Egyptian Theatre

6712 Hollywood Boulevard,
Los Angeles, CA 90028

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UA Egyptian Theatres D-150 screen (75 x 30 feet)

Viewing: Photo | Street View

Builder Charles E. Toberman recruited Sid Grauman to open the first of the grand Hollywood movie palaces and in 1920 when it was first announced, the plans were for it to be designed in a Spanish style. The Egyptian Theatre cost $800,000, was constructed over 18 months and had a seating capacity of 1,771 (all on one level). The Egyptian theme was chosen for the name and decor to take advantage of the excitement drawn by the discoveries and searches in Egypt for ancient artifact such as King Tutankhamen’s tomb (which was discovered by Englishman Howard C. Carter on 26th November 1922;five weeks after the Egyptian Theatre opened). Architects Mendel Meyer & Phillip W. Holler of the Milwaukee Building Co. designed the building with decorator Raymond M. Kennedy in charge of decorative details. This theatre was among the first of many Egyptian Revival style theatres in the US.

“Robin Hood” was shown at the first ever ‘Hollywood Premiere’ at the grand opening of Grauman’s Egyptian Theatre on October 18, 1922 and continued to be screened until the first week of April 1923. The next attraction was “The Covered Wagon” followed by “The Ten Commandments” which premiered at the theatre on December 4, 1923. This was followed by “The Thief of Bagdad” and all had long runs, in fact Grauman’s Egyptian Theatre only played four movies in its first three years of operation. Grauman also presented an elaborate live stage show ‘Prologue’ with each performance of the movies.

After Grauman departed the Egyptian Theatre in 1927 to open Grauman’s Chinese Theatre along the Boulevard, Fox West Coast Theatres operated the Egyptian Theatre as a re-run house (a clause in the contract kept the Grauman name on the theatre). In 1944, the Egyptian Theatre became the exclusive Hollywood showcase for MGM and it became a first-run premiere house again.

A large curved Todd A-O screen was installed for the Roadshow engagement in 70mm of “Oklahoma” which had its West Coast Premiere on November 17, 1955. Sadly the installation of the huge 75feet wide screen led to the demolition of the elaborate original Egyptian style proscenium arch. A new projection suite was built at seating level in the rear of the orchestra seating and the auditorium walls were covered in yellow drapes. It was most likely that it was at this period of time that the original Wurlitzer 3Manual/15Ranks organ was removed from the building.

Additional West Coast Premiere’s and engagements of 70mm movies included “South Pacific”(May 21, 1958, and was shown for more than one year), “Ben Hur”(November 24, 1959 and ran for two years), “King of Kings”(October 12, 1959), “Mutiny on the Bounty”(November 15, 1962), “The Cardinal”(December 19, 1963), “My Fair Lady”(October 28, 1964 and ran for more than a year), “Hawaii”(October 12, 1966), “Funny Girl”(October 9, 1968 and was the last of the long Road Show presentations), and “The Poseidon Adventure”(December 14, 1972). The World Premier in 70mm of “Marooned” was held December 12, 1969.

From 1949 until it closed in 1992, United Artists were the operator of the Egyptian Theatre. From the 1970’s, 20th Century Fox movies were showcased. In 1969 a huge curved movie screen of about 90 feet wide was installed. United Artists added two small auditoriums in what had been a store on the east side rear of the theatre.

In its last years United Artists were operating the Egyptian Theatre as a last run discount house with $1.50 admission.

After closing in 1992, the main original auditorium was was shuttered, while the screen Egyptian 2 & 3 were converted into live theatre use. The original Egyptian Theatre was badly damaged in the 1994 Northridge earthquake. The City of Los Angeles had purchased the theatre a few months before the earthquake and so that it could be re-opened, ownership was transferred for $1.00 to the American Cinematheque. This classic movie theatre was given a stylish multi-million dollar make-over and renovation. The palm tree lined forecourt was restored to its original grandeur. The interior was renovated with solid, minimalist quality and state of the art technology. The main auditorium named for philanthropist Lloyd E. Ringler was reopened with its original, ornate sunburst ceiling and 616 seats. The screen is 53 feet wide and 27 feet high. A second theatre named after donor Steven Spielberg, is downstairs, and has 78 seats.

A key part of the revitalization of Hollywood Boulevard, the theatre reopened to the public, appropriately, with “The Prince of Egypt”. Among the celebratory reopening festivities was the ‘Vintage Premier’ of the 1922 version of “The Ten Commandments” on 4th December 1998, the exact 75th Anniversary of the film’s original World Premiere at Grauman’s Egyptian Theatre.

In the meantime, the former Egyptian 2 & 3 screen have been re-opened as the Arena Cinema in 2013, but are not associated with the American Cinematheque.

Contributed by Howard B. Haas, Ken Roe

Recent comments (view all 215 comments)

MichaelDequina on May 13, 2013 at 4:37 am

The Egyptian annex once again operates as a cinema as of late last year under the name Arena Cinema, booking independent fare:

Vito on August 24, 2013 at 1:30 am

Anyone know how the World 3-D Movie Expo in September will be projected? 35mm dual projector polaroid or Digital?

Cliffs on January 25, 2014 at 10:57 pm

I’m still absolutely baffled as to how an auditorium that housed a 90 foot wide screen now contains a 53 foot wide screen. Where did that extra 40 feet fit? Did they somehow shrink the auditorium?

plinfesty on March 17, 2014 at 9:07 pm

The screen was never 90 feet wide. It was somewhere between 70-80 feet measured along the curve, which is key. That particular screen (Dimension 150) featured a 120 degree curved screen and was installed in 1968. Without the curve, the screen would have to be a lot smaller. It was during this 1968 remodeling that the proscenium went, not for the Todd-AO remodel. For the original CinemaScope installation in the early 50’s, the two inner pillars were removed. For Todd-AO, the screen was actually brought forward, hiding the outer pillars. This was when the draped look went up. then in 1968, the last of the pillars and proscenium were removed and the new D-150 curved screen installed by pushing it back to where the original stage was. Ironically, much of the original side work was revealed of the auditorium at this time.

Coate on October 29, 2014 at 11:51 am

Happy 50th! “My Fair Lady” opened at the Egyptian on this day in 1964 (with a benefit premiere the previous night) and went on to become the theater’s second-longest-running engagement.

Bartstar on November 15, 2014 at 10:05 am

When did the street facade remodeling from the 50’s occur?
Maybe I missed something, but I can’t find the exact dates of its existence. Just that it was around from the 50’s to the 80’s.

It seems that this information should be included in the overview.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on November 15, 2014 at 12:58 pm

Bartstar: The new front of the Egyptian Theatre was installed in either late 1949 or early 1950. An article about the remodeling appeared in the March 4, 1950, issue of Boxoffice (first page and second page.) You might also be interested in the Egyptian Theatre street view timeline at Historic Hollywood Theatres.

terrywade on January 22, 2015 at 7:52 pm

Bring back the curved D-150 screen. The little flat screen today with no curtains is a sad place to watch a film. No color lights inside during a film. The fountains ran dry because of leaks many years ago in the for court. No marquee out front to tell all the tourists what is going on inside. Time for a new management team to come in and bring back some showmanship and customers. Take a cue on what the El Capitan Theatre does up the street,they have lines outside while the Eqyptian only has a few good nights a month.

Robert L. Bradley
Robert L. Bradley on January 23, 2015 at 1:15 pm

I agree that they need a curtain, or at least flood the screen in colored light.

drb on January 27, 2015 at 3:40 pm

terrywade: Totally agree!

I hadn’t been to the Egyptian since the early nineties, before the quake and remodeling. I had read others' descriptions of what had been done to the poor theatre, and wasn’t in a hurry to return. But there was something showing a couple months ago that I wanted to see, and both the Chinese and El Capitan were running movies on my “need to see” list, so I thought I’d do all three movie palaces in one day. So, straight from El Cap to the Chinese, with all of their splendors, I walk into the Egyptian, and… no matter how many interior photos I had seen, somehow I just wasn’t prepared for how underwhelming the poor theatre had become. At least with the curved screen and curtains, the sunburst and scarab where the old proscenium arch once was still had a visual connection to the screen. Now it’s just in the middle of nowhere, with the tiny, unadorned screen far away from it, looking like it’s right out a multiplex in a mall. They really put the “gyp” in Egyptian.

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