Grauman’s Chinese Theatre (branded as TCL Chinese Theatre) is a movie palace on the historic Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6925 Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood, Los Angeles, California, United States. The TCL Chinese Theatre is the most iconic movie palace in the world. With over 50 events a year, including movie premieres, imprint ceremonies, and film festivals, the theatre continues to make Hollywood history every day.
Developed by impresario Sid Grauman, this world-famous theatre has been a Hollywood icon since the day it opened. Designed by the architecture firm Meyer & Holler in a dramatic yet fanciful interpretation of Chinese architecture and art, the theatre features a pagoda-shaped roof rising to 90 feet, supported by massive columns topped by wrought iron masks. Imported temple bells, pagodas, stone Heaven Dogs, and other artifacts from China are integrated into the theatre’s design.
Since 1927, the TCL Chinese Theatre has been the home to the most prominent red carpet movie premieres and special events. It’s where Hollywood’s biggest and brightest stars come to watch their movies. The Chinese Theatre has been home to many premieres, including the 1977 launch of George Lucas’ Star Wars, as well as birthday parties, corporate junkets, and three Academy Awards ceremonies.
Among the theatre’s 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 first celebrity footprint was that of silent film star Norma Talmadge, added in 1927 when she accidentally stepped out on the wet cement. That gave Grauman an idea that later became the theatre’s most famous feature.
Recently a permanent costume collection called the Hollywood Legends Collection was added, which feature various different costumes for a limited time. The first wave on display from November 15th, 2011 includes Marilyn Monroe’s gold lame gown from “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes”, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s costume from “Terminator 2”, Rita Hayworth’s black satin gown from “Gilda”, and more.
Since 2013, the Chinese Theatre cooperate with China’s biggest electronics manufacturers TCL, in a 10-year naming rights partnership. This partnership has brought many exciting upgrades and preservation projects to the Chinese Theatre. For example, new sloped seating, new digital marquee, main lobby refurbishments and key technology upgrades for both the audio and visual presentation. Not only do these enhancements bring the cherished venue back to the glory days when showman-founder Sid Grauman first opened the theatre, but they will also give the storied movie palace a new lease on life and provide theatre-goers with a much improved, truly world-class movie experience.
It’s the world’s largest IMAX auditorium, as well as the only movie palace in California with a state-of-the-art IMAX Laser projection experience. Watching a movie here is not just a night out, it’s a memorable event. The IMAX laser experience at the TCL Chinese Theatre represents a quantum leap forward in cinema technology – providing audiences with the sharpest, brightest, clearest and most vivid digital images ever, combined with a whole new level of immersive audio. The experience of seeing a movie at the TCL Chinese Theatre IMAX is truly unparalleled.
The grand opening of Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in Hollywood on May 18, 1927, was the most spectacular theatre opening in motion picture history. The film being premiered that night was Cecil B. DeMille’s “The King of Kings,” which was preceded by “Glories of the Scriptures,” a live prologue devised by master showman Sid Grauman. A Wurlitzer organ and 65-piece orchestra provided music for the prologue. The theatre opened to the public the following day, May 19, 1927.
The Chinese Theatres is the most sought-after theatre in Hollywood for studio premieres. Fans flock to these events to see the celebrities arrive and walk up the red carpet into the theatre. Rich in movie tradition, with its cement handprints and footprints in the forecourt, the Chinese Theatre immortalizes the brightest stars. More than four million visitors from all over the world visit The Chinese Theatre every year.
The Chinese Theatre hosted the 1944, 1945, and 1946 Academy Awards ceremonies; they are now held at the adjacent Dolby Theatre, formerly known as the Kodak Theatre.
One of the highlights of the Chinese Theatre has always been its grandeur and décor. In 1952, John Tartaglia, the artist of nearby Saint Sophia Cathedral, became the head interior decorator of the Chinese Theatre, as well as the theater chain then owned by Fox West Coast Theatres. He later continued the work of Klossner, by recommendation of J. Walter Bantau, for the Hollywood footprint ceremonies.
The Chinese Theatre was declared a historic and cultural landmark in 1968, and has undergone restoration projects in the years since then. Ted Mann, owner of the Mann Theatres chain and husband of actress Rhonda Fleming, purchased it in 1973. From then until 2001, it was known as Mann’s Chinese Theatre. Mann Theatres grew to become the largest independent chain in the country before Mann sold the business, including the Chinese Theatre, to Gulf+Western in 1986.
Chinese Theatres was declared a historic-cultural landmark in 1968, and there has always been a restoration program in process to maintain the theatre’s beauty. Following the 1994 Los Angeles earthquake, geological experts were brought in to inspect the theatre and advise the owners with regard to protecting and strengthening the entire structure.
In 2000, Behr Browers Architects, a firm previously engaged by Mann Theatres, prepared a restoration and modernization program for the structure. 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.
In 2001, the theatre underwent major renovations that coincided with the opening of the Hollywood & Highland mall and the new Chinese 6 Theatres. This renovation was designed to rejuvenate and enhance the Chinese Theatre. Additionally, several earthquake retrofits were required to protect the structure and ensure its permanence. The program began in 2002, as part of the upgrade, Behr Browers also designed a new Chinese-themed six-plex in the attached Hollywood and Highland shopping center that continued to operate under the name Mann’s Chinese 6 Theatre.
On January 11, 2013, the world famous Chinese Theatre announced that they would be teaming up with one of China’s biggest electronics manufacturers, TCL, aka “The Creative Life” in a 10-year naming rights partnership. With this partnership, TCL and the Chinese Theatres have plans to preserve a legacy that was created more than 85 years ago and will continue for many years to come.
The legacy of the Chinese Theatre is to be a leader in exhibition, to be at the forefront of new technology, to push the envelope, and to offer patrons the best experience possible. The best way to honor its legacy is to bring the theatre into the future and to continue to evolve with the times. The Chinese Theatre will have the ability to remain current and continue to be the best in the world with their newly formed partnership with TCL.
Grauman’s Chinese Theatre cost a very large amount for the time, $2.1 million, and had an elaborate “oriental” decorative scheme. The Chinese Theatre was in Exotic Revival style architecture. The space to build the theatre upon was large. Among the theater’s most distinctive features are the concrete blocks set in the courtyard that bear the signatures, footprints, and handprints of popular motion picture personalities from the 1920s to the present day.
The ornate exterior and celebrated forecourt of the theatre is enticing, resembling a giant, red Chinese pagoda, the theatre’s architecture features a huge dragon snaking its way across the front, two stone lions guarding the main entrance, and the silhouettes of tiny dragons racing up and down the sides of the theatre’s ornate, copper roof. The bronze roof of the exterior pagoda structure rises up, and rests upon massive red columns topped by wrought-iron masks.
In the spirit of “the show starts on the sidewalk”, after enter the gate, patrons were transported to an exotic garden. Protected by its 40-foot high curved walls and copper-topped turrets, the theatre’s legendary forecourt serves as an oasis to the stars. Ten-foot tall lotus-shaped fountains and intricate artistry flank the footprints of some of Hollywood’s most elite and welcome its visitors into the magical world of fantasy.
Chinese artisans created many pieces of statuary in the work area, together with temple bells, pagodas, stone Heaven Dogs and other artifacts from China, which can only import by authorization, that eventually became the Forecourt of the Stars. Most of these pieces still decorate the ornate interior of the theatre today.
The interior of the theatre also elaborately decorated and remains in good condition. Its interior decor is a dazzling blur of exotic Asian motifs. The lobby boasts elaborate wall murals depicting life in the Orient, bold red and gold columns, and a colossal, intricate Chinese chandelier. In the lobby’s west wing is a glass case containing three wax figures (from the Hollywood Wax Museum) wearing authentic Chinese costumes from Cathay. The three female figures surround a now-empty chair that once held the wax likeness of actress Rhonda Fleming, wife of owner Ted Mann. Movie-makers used to consider it good luck to come to the theatre and touch these wax figures before embarking on a new film project.
Inside the vast auditorium, the 2,200 bright red seats and red carpeting are kept clean and in excellent condition. Overhead, a spectacular chandelier illuminates the center of a mammoth, ornate starburst, surrounded by a ring of dragons – which is, in turn, encircled by a ring of icons portraying scenes from Chinese drama. Smaller Oriental lamps glow at the sides of the auditorium, hanging between intricately-carved stone columns; black & white murals of trees and pagodas fill the spaces in between.
Celebrities contributed to the theater’s decor. The murals decorating the main lobby are by Keye Luke. Xavier Cugat painted the trees and foliage between the pillars on the side walls. John Beckman contributed to many aspects of the interior design. A 3-manual 17-rank Wurlitzer organ was installed. Its pipes were above the proscenium with tone chutes directing the sound through holes in the ceiling.
The balcony section was divided into four private opera boxes for visiting celebrities. There are large number of assorted Asian statues, gongs, vases, shields, and friezes employed to add to the theatre’s overall exotic ambiance.
Nearly 200 Hollywood celebrity handprints, footprints, and autographs are in the concrete of the theater’s forecourt. Fairbanks and Pickford were the first, done on April 30, 1927.
Variations of this honored tradition are imprints of Harold Lloyd’s eyeglasses, Groucho Marx’s cigar, Whoopi Goldberg’s dreadlock, the wands used by Harry Potter stars Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, and Emma Watson, John Barrymore’s facial profile (reflecting his nickname “The Great Profile”), Betty Grable’s legs, and Marilyn Monroe’s earring.
Western stars William S. Hart and Roy Rogers left imprints of their guns. Herbie, a Volkswagen Beetle, left the imprints of his tires. The hoofprints of Tom Mix’s horse, “Tony”, Gene Autry’s horse, “Champion”, and Rogers’ horse, “Trigger”, were left in the concrete beside the prints of their owners.
Many stories exist to explain the origins of the footprints. During construction, Grauman hired Jean Klossner to formulate an extremely hard concrete for the forecourt of the theater. Klossner later became known as “Mr. Footprint”, performing the footprint ceremonies from 1927 through 1957.
The theater’s official account credits Norma Talmadge as having inspired the tradition when she accidentally stepped into the wet concrete. Another account, says that the original “accidental” slabs were made and stayed, at the curb, on the sidewalk, until 1958, when they were removed for the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Still another account by Klossner recounts that Klossner autographed his work next to the right-hand poster kiosk and that Grauman and he 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.
Because of limited space, despite the increase of concrete blocks, the ones placed within the forecourt are still chosen by a special committee which selects celebrities based on their contributions to Hollywood cinema. Practice blocks, completed inside the theater 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, owners announced plans to convert the original theatre for IMAX. Reopening after extensive renovations in September 2013, the TCL Chinese Theatre proudly became the first, and currently only, IMAX theatre in Hollywood, California.
The new 94 ft × 46 ft (29 m × 14 m) silver screen is curved and can be masked for premieres and screening events of non-IMAX films. To accommodate better sightlines and a taller screen, seating was re-arranged in stepped rows, descending from street level to the floor of the former basement. The auditorium’s decorative walls and ceiling remain unaltered, the existing curtain was extended, decorative lighting effects were added and TCL added digital signage.
Equipped with all of the technological marvels of The IMAX Experience, including ground-breaking, crystal-clear laser projection, cutting-edge laser-aligned sound technology and an enormous, curved screen spanning both from floor to ceiling and wall to wall, providing moviegoers visiting this historic site with one of the world’s most immersive cinematic experiences.
With the blessing of both the Los Angeles Historical Theatre Foundation and Hollywood’s Historic Resources Group, the TCL Chinese Theatre partnered with IMAX Corporation to introduce one of the largest IMAX auditoriums in the world. Our revitalized cinema luxuriously seats 932 people, and hosts the third largest commercial movie screen in North America, joining an exclusive class of theatres along with cinemas such as the Metrodome IMAX theatre in San Francisco and Lincoln Square IMAX theatre in New York City.
The theatre reopened on September 20, 2013, with the IMAX 3D version of The Wizard of Oz. Although it opened with only a digital projection system, a 70 mm projection system was added for Interstellar. In April 2015, the IMAX system was upgraded to use the new dual-4K IMAX with Laser projector system for the premiere of Furious 7.
The TCL Chinese Theatres Tour helps learn the history of the cinema palace from inside and out. Stroll through Hollywood movie history by step off the red carpet and walk through the golden doors of this Movie Palace of the Stars. The Tour features stories and fun facts from the theatres beginnings to today, ranging from Hollywood premieres, to imprint ceremonies of favorite celebrities in the Forecourt of the Stars.