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Photo by Lin Cariffe, for the National Register application in 1977.
I agree on the Chinese center railing. Unfortunately that is a building/safety code requirement. The only way to have avoided it would be not having a center aisle. My favorite seats are the last 3 rows of lower section, right on the center aisle, even with the railing.
I’m not going to get into a discussion about what IMAX is best other than to say that “true” IMAX means nothing because any theatre licensed to show IMAX is legitimate. Maybe call it “original format” IMAX if you want!
I’d also question “as intended” by the director. Certainly he knew it would be shown in multiple formats and was OK with that, or he would have pulled a Tarantino and only released it in IMAX 70mm. When I worked in the film biz we had monitors with multiple formats outlined so all information was captured for all formats. I’m sure Nolan did that.
My point was really to compare the architecture, the relationship of audience to screen. The theatre was almost empty, I could have sat in almost any seat, and I did more once. I stand by my conclusion that the steep rake and relationship of seating to screen at the Universal Citywalk is not conducive to watching a full length movie, at least for me. The seating relationship was designed for short event films, and is spectacular for that use in my opinion, but it doesn’t work for me for a full length drama. In the end, there is no “right”, it is a matter of opinion, and I expressed mine knowing I would get some pushback!
BigJoe59, I finally saw Dunkirk at the Chinese and it was pretty amazing! Very immersive, with stunning visuals and sound design. If you like Nolan’s style I think you would like this. If you are frustrated by Nolan’s multilayered sound style, this will drive you crazy. That is rally the main criticism I’ve heard, that you “can’t hear the dialogue”. For me that was just fine. Now to the projection and sound. I decided to see it in 70mmIMAX so I could compare (here is another theatre nearby that was showing it in that format).
I’m sure I will get plenty of disagreement, but I thought the quality of the IMAX Laser and the IMAX 70mm were almost indistinguishable, and both looked incredible. The sound in both theatres was very similar too. What made the experience at the Chinese much better for me was the positioning of the screen and seating. At the 70mm theatre Universal Citywalk, unless you were near the very back you have to crane your neck to see the full screen, which I found uncomfortable. At the Chinese I sat at my favorite place, just behind the cross-aisle near the middle, and that put me square in the middle of the screen. No neck ache!
It’s a nice glossy colorful book with the first pages about the history with both vintage and recent photos. There is also a timeline. The majority of the book is handprint ceremonies through the years. Some great photos there too. Amazon is also selling it, so that shipping might be cheaper.
BigJoe59, I’ve been out of town for the last few weeks but plan to see Dunkirk at the Chinese as soon as I get back, and will report. My temptation is to also see it in 70mmIMAX at the one theatre it is playing in Los Angeles, and compare.
Happy to help! If you just look at the walls and ceiling, I’d say closer to 80%. Including the many changes tot he seating the number would be lower.
Soon I will be sharing a great “tour” of what the Chinese was like on Opening Day, put together by one of the foremost Chinese Theatre historians. He has found some amazing photos!
Hi Big Joe,
There was a lot of concern about the most recent renovation, and the owners consulted closely with the Los Angeles Historic Theatre Foundation and other preservation experts during the entire process. The biggest change was the lowering of the floor in front to increase the rake as well as the size of the screen. Lowering the floor essentially destroyed the basement and stage area. We did a behind the scenes tour just before it closed, so that area is well documented. The existing curtains were reused by simply adding a new section of fabric at the top. The original walls and ceiling were protected during construction preserved.
There have been many remodels before this, the biggest in my opinion was when the screen was widened and the 2 pagodas on either side of the proscenium were destroyed. That was way before my time, but I would have loved to see the pagodas. The other big change was the bottom of the chandelier being removed. Again, that was a while ago. There were previous changes to the rake of the seating, originally the seats started at lobby level and sloped down to the stage, but for most of my life there was a steep stairway at the back that people constantly tripped on as they were looking up at the ceiling. So in a way, the recent renovation brings the seating rake back closer to what Grauman built.
As far as what is left from 1927, the ceiling, the walls and side columns, the lobby murals and decor are preserved, the women lounge is original, and much of the behind the scenes office areas above the lobby are untouched. I’ve had meetings in Sid Grauman’s art deco office and it is like traveling back in time! Sid’s private box is also still there, and is used by VIPs. We have some post renovation pictures on our website at www.LAHTF.org and on our Facebook page.
My understanding is that the Chinese is the largest IMAX Theatre, based on seating capacity, not on screen size.
Because of prescheduled events both tonight and tomorrow, the Chinese Theatre' 90th Anniversary will be celebrated on Monday the 22nd with a VIP Event in the historic Forecourt. The Los Angeles Historic Theatre Foundation will be a part of the event. www.LAHTF.org. Photos will be shared after the event.
The latest news on the Rialto Theatre is that the owners signed a lease with Mosaic Church. They have exclusive rights to use the entire building, My group, Friends of the Rialto, has been holding special events in the Rialto for the last 2 years with the owner’s support. We have presented a proposal to the church leaders to manage and program the Theatre whenever the church is not using it. We believe this is the best use of the theatre and will help bring the community together. For the latest, sign up on our mailing list at www.FriendsoftheRialto.org.
With the support of the Rialto’s new owners, Friends of the Rialto has now produced 2 fundraising shows and are in rehearsals for a fully staged production of Funny Girl with full orchestra. We also have an online fundraising campaign with the goal of bringing in enough in cash and pledges to take on the lease and restore and reopen the Rialto. Please visit my website for information on upcoming events, and a link to the fundraiser. We have lots of fun “perks” too!
We also did a community work day, getting rid of a lot of junk (don’t worry, nothing cool or vintage!). The goal was to open up space on stage to make it easier to produce our shows! Another work day will be scheduled soon, you can get on my mailing lists on the website too!
Los Angeles Historic Theatre Foundation will be doing an ALL ABOUT Tour at the Highland Theatre on November 21 at 10am. The Highland Theatre has been entertaining the local community for 90 years, and is the last theatre remaining in the area. Designed by L.A. Smith, (who also designed the Rialto) and opened in 1925 as a vaudeville house, the Highland has a complete stage, dressing rooms and balcony, all have been hidden from view for decades.
LAHTF has been given full access, our ALL ABOUT tour will take you to parts of the theatre that the public hasn’t seen in years, and other places that have never been accessible to the public! Don’t miss this unique opportunity to rediscover a classic treasure! We are also thriled to be screening a special documentary: “The Highland Theatre: A Legacy Uncovered”, created and produced by the Highland Park Independent Film Festival.
For tickets and info: http://tinyurl.com/HighlandALLABOUT
LAHTF Members get $10 off each ticket! Click the REDEEM BENEFITS
and enter your email and name as instructed, your discount will be applied.
Wow macoco! Thanks for the great post! Are you a member of the Los Angeles Historic Theatre Foundation? You sound like a great resource, or at least someone who knows how to get answers! Please email me at
Actually, that was LA Magazine’s “spin” on it! I posted the pictures on my Facebook site and Chris Nichols asked to use them in exchange for giving Friends of the Rialto credit. He made most of the details up. There was no “panic” or “racing to the scene”, I was the one who was originally contacted by Modern Family and I put them in touch with the owners! The TV crew was very friendly and loved the Rialto, and I think the show was sweet. Here is a link to watch the epson online: http://abc.go.com/shows/modern-family/episode-guide/season-06/623-crying-out-loud
Big Joe, I’m not sure what Coate is talking about, a quick stroll through Kurt’s wonderful site shows that the Chinese has always been the home for premieres and 1st run engagements. Maybe Coate has an alternate definition for “neighborhood house”?
Zangwill, My favorites are the center aisle seats, top few rows of the lower section. I’ve also seen movies as far forward as the 4th row from the front. If you like to be close, I wouldn’t go much closer that the 4th or 5th row.
Last night I was part of a fantastic event at the Chinese. Cinespia and LA Historic Theatre Foundation collaborated on a special double feature of Fantasia and Fantasia 2000 as a benefit for the LAHTF. We sold out the event, and the Chinese graciously supported the event from the very start, even closing off the Forecourt for a private party before and between the movies. Disney and the El Capitan were also very generous in making the event a success. I will post a link to pictures later.
BigJoe59, There is certainly more attention on the Chinese after the IMAX conversion, and even though the Avengers opened simultaneously across the street at the El Capitan (first time in history that the same movie opened at both theatres) I would venture to guess that it drew more crowd than the El Capitan (Another beautiful theatre, operated by Disney) I don’t have hard numbers though.
Like the Ziegfeld, there are other theatres within a few miles of the Chinese, including the Cinema Dome that is currently playing the same movie. I love the Dome, but between the 2 the Chinese is still a better experience.
As for actually percentage numbers, that would have to come from the TCL Chinese management. I can only comment antidotally based on what I see myself and hear from management. We don’t see exclusive engagements for the blockbusters here either, seems to me that is a thing of the past. Studios want big numbers of the first weekend, so more screens is what happens. The “cheat” to boost opening weekend numbers is to open the movie at midnight the day before the opening day, and some theatres are even adding earlier shows!
As for StarWars VII, no official word on where it will open, I HOPE it opens at the El Capitan AND the Chinese, since I saw the original movie at the Chinese. If that happens, Hollywood Blvd will be the best place to see it in Los Angeles!
It has definitely improved. And the Chinese is once again the premiere location for a studio premiere, they have events almost every week, sometimes 2 events in a day!
Cliffs, I am so glad to hear! I’ve been out of town so haven’t witnessed it for myself yet!
For those interested, I was allowed to witness and document the secret load-in night when the IMAX Laser projectors first arrived. It was quite an experience! Click here to see my Facebook album: http://tinyurl.com/LAHTFChineseIMAXLaser
Hockey Dude, please contact me at
Landmark Theatres singed over the remainder of the lease. I am not sure what the terms were, but they had made it clear to me that they would be happy to let go of it. They were not interested in continuing operations at the Rialto.