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Grauman's Egyptian Theater

Movie Palaces

Grauman's Egyptian Theater

By the early Twenties, enormous, ornate theaters, known as movie palaces had been built in San Francisco and Los Angeles. For several years, C. E. Toberman had attempted to induce Sid Grauman and his father to locate in Hollywood. The two Graumans had come to Los Angeles and built the lavish Million Dollar Theater at Third and Broadway.

Finally, C.E. Toberman convinced Sid Grauman to open the first of the grand Hollywood movie palaces. The Grauman's Egyptian Theatre cost $800,000, was constructed over 18 months and hadaseating capacity of 1,771. The Egyptian theme was chosen for

Grauman's Egyptian Theater


the name and decor to take advantage of the excitement drawn by the discoveries in Egypt for ancient artifact such as King Tutankhamen.  Toberman and Grauman chose Architects Mendel Meyer & Phillip W. Holler of the Milwaukee Building Co. to design the building with decorator Raymond M. Kennedy in charge of decorative details.

First Movie Premieres

“Robin Hood”, starring Douglas Fairbanks, became the very first movie 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”, starring Ernest Torrence, followed by “The Ten Commandments” which premiered at the theatre on December 4, 1923. This was followed by “The Thief of Bagdad” (also starring Douglas Fairbanks)  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.

Sid Grauman left the Egyptian Theatre in 1927 to open Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, which was located three block west of the Egyptian Theater. Fox West Coast Theatres operated the Egyptian Theater but continued to  keep Sid Grauman’s name on the title of the theater.

Over the next several years, improvement were made to the theater.  In 1944, the Egyptian Theatre became the Hollywood showcase for MGM and it became a first-run premiere house again.

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.

Theater Renovations

In 1992, the building was closed and shuttered and was badly damaged in the 1994 Northridge earthquake.  The theater was badly in need of renovations. 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. Anniversary of the film’s original World Premiere at Grauman’s  Egyptian Theater.

Chinese Theater

Three years after the Egyptian was opened, Sid Grauman, again, convinced C.E. Toberman to build him a new theater, down the street on Hollywood Blvd.   Chinese  architecture and motif was selected and in 1927, the Grauman’s Chinese Theater was opened.

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