there used to be absolute perfection. The union business agent, Ralph Kemp (Local 150, IATSE), before sending me to break-in, told me this. “This is the most famous theater in the world. If you screw up something there, you will read about it in Variety and Hollywood Reporter the next day.

If they ever employed full-time projectionists again, I would leave New York in a heartbeat and return. Did you know Kenny Krenz, Bob Purlmutter or Mike Schliger, the regular operators?

Divinity on October 27, 2004 at 4:47 am

Has anyone ever been in the theatre during an earthquake/power failure?

Trolleyguy on October 27, 2004 at 4:43 am

Yes, gas pipes feeding exit signs were very common in theaters and other buildings even through the mid-20th century. The reason being was that if the electricity were to fail, the gas lights would still illuminate the exits in an emergency. Nowadays, back up emergency light systems work with a battery circuit to continue the lighting in case of power failures.

BhillH20 on October 27, 2004 at 3:12 am

There seems to be statuary missing from upstairs private box/projection room area in main auditorium.

mattepntr on October 12, 2004 at 2:21 am

Yes, the “Chinese 6” is a seperate structure adjacent to the original, along with a shopping center. The original auditorium is intact, but lost a few rows of seats downstairs when the snack bar was opened up and extended back.

Bway on October 11, 2004 at 4:47 pm

I’m a little confused about the “7 screens” when I was there about 10 years ago, the original auditorium was intact. Are the additional 6 screens built adjacent to the original theater? I can’t imagine that they would have cut up the main auditorium.

mattepntr on October 11, 2004 at 9:16 am

When the Chinese was a single screen theater, they also had this really great tradition of painting the poster art for the film playing on the side exterior wall of the theater. These were HUGE and always well done! The “Superman” S, the “Earthquake” poster art, and the “Star Wars” logo come to mind. You can sometimes find photos that show this wall art. Very cool!

mattepntr on October 11, 2004 at 9:12 am

The first film I ever saw at the Chinese was “Earthquake” in ‘74, and I’ll never forget it. They had strung fishnets all across the ornate platerwork on the ceiling. This caused a lot of nervous chatter and laughter among the audience before the movie started. I’ll never forget the SENSURROUND announcement before the movie started. This loud male voice booms out “ATTENTION!!” and everyone jumped! Since then, I’ve seen countless films there, always a great show. The adjecent twin theaters were also really good. Picture and sound were state of the art. I saw “Gremlins”, “Ghostbusters” and “Dune” there.