Opened in 1926, the current Shrine Auditorium replaced an earlier 1906 Al Malaikah Temple which had been destroyed by a fire on January 11, 1920. The fire gutted the original building in just 30 minutes, and nearly killed six firefighters in the process. The new auditorium was designed in the Moorish Revival style by San Francisco-based theater architect G. Albert Lansburgh, with local architects John C. Austin and A. M. Edelman associated. When built, the auditorium could hold 1,200 people on stage and seat an audience of 6,442. An engineer who consulted on the project said that the steel truss supporting the balcony was the largest ever constructed.
The Shrine Auditorium in 1990, before being repainted in 2002.
In 2002, the auditorium underwent a $15 million renovation that upgraded the stage with state-of-the-art lighting and rigging systems, and included new roofing and air conditioning for both the Auditorium and Expo Center, modernized concession stands, additional restrooms, repainting of the Expo Center, and a new performance plaza and parking garage. The entire complex follows a Moroccan architectural motif.
The Shrine Auditorium seats approximately 6,300 people (reseated during the 2002 renovation from the original 6,700 capacity) and has a stage 194 feet (59 m) wide and 69 feet (21 m) deep.
The Shrine Auditorium has hosted a number of events, mainly for entertainment. The Academy Awards were held at the Shrine from 1947–1948 and eight times between 1988 and 2001 until it moved to the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood. The Shrine hosted several Grammy ceremonies until 2000 when the Grammys moved to the nearby Staples Center. The Primetime Emmy Awards were also held at the venue for a decade beginning in 1998. However, the Primetime ceremony moved to the nearby Nokia Theatre (which is adjacent to Staples Center).
The 1933 movie King Kong filmed the audience in the Shrine Auditorium for the scenes where Kong was displayed manacled on stage.
The Shrine was know in the mid 1960s as “The Pinnacle” to rock concert goers. On August 24, 1968, The Grateful Dead performed and recorded their show, later released as a live album, entitled Two from the Vault.
On January 27, 1984, Michael Jackson was filming a Pepsi commercial, when pyrotechnics accidentally set his hair on fire. He suffered second degree burns to his scalp as a result of the incident.
On November 8–9, 1995, Fugazi performed two sold-out concerts at the venue.
The auditorium has hosted KIIS-FM's Jingle Ball three times, on December 16, 2000, December 19, 2001 and December 6, 2005.
The Los Angeles Shrine Circus has been held at the Shrine annually since 1926.
The Auditorium features two boxes above the orchestra level holding 40 people each and seven loges on the balcony holding between 36 and 47 seats each (total capacity of the loges: 274). Of the remaining seats, 2,964 are on the orchestra level and 2,982 on the balcony level.
In 1998, the Shrine held the KROQ Almost Acoustic Christmas concert, which eventually found a home at the Gibson Amphitheatre. With the announcement in 2013 that the Gibson Amphitheater was being torn down in order to construct a new Harry Potter attraction at Universal Studios, the concert returned to the Shrine.
Adjacent to the Shrine Auditorium is the Shrine Expo Center, which features 54,000 square feet (5,000 m2) of exhibit and meeting space—34,000 in the main level and 20,000 in an open mezzanine. The Expo Center has a capacity of 4,000 patrons. Trade shows, banquets, conventions and electronic music festivals, among other events, have been held there.