Egyptian Theatre

6712 Hollywood Boulevard,
Los Angeles, CA 90028

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trooperboots
trooperboots on January 2, 2005 at 3:21 am

I found an early view of the Egyptian Theater Courtyard taken in 1924. The photo shows the space as almost a carnival-like atmosphere … certainly entertaining …

http://jpg2.lapl.org/theater3/00015761.jpg

trooperboots
trooperboots on December 29, 2004 at 10:58 am

Yes, this is Sid Graummans Egyptian. I would like to add a couple of thoughts on this theater, if

I may. I was very thrilled when I saw the Egyptian was to be “restored” a few years ago and saw a wall at the entrance and construction workers busily working behind it.

In March of this year I finally came back and stopped by to see what was done. In the courtyard. I found the business on the left side of the entrance was newly reconstructed, but empty and a “For Lease” sign in the window. Though the last time I saw the theater exterior was in 1998, there was already graffiti staining 2 walls. I was very happy to see the “Pig N' Whistle” restaurant replicated, and it looks like a great job on that…. but the entrance to the theater itself seemed empty and lifeless. I still have NO idea what Cinemateque is but also not compelled to find out more about it other than to have scanned their confusing website and scratch my head about their “mission”.

I was raised in Hollywood in the 1950s and remember the theater when it had a massive neon sign over the sidewalk and many potted plants along the walkway to the elegant entrance. I don’t advocate replacing the 50s neon by any means, but it just seems to me the romance and beauty is missing from this remodelling job that was there even in the 50s. A restoration to it’s 20s appearance would be ideal, but if not economically possible, perhaps some nice potted plants or a coffee kiosk in a 20s theme would warm this place up and make it more atmospheric and bring some much needed life to the courtyard.

Needless to say, I have little interest in seeing the stripped-down interior. I love “urban”, but only in the historic context of what historic Hollywood was and COULD BE once more. This seems more “urban” in the current strip mall sense… and there are thousands of those types of spaces without making our historic sites look like them as well. What happened to our culture and history?

uncleal923
uncleal923 on December 28, 2004 at 8:23 pm

Is this the Egyptian Theater that was built by Sid Graumman, or was that demolished? I plan to visit the LA area and, considering it’s entertainment history, it would be dumb not to visit a picture palace.

Will Dunklin
Will Dunklin on October 26, 2004 at 1:42 pm

scenicroute – I agree 100%. Could you contact me directly: got a projection question regarding another theatre here on CT.
Will

scenicroute
scenicroute on October 26, 2004 at 12:45 am

I was one of the people who posted negative reactions to the ‘restored’ Egyptian but I need to clarify my stance. Yes, it’s great that the theater is still open and vital but it did not have to be altered by a group that claims to be about film preservation. On top of that, the Cinemateque boasts that they restored this theater, it’s not a restoration, it’s a remodel. Don’t advertise something you never accomplished or ever attempted. As a side note, I was a projectionist at the Hollywood Egyptian for five years. The sound quality was (when kept up by the notoriously lazy UA) was superb. When we ran 70mm (“Return of the Jedi”/ “Oklahoma”) it was astounding. The theater didn’t have the echo or loss of clarity some concrete palaces suffer.

rjcarr
rjcarr on September 17, 2004 at 11:02 pm

fantastic i would love to visit.

Will Dunklin
Will Dunklin on September 9, 2004 at 8:48 pm

Found this link and thought it might be of interest.

http://cgi.cnn.com/STYLE/9812/07/egyptian.theatre/

GaryParks
GaryParks on September 1, 2004 at 8:49 pm

Thanks to Jim Rankin (fellow THS member) for bringing up Tom Wolfe’s “From Bauhaus to Our House.” I read this enlightening book nearly two decades ago before going to art school, and applauded all the way through. I recommend it for everyone who seeks to MAKE THE PUBLIC HAPPY by venturing into any field of design, but particularly architecture. The Bauhaus has a valid place in the history of architecture, but it was embraced far too widely, mainly, I think, because it made it possible to build “fine” buildings cheaply. Personally, as an artist of stained glass and occasional mural work (and some theatre decorative restoration both professionally and as a volunteer), I resent the Bauhaus Movement for putting thousands of sculptors and decorators out of business, both past and future. I have long thought of the Bauhaus/“International Style” as the ultimate aesthetic slap against multiculturalism, in that a skyscraper in Rio de Janiero looks like a skyscraper in Cairo and looks like one in New York—no references to local/regional/national history or ethnic influence whatsoever.

To get back a little bit toward the subject of the Egyptian, I must say that Egypt itself, while blighted abundantly by the Bauhaus influence, is experiencing a strong and prolific movement in creating architecture which reflects that country’s history, both Islamic and Pharaonic. Many examples are beautifully designed, though there are some oddball examples as well.

VincentParisi
VincentParisi on September 1, 2004 at 6:38 pm

I assume that the members of the American Cinemateque had no interest in the Egyption as a theater but simply as a facility. They ok’d the plans of the architect fully knowing their philosophy and then proceeded to fund accordingly. I am glad that Will brings up the IM Pei pyramid at the Louvre. A beautiful structure in and of itself but a disaster in its positioning. Of course the French will say “But that is the point.” To which I respond that the Parisians are doing to Paris architecturally in a fit of anti western guilt what the germans wanted to do to it during WW 2.
I would have loved to have seen Paris before the pyramid, the Tour Montparnasse and La Defense.
Before I go on about this there must be someone from the American Cinemateque who reads this site. Please explain why you would have done this to Sid Grauman’s Egyption.
Maybe you would consider a position producing Wagner in Europe?

JimRankin
JimRankin on August 21, 2004 at 2:00 pm

Like Mr. Faulkner, I was at first equally ready to ‘stand on their chests’ and bellow at them for so lame a job, but then I was reminded of the old dictum: ‘He who pays the piper calls the tune.’ While Messrs. Hodgetts and Fung are clearly NOT preservation specialists, one wonders just how much of the blame belongs to the Cinematheque? Did the architects advise conservative approaches to retain most building character, and were overruled? To be as charitable as possible to them, it is their job to accomplish the client’s wishes, and clearly the client in this case wanted a modern projection facility with 3 screens within an existing single screen theatre; short of building more screening rooms/cinemas onto the building, there was no option but to subdivide the available space. Yes, I am still inclined to think that it could have been done more sympathetically, but then it is obvious that not everyone shares our love of the movie palace in general, and this EGYPTIAN in particular. No, I will never recommend these architects based on this job, and likely neither will any other preservation-minded project consider them either, but as they say: ‘money talks’ (or “SCREAMS” as says a character in “Hello Dolly”) which may mean that these men were inexperienced in this specialized area of architecture, but put out the lowest bid. In a sense, you get what you pay for. And perhaps even the brass of the Cinematheque are indeed seething behind the scenes, but what can they do? Sue the architects? To what end? Demolish the “improvements” and start over? Hardly. No, this “restoration” will now stand as an example to frighten future generations as to how badly a “restoration” can be done, even if it is as they say in their text quoted by Mr. Faulkner: “If we have a prescription it is that of efficiency and performance, two words which are unusual only in their exclusion from the day-to-day world.” You will notice that their twofold “prescription” does NOT include aesthetics! Modern day architects are actually rarely qualified to restore historic period structures, since they are now mostly educated in variances of engineering and to become worshipers of ‘Le Corbusier’ or other demigods as denounced in that landmark book: “From Bauhaus to Our House” by Tom Wolfe (http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/–/055338063X/qid=1093092642/sr=1-1/ref=sr_1_1/104-4962368-6877528?v=glance&s=books ), perhaps the most perceptive analysis of the pollution of modern architecture ever written, and my review of it is the 15th down on onto the next page. This is a short read that should not be missed!

porterfaulkner
porterfaulkner on August 21, 2004 at 12:37 am

Will, thanks for that link, the photos are truly horrific. This firm are genuinely proud of their achievement. Its hard to believe that given the history of the Egyptian in Hollywood and the position it held for over 60 years that they can think the are doing everyone a great service.Did they actaully see any reference photos for the building in its heydey?

I know its years too late, way after the dodgy restoration has finished but these architects were clearly the wrong choice. Just read this copy of their “statement” lifted from their website…

“The creation of an appropriate design is a search guided more by rules of conduct than those of appearance. In our work we attempt to frame the goals of each project in terms which are sympathetic to the user, the place, and ultimately the planet. If we have a
prescription it is that of efficiency and performance, two words which are unusual only in their exclusion from the day-to-day world
of architecture, and their near universal application to the world
of design.Our work is correspondingly diverse, marching to no easily identified drummer but, we hope, deeply committed to providing useful and satisfying facilities for human transactions, whatever they may be”.

Craig Hodgetts, Ming Fung

No what does all that crap mean? Ultimately I guess it means we lose another icon…..but perhaps not forever.

Will Dunklin
Will Dunklin on August 20, 2004 at 10:14 pm

Images from the renovation architects Hodgetts and Fung website may be seen here:

http://www.hplusf.com/1-arch-egy/egy.html

I personally find this sort of “re-invention” of a historic building appalling. As a design professional, I actively oppose such work and can and do offer alternate design solutions to achieve modern solutions to modern operation, safety and structural requirements.

At least the Egyptian still stands and these changes may one day be removed.

Will Dunklin
Will Dunklin on August 20, 2004 at 4:11 pm

Jim and others, apologies. I did indeed miss the names listed in Jim’s excellent post from August 7. It appears I spent too much time writing and not enough time reading. Jim, many thanks for (1) providing the names and your source and (2) reinforcing that information with the post from this morning. Your good-natured slap on the wrist is accepted as deserved. I usually read Jim’s comments from top to bottom as they are among the best on the site.

Now, I’m off to see what more I can learn about that company.

Best wishes

JimRankin
JimRankin on August 20, 2004 at 3:36 pm

Will Dunklin says: “ So, I repeat my question from August 6: who was the architect that led the renovation of the Egyptian?” If you will write comments as good as yours, Mr. Dunklin, may I suggest you also carefully read the others here? Just three Comments previous to yours is mine of the 7th wherein I identify the architect of the “restoration.”

Will Dunklin
Will Dunklin on August 19, 2004 at 3:17 pm

Bruce, et al, often in a government funded “restoration” anything added to the building specifically may NOT match the original fabric. The current philosophy being that to “make it match” is a dis-honest attempt to fool people into believing that the additional material is actually original.

Certainly there is merit in the spirit of the mandate. Unfortunately, in execution, too often the designers make this their excuse to insert incongruous elements into an historic building and trumpet their anachronistic and egocentric designs as being intellectully superior to “banal historicist recreations” because they are intentionally ironic.

I.M. Pei’s glass pyramids at the Louvre are an example. (It’s not only the US which promotes this philosophy.) There are plenty of other examples, the Egyptian apparently being one.

Of course it is possible to embrace the spirit AND provide a beautiful restoration. The Sistine Chapel’s recent restoration was extrodinarily sensitive to both the requirements for clear deliniation between new and old material while at the same time not distracting the viewer by “ironic” intrusions.

So, I repeat my question from August 6: who was the architect that led the renovation of the Egyptian? In my opinion, this person should NOT be working on movie palaces. That name should be made public. There are plenty of restoration architects that DO know how to handle the demands of public funding and are proactively respectful of movie palace heritage. Their names should also be made public.

Best wishes all –

bruceanthony
bruceanthony on August 19, 2004 at 4:15 am

I talked to the foreman of the Egyptian renovation when it was in progress and I was dismayed his lack of knowledge about the theatre. I walked through the theatre with a hard hat and was shocked to see what they were doing. Of all the movie palaces on Hollywood Blvd the Egyptian should have been the easier restoration. The interior was the least ornate but had a simple beauty even with the Giant Curved Screen. The projectionist who worked the Egyptian said it best,the theatre looked better even when UA lost interestin the theatre.There have been many theatres restored around the world in a lot worse shape than the Egyptian. When the City of LA gives Millions of dollars toward an historic renovation maybe there needs to be better guidelines. The current auditoium is not beautiful it is bland at best. When UA redid the current Festival in Westwood and called it the Egyptian few years ago it looked a lot better and more Egyptian than the current Egyptian in Hollywood.What a dissapointment when someone takes a tour of the famous Hollywood Egyptian Theatre. American Cinemateque puts on an excellent show and draws an intelligent crowd from all over LA to the Egyptian for people who love film and for this I applaud them. American Cinemateque should take note of our comments. I think they have a success on there hands but it would have been more successful if the theatre had been a little more magical,like the Castro in San Francisco.brucec

VincentParisi
VincentParisi on August 16, 2004 at 2:08 pm

Jim, I have the impression from others on this site that there have been restorations in other cinemas in LA that have been done with great sensitivity and respect for the original architecture and design. I assume these as well needed to conform to contemporary structural requirements.
Perhaps your final paragraph brings us closer to what was going on. White guilt is very much the rage these days. Condescension and disdain for so much of western culture is a badge that many people wear very proudly. When charges of elitism are made rest assured that the accusers are often the worst offenders.

JimRankin
JimRankin on August 7, 2004 at 2:14 pm

According to an article in the defunct electrical contractors' trade magazine, “CEENews” ( View link ), of Nov. ‘98, the architects were: “Hodgetts & Fung”, the building contractor: “Turner Construction” and the main electrical contractor: “Amelco Electric.” While the article naturally deals with mostly the electrical changes, it is honest enough in some of its description, as with this: “The term 'restoration’ is used loosely to describe what is taking place.” Obviously, a contractor is not concerned with the aesthetics of the new or original design; its just a technical problem to them. The article does contain one 1946 photo of the street front in black&white, but nothing else.

Having said that most of us are disappointed with this lesser “restoration” it must be acknowledged that it would have been impossible for the new owner to use the original structure if it were simply restored to 1922 appearance. Not only were earthquake retrofits needed and demanded, but the building was not to become a museum, but a modern, working cinemas. Given this fact, we can extend them more slack, however disappointing the modernistic adaptations to the original are. Yes, the sun disk grille on the ceiling should have been back-lit again, and likely they could have reproduced the original massive doors, but modern day costs are often prohibitive of bringing back all we were able to build when labor was a mere 25 cents per hour in the early ‘Twenties. I don’t like the modern adaptations either, but at least enough of the original is still standing that one can view photos and see just how what they could have existed in that building, and needless to say, had this not been done, the building likely would be only rubble today. They could at least post large photos of the original inside the lobby, but this might prove more of an embarrassment than a compliment, though still a fine service to the public. The Theatre Historical Soc. has many fine, vintage photos. ( www.HistoricTheatres.org )

As to bringing an “urban environment” into the EGYPTIAN, one must remember the strident sounds of such movements as “Relevance” and “Urbanism” into the social fabric of our “Diversity” day and age. To be merely artistic is not enough these days, with White people being made to feel ever greater guilt for their supposed errors in not promoting the ascendance of the minorities in what is often poorly described as a “melting pot” society. Much of the $21 million cost was born by public funds from HUD, the Community Redevelopment Agency, and others, so there was heavy pressure on the owner to make the place acceptable to the ‘man on the street’ whose tax dollars were going to this elite project in an area apparently mostly inhabited by those of lesser incomes — or not incomes at all.

VincentParisi
VincentParisi on August 6, 2004 at 2:32 pm

I am sure that there are people from the American Cinemateque who read this page. Could you give us the name of the perpetrators?
Who in the world would want to bring an urban environment into the Egyption? AC please explain this to us.
How do these people get a ton of money for work that rots before your very eyes?
They should be in Europe where the regular disfiguring and trashing of great works is considered a noble cause.

Will Dunklin
Will Dunklin on August 6, 2004 at 1:32 pm

I hope someone in the know will post the name of the architect and/or design firm which led the so-called restoration. Obviously, this is a person/firm which no one interested historic theaters should employ. Knowing who did this would be helpful.

Bigdom78987
Bigdom78987 on July 25, 2004 at 11:57 pm

Even if they had to rebuild stuff they could do it in a nice style not that black box crap. And who wants the “urban environment in a movie theatre anyway? That’s stupid. Maybe if it was the urban environment in the 20s when they built nice buildings, but not with the garbage they build now!

scenicroute
scenicroute on July 19, 2004 at 8:38 pm

What I find mystifying is that the Cinemateque offers monthly tours of the historic site. How do tour-guides skirt the issue of the total intrusiveness of the remodel? Worse, this tour is touted as a look at the beautiful palace and its ‘restoration’. Even under the most charitable descriptions of this theater’s repair, no one could possibly come away thinking that work could be categorized as restoration. If the Cinemateque wanted to alter the design, that’s one thing but to do so and bask in the glory of rendering some loving restoration, forget it, that’s just plain insulting to the theater’s original owners and designers not to mention lying.

JimRankin
JimRankin on July 18, 2004 at 4:23 am

Your comment is right on the money, ‘scenicroute’; they didn’t care about anything but money, and used the EGYPTIAN’S fame as an excuse during fundraising. They may have had to adapt it, but they cared nothing at all about even a little ‘restoration.’ It was all a scam to grab publicity, and, sad to say, it worked.

scenicroute
scenicroute on July 17, 2004 at 8:45 pm

I love what the American Cinemateque stands for, I love their programming and I was quite pleased to hear the announcement that they were revitalizing the historic Egyptian Theater. I had worked for the Egyptian Theater for five years during the 1980’s as its projectionist.

I studied the theater’s fabled past and was always in awe of the building’s majesty. Even under the disinterested watch of United Artist’s Theater Chain, the palace was still a beautiful place to watch films.

Walking down the restored courtyard, I was enthused. The restoration was beatifully realized. However, when I walked into the newly ‘restored’ Egyptian interior, I was, to put it bluntly, horrified. The design was altered so signifigantly that I have to believe that the new designers had nothing but contempt for the building’s symmetry and line.

A few postings above this are tasteful and considerate when speaking of the remodel. They bring up important issues such as the seismic retrofitting and how that necessarily impacts the theater’s new
look. This does not explain how the new designers came to use flimsy spiral staircases, wall ‘sconces’ that can only be described as arbitrary woodcut blobs and the giant, obtrusive black box parked in the middle of what used to be the auditorium’s back section. Even the ceiling’s famous starburst is no longer back lit, they’ve gone the easy route and front lit the ornamation, rendering it flat.

This is not a theater restoration, the biggest scandal in this town is that the theater was destroyed, rendered unrecognizable. The Egyptian is gone. Most people can’t recall how awesome the interior used to be so the loss is nothing more than footprints in the sand.

In one of the first pamphlets the Cinemateque issued after its reopening it claimed that the redesign’s goal was to bring some of the urban environment into the theater, using materials consistant with that goal. Sid Grauman built that theater to leave the city behind you. He made a 160 foot walk away from the street so you would be transported. The Cinemateque either didn’t know of this or didn’t care.