Egyptian Theatre

6712 Hollywood Boulevard,
Los Angeles, CA 90028

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Will Dunklin
Will Dunklin on August 20, 2004 at 4:14 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 10:11 am

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 9:36 am

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 9:17 am

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 18, 2004 at 10:15 pm

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 8:08 am

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 8:14 am

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 8:32 am

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 7:32 am

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 5:57 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 2:38 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 17, 2004 at 10:23 pm

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 2:45 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.

Bigdom78987
Bigdom78987 on July 3, 2004 at 4:58 pm

Why can’t they just make theatres like they used to?
(Actually this isn’t just true of theatres: Old everything is better in quality and style such as office buildings, homes, clothing, etc.)
The egyptian still could have been restored exactly as it was minus the proscenium and that still would have been thousands of times better. One of the worst mistakes was redoing that stupid modernistic lobby they have now and that dumb steven spielberg screening room. Just look at the old pictures and you’ll see what i mean.
View link

View link

GaryParks
GaryParks on June 19, 2004 at 4:35 pm

Just to answer some of the debate about how the Egyptian was redone:

If you restored the original proscenium, you would have an absurdly small screen. I’m both a lover of movie palaces and Egyptian architecture (both real and reel), and that proscenium was a beauty, but practicality is practicality.

If you brought back the auditorium sidewalls to their original look and texture, removing the new retractible structure built within, you would recreate the same problem that the Egyptian faced with the advent of talkies. As a room for amplified sound, it was lousy. No, I wasn’t there back then, by I have read about the problems encountered with the auditorium every time a new innovation in presentation came along.

Although I applaud reuse of old theatres which bring them back to their aesthetic glory days with as little visible modernity as possible, it was evidenced to me that what American Cinematech did was a great technical solution. I would rather have seen the interior structural members painted in some sort of sandstone hue to blend nicely with the surviving historical elements, but that would be almost my only complaint—that, and the removal of the stained glass Egyptian panels in the lobby, and the heavy wood doors leading into the auditorium, which had striding figures on them and tall sceptre-like handles that made the act of opening the doors one of great moment.

edward
edward on April 30, 2004 at 10:31 pm

It should be mentioned also that the historic Pig & Whistle restaurant was reopened in the right hand retail space on the Blvd. (6712 Hollywood Blvd, a former pizzeria) The Egyptian courtyard can be seen to the left.
View link

Although only in name, it was a nice touch to bring back an old Hollywood landmark formerly located at 6301 Hollywood Blvd. (a picture of it appears in the book SEVERED by John Gilmore. An odd fact is that much of the original decor of this place was purchased by Micelli’s and is now located in a space nearby .(Miceli’s Italian Restaurant, 3653 Cahuenga Blvd W, Los Angeles)

I’ve been to a few screenings at the Egyptian. Considering how far gone the theater was, it’s a miracle the Cinematheque saved it. The auditorium and lobby are a disappointment but the projection and sound is good. Definitely much better than a multiplex experience. The exterior and courtyard have been restored nicely and make the visit worthwihe. The El Capitan is much more impressive for interior decor but is missing its original proscenium columns ( lack of funds to recreate). Some nice landmarks on the otherwise run down and forgettable Hollywood Blvd.
I don’t think it will ever thrive again unles major retailers take over more of the retail spaces. Go downtown to Broadway, it’s much more interesting.

JimRankin
JimRankin on April 8, 2004 at 12:33 pm

For those who love the Egyptian style, there are a number of theatres that have had that theme, and an entire special issue of “Marquee” magazine was devoted to them in their issue of: Vol. 29, #3; Third Qtr. 1997, and the issue features wonderful color covers of the EGYPTIANS in Milwaukee (in the form of a wonderful color painting by artist Mark Hylton of Columbus, OH) and Ogden Ut. The table of such themed theatres includes 45 examples of those now, or at one time, with us. An introduction and Prologue carry one to those ancient days, and individual articles on the Ogden and Hollywood help detail the existing examples. Many other photos are included.
PHOTOS AVAILABLE:
To obtain any available Back Issue of either “Marquee” or of its ANNUALS, simply go to the web site of the THEATRE HISTORICAL SOCIETY OF AMERICA at:
www.HistoricTheatres.org
and notice on their first page the link “PUBLICATIONS: Back Issues List” and click on that and you will be taken to their listing where they also give ordering details. The “Marquee” magazine is 8-1/2x11 inches tall (‘portrait’) format, and the ANNUALS are also soft cover in the same size, but in the long (‘landscape’) format, and are anywhere from 26 to 40 pages. Should they indicate that a publication is Out Of Print, then it may still be possible to view it via Inter-Library Loan where you go to the librarian at any public or school library and ask them to locate which library has the item by using the Union List of Serials, and your library can then ask the other library to loan it to them for you to read or photocopy. [Photocopies of most THSA publications are available from University Microforms International (UMI), but their prices are exorbitant.]

Note: Most any photo in any of their publications may be had in large size by purchase; see their ARCHIVE link. You should realize that there was no color still photography in the 1920s, so few theatres were seen in color at that time except by means of hand tinted renderings or post cards, thus all the antique photos from the Society will be in black and white, but it is quite possible that the Society has later color images available; it is best to inquire of them.

Should you not be able to contact them via their web site, you may also contact their Executive Director via E-mail at:
Or you may reach them via phone or snail mail at:
Theatre Historical Soc. of America
152 N. York, 2nd Floor York Theatre Bldg.
Elmhurst, ILL. 60126-2806 (they are about 15 miles west of Chicago)

Phone: 630-782-1800 or via FAX at: 630-782-1802 (Monday through Friday, 9AM—4PM, CT)

NeilShattuc
NeilShattuc on April 6, 2004 at 6:25 pm

I have one question why isn’t there any mention of the monkey cages on the right hand side of the walk way up to the theater entrance also there was a wishing well at the end right of the door. They were
there late 1930’s early 1940’s

bruceanthony
bruceanthony on April 6, 2004 at 4:53 pm

I know I most get over the fact that I am dissapointed in the renovation of the Egyptian. I have been a huge supporter in the revival of Hollywood Blvd. I first saw Hollywood Blvd in 1963 when the Blvd was lovely. I remember you could walk from The Chinese to the Pix and look at all the wonderful stores and restaurants and all the reserved seat attractions playing in the movie palaces along the Blvd. I watched the slow deterioration of the Blvd through the years. I remember a major revival of the Blvd in the 1980’s only to have the Metro Red Line tear up the street and again the street went into decline. I supported going to the Egyptian at the time when the Fashionable thing to do was go to the Westside to see movies. I am happy that finally Hollywood Blvd is turning around but it still hasn’t met critical mass yet. I think with the Egyptian and Hollywood and Highland it has helped Hollywood turn a corner on the one hand but on the other they still haven’t gotten it right yet.The Arclight development on Sunset is a first class attempt to get it right,but the auditoriums are glorified screeing rooms with the exception of the Cinerama Dome.The Big success story happened in another part of Hollywood, Pacific’s Grove. This complex actually captures the glamour of the Old Hollywood versus the glamour of the new Hollywood at the Arclight. The Grove is now one of the highest grossing Megaplex’s in the country. I think a recent success story is The Pantages Theatre on Hollywood blvd. Disney pushed the Nederlander Organization to restores the house if they wanted The Lion King. The Pantages is now the Premiere broadway house in town. My hope before I leave this earth is to have Hollywood Blvd back where it was between the 1930’s thru the early 1960’s.I hope the Egyptian in time will be brought back to a point where the theatre is as magical as the picture on the screen. I make these comments because I love the history of the area and have great effection for what once was.brucec

NeilShattuc
NeilShattuc on April 6, 2004 at 3:19 pm

Betwen 1938 and 1944 I saw just about every movie release on Hollywood Blvd. As a child gowing up I went to the movies every weekend and more during school vactions. I delivered the Hollywood Citizen News after School to get money for the movies. If the film
was released I saw it. My sister worked as a cashier and usher at the Vogue, Pantages and Apollo. The theaters were beond compare to any I ever been in and I still am a big movie goer. When I am on vacation there better be movie house. I am glad to see that someone
trying to do something to bring Hollywood back. Clean it up.

Knatcal
Knatcal on February 25, 2004 at 11:31 pm

In the mid 1980s during a trip into Hollywood I saw “Back to the Future” at the Egyptian Theatre. The theater had seen better days by that point but features like the covered entry way still remained. The American Cinematheque has taken out the covered walkaway and restored the forecourt to its early grandeur. The auditorium is nice for screening films in spite of the now stark lobby.

geovhill
geovhill on February 8, 2004 at 3:24 pm

This is a gem.
There is nothing like the Egyptian Theatre.
This goes back to the days when theaters were art forms!
It went through many changes over the years, and very few of them were good changes.
The Egyptian Theatre was neglected and changed for far too many years.
At one time,(even in the 1960’s) it was too new to be treasured, and very recently was thought to be too old to be like it was.
Now, it is a part of the history of Hollywood that we want to keep!!
Thank you.
George Vreeland Hill
G

PAULB
PAULB on February 5, 2004 at 5:39 pm

No Meredith. It’s me, the mysterious Paul brennan.

Meredith Rhule
Meredith Rhule on February 5, 2004 at 4:49 pm

I had noticed that one person posting here is “paulb.” That wouldn’t by chance be Paul Balbirnie, manager of the Eqyptian Theater, would it? :)