TCL Chinese Theatre
Front entrance facing Hollywood Blvd.
|Location||6925 Hollywood Boulevard
|Type||Indoor Movie Theater|
|Built||January 16, 1926|
|Opened||May 18, 1927|
2013 (IMAX conversion)
|Owner||Chinese Theatres, LLC|
|Former name(s)||Grauman's Chinese Theatre
Mann Chinese Theatre
|Capacity||932 (as of 2013)|
|Designated:||June 5, 1968|
TCL Chinese Theatre is a movie theater on the historic Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6925 Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood, California. Originally Grauman's Chinese Theatre and renamed Mann's Chinese Theatre in 1973, the current name of the theatre became official on January 2013 after TCL Corporation purchased the naming rights.
The original Chinese Theatre was commissioned following the success of the nearby Grauman's Egyptian Theatre, which opened in 1922. Built over 18 months, from January 1926 by a partnership headed by Sid Grauman, the theater opened May 18, 1927, with the premiere of Cecil B. DeMille's film The King of Kings. It has since been home to many premieres, including the 1977 launch of George Lucas's Star Wars, as well as birthday parties, corporate junkets and three Academy Awards ceremonies. Among the theater's most distinctive features are the concrete blocks set in the forecourt, which bear the signatures, footprints, and handprints of popular motion picture personalities from the 1920s to the present day.
The TCL Chinese Theatre has partnered with IMAX Corporation to introduce the single largest IMAX auditorium in the world. The new theatre seats 932 people, and hosts the third largest commercial movie screen in North America.
After his success with the Egyptian Theatre, Sid Grauman turned to Charles E. Toberman to secure a long-term lease on property at 6925 Hollywood Blvd. Toberman contracted the architectural firm of Meyer & Holler (which had also designed the Egyptian) to design a "palace type theatre" of Chinese design. Grauman's Chinese Theatre was financed by Grauman, who owned a one-third interest, and his partners: Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks, and Howard Schenck. The principal architect of the Chinese Theatre was Raymond M. Kennedy, of Meyer & Holler.
During construction, Grauman hired Jean Klossner to formulate an extremely hard concrete for the forecourt of the theatre. Klossner later became known as "Mr. Footprint", performing the footprint ceremonies from 1927 through 1957.
There are many stories regarding the origins of the footprints. The theater's official account in its books and souvenir programs credit Norma Talmadge as having inspired the tradition when she accidentally stepped into the wet concrete. However, in a short interview during the September 13, 1937, Lux Radio Theatre broadcast of a radio adaptation of A Star Is Born, Grauman related another version of how he got the idea to put hand and foot prints in the concrete. He said it was "pure accident. I walked right into it. While we were building the theatre, I accidentally happened to step in some soft concrete. And there it was. So, I went to Mary Pickford immediately. Mary put her foot into it." Still another account by the construction foreman at the time, Jean Klossner, recounts that Klossner autographed his work next to the right-hand poster kiosk and that he and Grauman developed the idea then and there. His autograph and handprint, dated 1927, remain today. The theater's third founding partner, Douglas Fairbanks, was the second celebrity, after Talmadge, to be immortalized in the concrete.
In 1929 Sid Grauman decided it was time to retire and sold his share to William Fox's Fox Theatres chain. However, just a few months later Grauman was talked out of retirement by Howard Hughes, who wanted Grauman to produce the world premiere of his aviation epic Hells Angels, which would also feature one of Grauman's famous theatrical prologues before the film. Grauman stayed on as the theater's managing director for the entire run of Hells Angels, retiring once again after its run finished. But, unsatisfied with retirement, Grauman returned to the theater as managing director on Christmas Day 1931, and kept that position until his death in 1950.
One of the highlights of the Chinese Theatre has always been its grandeur and décor, and in 1952 John Tartaglia, also the artist of Saint Sophia (Los Angeles), became the head interior decorator of the Chinese Theatre as well as the chain of theatres, then owned by Fox West Coast Theatres. He would later carry on the work of Jean Klossner, by recommendation of J. Walter Bantau, for the Hollywood Footprint Ceremonies. Tartaglia performed his first ceremony as a Master Mason for Jean Simmons in 1953, for the premiere of The Robe, the first premiere in Cinemascope. Although Klossner's replacement was initially thought to be a temporary job for Tartaglia, his dedication to the job would result in a 35-year career in which he last performed as the Master Mason/Cement Artist in honor of Eddie Murphy in May 1987, leaving behind one of the greatest legacies in Hollywood.
The Chinese Theatre was declared a historic and cultural landmark in 1968, and has undergone various restoration projects in the years since then. In 1973 it was purchased by Ted Mann, owner of the Mann Theatres chain and husband of actress Rhonda Fleming. From then until 2001 it was known as Mann's Chinese Theatre. In the wake of Mann's bankruptcy, the theater, along with the other Mann properties, was sold in 2000 to a partnership of Warner Bros. and Paramount Pictures, which also acquired the Mann brand name.
In 2000, an architectural firm that worked for Mann Theatres, Behr Browers Architects, prepared a restoration and modernization program for the building. The program included a seismic upgrade, new state-of-the-art sound and projection, new vending kiosks and exterior signage, and the addition of a larger concession area under the balcony. The program was finally implemented in 2002 and the original name -- "Grauman's Chinese Theater" -- was restored to the cinema palace. As part of the upgrade, Behr Browers Architects also designed a new Chinese-themed six-plex in the attached Hollywood and Highland mall that continued to operate under the name Mann's Chinese 6 Theatre.
In 2008, the land the theatre sits on was sold to the CIM Group for an undisclosed price. Mann Theatres continued to have a long-term lease on the venue for movie premieres and continued to operate it as a film house. The land was sold to CIM by the Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation of New York and Barlow Respiratory Hospital of Los Angeles. CIM Group also owns the Hollywood and Highland retail mall next to the Chinese Theatre, as well as numerous other residential and commercial properties in Hollywood. On May 27, 2011 both Grauman's Chinese and the adjacent Mann Chinese 6 were purchased by nightclub owner/producer Elie Samaha and producer Donald Kushner as Chinese Theatres, LLC.
The exterior of the theater is meant to resemble a giant, red Chinese pagoda. The architecture features a huge Chinese dragon across the front, two authentic Ming Dynasty Heaven Dogs guarding the main entrance, and the silhouettes of tiny dragons up and down the sides of the copper roof. To the dismay of many fans of historic architecture, the free-standing ticket booth was removed (it was not original to the theater, but rather installed in the 1930s), along with the left and right neon marquees—but their absence brings the theater back closer to its original state. The auditorium has been completely restored, along with much of the exterior; however, the wear and tear on the physical structure over the years has caused some of the external décor to be removed, rather than repaired.
Grauman's Chinese Theatre continues to serve the public as a first-run movie theater. Many Hollywood films have had their premieres at the Chinese Theatre throughout its history. Today its premieres are attended by celebrities and large throngs of fans as they have been since 1927.
There are nearly 200 Hollywood celebrity handprints, footprints, and autographs in the concrete of the theater's forecourt.
Variations of this honored tradition are imprints of the eyeglasses of Harold Lloyd, the cigar of Groucho Marx, the magic wands of Harry Potter stars Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint, the facial profile of John Barrymore (reflecting his nickname "The Great Profile"), the legs of Betty Grable, the fist of John Wayne, the knees of Al Jolson, the ice skating blades of Sonja Henie, and the noses of Jimmy Durante and Bob Hope.
Western stars William S. Hart and Roy Rogers left imprints of their guns. The hoofprints of "Tony", the horse of Tom Mix, "Champion", the horse of Gene Autry, and "Trigger", the horse of Rogers, were left in the concrete beside the prints of the stars who rode them in the movies.
Since 2011, there has been a surge of concrete ceremonies, many of which have been paid for by movie studios for publicity reasons. One of the theater's current owners, Donald Kushner, acknowledged this and referred to them as mock ceremonies. This influx has been a matter of concern for film buffs and historians, as well as misleading for fans. However, despite the increase of cement blocks, the ones placed within the forecourt are still chosen by a special committee who selects celebrities based on their contributions to Hollywood cinema. Practice blocks (done inside the theatre before the ceremony) are placed on the walls of the Chinese 6 Theatre lobby, which is also used as an event space.
In April 2013, plans were announced to convert the original theatre for IMAX. The Chinese IMAX ranks as the largest (seating) capacity IMAX theatre in the world. The new 94 x 46 foot silver screen is curved and can be masked down for premieres and screening events of non-Imax films. To accommodate better sightlines and a taller screen, the seating is arranged in stepped rows, descending from street level down to the former basement floor. The auditorium's decorative walls and ceiling remain unaltered, the existing curtain was extended, decorative lighting effects were added and TCL added digital signage. The theatre reopened on September 20, 2013 with the IMAX 3D version of The Wizard of Oz.
- Verrier, Richard (January 11, 2013). "China firm buys naming rights to Grauman's Chinese Theatre". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved January 11, 2013.
- "Chinese Theatres – History". Mann Theatre. Retrieved September 26, 2012.
- Starwars.com: Star Wars at the Chinese Theatre[dead link]
- "Business". The Chicago Sun-Times. January 12, 2000. Retrieved April 17, 2007.[dead link]
- "Grauman's Chinese Theatre". Behr Browers Architects. Retrieved 21 January 2013.
- Vincent, Roger (February 28, 2004). "Trizec Completes Sale of Multiuse Complex". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2008-12-18.
- Miller, Daniel (April 28, 2011). "Grauman's Chinese Theatre to Be Sold to Producers Elie Samaha, Don Kushner". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved May 3, 2011.
- "Academy Awards, USA". The Internet Movie Database. Retrieved April 17, 2007.
- Kaufman, Amy. "Grauman's Chinese: Movie star prints' futures not set in cement". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 20 September 2012.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Grauman's Chinese Theatre.|
- Official website
- Classic Movie Actors and Actresses with imprints at Grauman's Chinese Theatre (sortable by name and ceremony date at Classic Movie Hub)
- Clickable Map of star handprints & footprints
- Map and list of celebrity handprints
- (Photo History)