6712 Hollywood Boulevard,
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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.
A world premiere presentaion of Douglas Fairbanks in “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. On July 19, 1972 United Artists added two small auditoriums Egyptian II & III 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 screens Egyptian II & III 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 1923 version of Cecil B. DeMille’s “The Ten Commandments” starring Theodore Roberts 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 II & III screens have been re-opened as the Arena Cinema in 2013, but are not associated with the American Cinematheque.
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