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Vintage photos of Hollywood Theaters

Vintage Photos of Hollywood Theaters

The largest collection of Hollywood Theaters is on the website.  There are more than 1000 vintage photos, covering over fifty old theaters.


Hollywood’s First Theater

From the invention of movies in 1895, it took 15 years for movies to reach rural Hollywood. This distinction of being the first movie theater in Hollywood goes to the Idyl Hour Theater, located at 6525 Hollywood Blvd. . Established in either late 1910 or early 1911, the theater was nothing more than a converted store with chairs, a projector, and a screen. The small theater changed its name, in 1913, to the Iris theater and moved to 6415 Hollywood Blvd. Four years later, in 1918, the theater moved again to a new 1000 seat theater at 6508 Hollywood Blvd.


Hollywood’s Second Theater

Hollywood's second theater was, appropriately called, the Hollywood theater. It opened in 1913, had a capacity of 700 and charged $.10 for general admission, $.15 for loge seats and a nickel for children. At those prices it prospered and today it is the oldest theater in Hollywood. However it no longer shows movies. It is a tourist attraction named Ripley's believe it or not.

Palace Theaters

Until the very early 1920s, most of the movie theaters in the country were relatively small. As movies increased in popularity and length, it was felt, particularly by Sid Grauman , that larger theaters needed to be built. When the first movies were made, they consisted of one or two real films that lasted about 20 minutes. As time went on movies increased in length and in complexity. In the late teens Sid Grauman built large theaters in San Francisco and downtown Los Angeles. So, Sid Grauman proved to be the perfect man to unite movies with Hollywood. For years, Charles Toberman had attempted to induce Grauman and his father to locate in Hollywood. When the Romans finally agreed in 1922 two of the most famous theaters were to be built.


Egyptian Theater

In 1922, program and built the huge Egyptian theater on Hollywood Boulevard, east of McCadden Pl.ace.  The Egyptian’s premiere of Douglas Fairbanks movie, Robin Hood, was tame compared to Grauman's future openings, but the theater and the film were huge successes. Sid Grauman, was the first to implement a gala premiere for movies. Unlike all previous movie theaters, the Egyptian theater had a large forecourt in front of the actual theater. Sid brought in props, from the movie that was being shown, and place them in the theaters forecourt.


Chinese Theater

With the success of the Egyptian Theater, Sid Grauman was looking to build another theater. He again contacted Toberman, who secured a long-term lease on property located at 6925 Hollywood Blvd. By 1925, the firm of Meyer & Holler had completed the plans for Grauman's Chinese theater. It was planned to make it a look veritable museum of Chinese art, architecture, and culture,. Official government authorization was gained for the importation temple bells, pagodas, Fu Dogs and rare artifacts.

On Armistice Day, November 11, 1925, the first rivet in the steel girders was driven in by beautiful Chinese actress Anna May Wong. During the course of construction, and accident occurred that later evolved to one of Hollywood's greatest tourist attractions: the placing of celebrity hand and footprints in the forecourt of the Chinese theater. There have been many stories as to the origin of the tradition, and all can be dismissed as folklore. The most popular of the fabricated tales suggests that the IDF for the hand and footprints was sparked when said Grauman witnessed Norma Talmadge stepping into fresh cement as she got out of the car while visiting the theater. It is also been the popular belief that Norma Talmadge was the first celebrity to place hand and footprints in the theaters for court. The true story, which lacks the glamour of the other details, is that chrome and was walking across the theaters for court when he was confronted by his chief cement mason, who scolded Sid for walking in the freshly laid cement. After making peace with his cement mason Sid asked Douglas Fairbanks, Mary Pickford and Norma Talmadge to come to the theater at once. Upon their arrival, he had them place their footprints in the new curbstone. However, the cement was nearly dry, causing the impressions to be too faint. In April 1927, just three weeks before the completion of construction, Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks were again invite it back -- this time to formally place their hand and footprints and signatures in the center of the theaters forecourt. A few days later, Grauman had Norma Talmadge make similar impressions next to those made by Pickford and Fairbanks.

The theater had its grand opening on May 18, 1927, when Cecil B DeMille premiered his movie, King of Kings. Hundreds of fans thronged the street outside the theater to view the magnificent structure and to seek the autographs of some of the arriving stars dripping with mink and diamonds in the best Hollywood tradition. It was written in the papers as the grandest opening ever held.

El Capitan Theater

Legitimate theaters in Hollywood grew side-by-side with the movie houses. In 1926, Charles Toberman opened a tremendous theater, with a 120 foot wide stage, called El Capitan, across the street from the future site of the Chinese theater. The El Capitan's first presentation was a review featuring British stars Beatrice Lillie, Jack Buchanan, and Gertrude Lawrence. It continued as a live theater until 1942, when it was remodeled for the showing of movies and was later renamed Paramount theater. In the 1990s the Disney company purchased and remodeled the theater and remodeled the theater and adopted the original name of El Capitan. 

Visit to view the best Hollywood Theater photographs. 

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