Grauman's Chinese Theatre

the chinese theatre pages:

6925 Hollywood Blvd.

Los Angeles, CA  90028  | map |

(323) 464-8111

Website: | showtimes |
| imax |
the Chinese on Facebook |

And by Chinese Theatre historian Kurt Wahlner:
| | every film | signage |
| Academy Awards at the Chinese | Kurt on Facebook |
| quick view timeline | projection and sound |


May 18, 1927 by Sid Grauman (March 17, 1879 - March 5, 1950) as his second Hollywood theatre--the first was the Egyptian in 1922. 

On the screen was Cecil B. DeMille's "King of Kings" and on stage was a giant scripture-inspired prologue with a cast of over 100 accompanied by an orchestra of 65. The show ran for months on a twice-a-day reserved seat policy. The theatre has remained a major first run venue since its 1927 opening.

The cover of the opening program, from
a post on Christopher Crouch's Cinelog.
 full size view  | dedication page

The orange border above is from the original Chinese Theatre stationery. Thanks to actor Stephen Stanton for including it on his website He was a manager at the theatre in the early 80s -- check out his Chinese Theatre page for many photos.

An ad appearing on opening day offering to
 sell bonds backed by a 50% mortgage on the theatre
It's from the collection of Cezar Del Valle.
 larger view

The cover of the Chinese Theatre program for "The Gaucho"
 with Douglas Fairbanks, the theatre's second attraction.
 It was a 1927 United Artists release. With the film
 was the Grauman prologue "Argentine Nights." 
full size view

The inside of the program for "The Gaucho."
full size view

An ad in the 1928 Film Daily Yearbook.
 full size view


It was a Meyer & Holler project with Raymond M. Kennedy as the principal architect.  The firm had earlier done the Egyptian for Grauman and had earlier experience with a Chinese-themed interior at the West Coast Theatre in Long Beach which had opened in 1925.

The 150' x 250' lot size for the Chinese allowed for one of the largest stages in town, all seating on one level and room left over for a forecourt designed for huge crowds of adoring fans during premieres.  In promotional materials at the time the cost was given as $1.2 million, probably a seriously inflated figure.

A preliminary sketch for the theatre's asbestos curtain
by Raymond M. Kennedy. It was part of a November
2012 Christie's Popular Culture auction
larger view 

A rendering of the facade by Raymond M. Kennedy in
a Christie's Popular Culture auction catalog.
larger view

Many of the decorative aspects of the design were the responsibility of John Gabriel Beckman, who was also involved in a number of other Meyer & Holler projects.

A plan of the theatre's upper level from a post entitled
 "Blueprints and Celluloid Dreams" on Martha Wade
Steketee's blog "Looking Outside."  Originals are 30" x 44"
larger view   Also on the post: | facade elevation  |

A section view of the theatre from inside the front cover of
Terry Helgesen's special issue of Console magazine.
slightly larger view

An interesting souvenir is this bit of the batch of the structural
steel used in the building.  Thanks to Parker Kaufmann for this
 photo of the paperweight in his collection. Around the center
it says "Punching from structural steel Grauman's Chinese
Theatre - Los Angeles - McClintic Marshall Co."
full size view 


932 after the IMAX renovations of 2013. It was 2,058 in 1927 -- all on one level. The 2 small boxes on a mezzanine level on either side of the booth were added in the 50s.  Later the seating was down to 1,492. When the house was reseated in 2001 the capacity ended up at 1,151.

Hillsman Wright, of the L.A. Historic Theatre Foundation notes the floor of the orchestra seating area was originally maple, replaced by concrete in the 40s. The whole area was demolished in 1958 (along with the pit and front of the stage) and a concrete floor with a new slope was installed. 

With the 2001 renovation pushing the lobby into the rear of the seating area, it was necessary to go down steps to the new back row.  The 2013 renovation design results in the last row again at lobby level (as in 1927, but farther forward) and the front rows lower -- achieved by excavating the front of the auditorium. This allows for a higher IMAX  format screen as well. 

Pipe Organ: 

It was a 3/17 Wurlitzer. Instead of the normal chamber location the organ at the Chinese (like the one at the Egyptian) spoke via a "tone chute" so that the sound emanated from the ceiling.  The single chamber was directly in front of the proscenium wall, above ceiling level.

An ad for the Wurlitzer installation at the Chinese from
 the February 25, 1928 issue of Motion Picture News.
 full size view | on Internet Archive

Fox West Coast gave the organ to the Catholic Diocese of Los Angeles in 1957 and much of it ended up installed at St. Filbar's Church in Burbank.  The console, now minus its Chinese ornamentation, is installed at the Stanford Theatre in Palo Alto.  There were actually two consoles, one at either end of the pit. One was a dummy, just there for symmetry. Some other parts of the organ are now in Lithuania.


The project was developed by C.E. Toberman (1880 - 1981) who had earlier built the Egyptian Theatre for Grauman. Others with a stake in the venture included West Coast Theatres (soon to become Fox West Coast) and part of the United Artists cabal: Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks and Joe Schenck (head of United Artists). 

An early Mott Studios view of the top of the Chinese
 from across the street at the Roosevelt Hotel Cinegrill.
The photo was added to the Vintage Los Angeles
Facebook page by Brian McCray.
full size view | on Vintage LA

The initial policy was two shows daily with reserved seats: a matinee and evening show both preceded by an elaborate prologue. The policy lasted (on and off) until 1934 when the prologues were abandoned and the Chinese went to a four shows a day policy. 

The first talkie to play the Chinese was "White Shadows in the South Seas" (MGM) which opened August 3, 1928.  Motion Picture News reviewed it in their August 11 issue and was not enthusiastic about either the film or the Grauman prologue. Another early talkie premiere was Warner's "Noah's Arc" on November 1, 1928. It got 5 pages of ads and photos in the November 3 issue of Motion Picture News.

One of the early sound films getting a longer run was "Broadway Melody" (MGM) which opened February 1, 1929 for a 19 week run. See the Chinese Theatre website by Kurt Wahlner for lots of year-by-year data on engagements at the Chinese.

United Artists soon bought the shares that West Coast Theatres had in the operation. A news account reported Grauman saying "it will not affect the operation or policies of the house" as he had a long term contract as managing director. At the time this left Grauman (reportedly) with a one-third interest and UA with two-thirds.  Even though at the time UA was the majority owner, they had no interest in running the operation.

Grauman then sold his one-third interest to Fox in June 1929 and temporarily left the operation.  The ads and signage started saying "Direction Fox West Coast Theatres" and Rusty White was transferred from Loew's State to the Chinese as manager. Eventually UA sold their two-thirds share to Fox as well.

A flyer for the run of "Hollywood Revue of 1929," an MGM
release that had a 13 week run beginning with its world premiere
June 20, 1929. Note Harold B. Franklin of Fox West Coast put
his name at the top. It's in
Movie Theater Stuff, a Todd
(no relation, we assume) collection on Flickr.
 full size view | in Todd's album

With Fox in charge, and Grauman flitting in and out, the elaborate prologues became a less frequent part of the programming. Fox tried a number of other things including structuring shows around a band onstage, offering special late night performances and supplementing the films with various acts produced by Fanchon & Marco. And sometimes they just ran movies. And there were occasional dark periods as well. 

Grauman's theatres always had a reputation for smelling nice.  The system he used at the Chinese was called Per-Fu, from the West Coast Perfume Corporation.  An ad in the February 13, 1932 issue of Motion Picture Herald noted that it "Deodorizes - Refreshes - Pleases."  The stuff came in solid pellets, inert until placed in their "electric disseminator" where you had a rheostat to control the "strength of aroma desired."

A January 30, 1932 ad in Motion Picture Herald
 featured both Sid and the Chinese.
"Per-Fu is a fact
not an experiment." 
It was available through your
 local National Theatre Supply Co. office.
full size view | on Internet Archive

Grauman had an ongoing role at the Chinese up until his death in 1950.  There were other "managers" but he was always the "managing director." Sometimes (at least in the early 30s anyway) he produced prologues, sometimes he was  just around for ceremonial events like footprint ceremonies. But he never again had an ownership stake. After mid-1929 he was working under contract to Fox West Coast. 

In addition to working for Fox, Grauman tried a bit of film producing and presented a few legit shows at other theatres including the Hollywood Playhouse and the Mayan. Among Grauman's noteworthy early 30s successes at the Chinese was his work organizing the ballyhoo and directing the prologue for the Howard Hughes production "Hell's Angels."

A Cinegrill view taken by an unknown photographer
during the May 27, 1930 premiere of "Hell's Angels."
Thanks to Kurt Wahlner for dating the photo. It's
on Vintage Los Angeles from Brian McCray. 
full size view  | on Vintage LA

Another Grauman prologue that was well received was for MGM's "Hell Divers," opening Christmas Day 1931.  His prologue for "King Kong" in 1933 had a cast of 100 including "Glorifying 50 Creole Belles - Jungle Settings - Weird Voodoo Dancers - Darktown Dudes"  plus a "free menagerie, strange beasties and King Kong himself." 

In 1934 the Chinese went to a double bill policy with continuous performances and the prologues were no more.
There were stage shows after 1934 but not on a regular basis.

A ticket from 1936 in the Kurt Wahlner collection on Playing that week on a double
bill were "It Had To Happen" and "Exclusive Story."
larger view

A 1936 view of Grauman with Mary Pickford
on UCLA Calisphere. It's a Burton Frasher photo
in the collection of the Pomona Public Library. 
full size view

A ticket for the 1939 premiere of "The Wizard of Oz" from
the collection of Alison Martino on Vintage Los Angeles.
full size view | on Vintage LA

Later, the Chinese occasionally featured stage shows "on the famous stage" such as the four week 1939 run of "Revue Folies Bergeres" advertised as "Intact! Complete! From Paris." In 1949 Grauman was given a special Oscar for showmanship, the only one ever given to a theatre operator. He was still the managing director at the time of his death in 1950.

A matchbook cover for the Fox West Coast Theatres'
"World Famous Show Places"  Carthay Circle ("Showplace
of the Golden West") and the Chinese ("World's Most Unique
Screen Palace"). It was spotted on e-Bay by Mark London
and is on the Carthay Circle History Facebook page.

A souvenir book cover c.1970, when the theatre was
operated by National General Corp., the successor firm
to Fox West Coast It's from a post on Christopher
Crouch's Cinelog about the Chinese Theatre
full size view

The Chinese used to have a coin operated machine that
 made little molded plastic pagodas while you waited. Thanks to
Robert Stone II for the photo on Vintage Los Angeles.

When the Southern California assets of Fox West Coast Theatres/National General Corp. were sold to Ted Mann in 1973 for $67.5 million, the theatre was renamed Mann's Chinese. It's only in recent years that the use of the Grauman's name has been restored to the building.  The circuit had taken extraordinary care of the building including a substantial interior restoration in 2001.

Mann also operated the adjacent Chinese 6, part of the Hollywood & Highland complex. The 6 plex should not  be confused with the Chinese Twin (now demolished) which was adjacent to the main theatre from 1979 to 1999.

The Mann circuit got seriously over extended in the 80s and 90s and, after a reorganization, was acquired by WF Cinema Holdings, a joint venture of Warner Bros. and Paramount/Viacom.  After the initial enthusiasm of the new partners subsided, the circuit gradually began disposing of properties as buyers emerged or leases expired.

In May, 2011 the Chinese Theatre and the lease for the Chinese 6 in the adjacent Hollywood and Highland complex were sold by Mann Theatres.  The sale involved the business and the Grauman's Chinese building. The land under the theatre has always been leased.  The land had been sold to CIM, the Hollywood and Highland complex owners, in a separate transaction a few years earlier. The current 99 year ground lease expires in 2023.

Over the decades Grauman's Chinese has hosted premiere engagements of major films as varied as "King Kong" (1933), "Hello, Dolly" (1969) and "Star Wars" (1977).


The Chinese is now operated by nightclub operators/producers Elie Samaha and Don Kushner as Chinese Theatres, LLC.  Others with ownership shares in the operation include Peter Locke, Steve Markoff, Enrique Steiger and Film Finances, Inc. Alwyn Hight Kushner is the chief operating officer for the complex.

The Chinese 6's lobby space in the mall has been upgraded for event use and is being promoted as Grauman's Ballroom. Steven Lieberman has designed a new all-white exterior lighting scheme to replace the colored lamps that had been used for several decades.

The Grauman's exterior and interior are both protected by the landmark status it received in 1968. See Alex Ben Block's Hollywood Reporter January, 2012 story on more plans for the Grauman's Chinese as both a theatre and as a brand.  

In 2013 the operators entered into a "naming rights" partnership with the Chinese electronics firm TCL ("The Creative Life") thus the current name TCL Chinese.  A story about the partnership appeared in Beyond the Marquee.  The story noted that the Chinese "is the most visited attraction in Hollywood, drawing over four million annual visitors, more than the Sistine Chapel at The Vatican."  The story was also covered by the L.A. Times.

70mm Fox Grandeur process - 1930:

The Chinese was equipped with special Simplex 70mm projectors to run "The Big Trail," an 8 week run beginning October 2, 1930.

In April 1930 the Chinese had run "Song o' My Heart," which was filmed in both 35mm as well as 70mm Grandeur but film historians such as Miles Kreuger believe that the 70mm version was never shown.

Grandeur was only one of many widescreen processes the studios experimented with in the late 20s and early 30s. They all became doomed as the depression deepened -- only to be resurrected again in the 50s.  See the upstairs page for more about the projection booth and its equipment.

<< An ad for "The Big Trail" at the Chinese, "projected entirely in Grandeur." It's from David Coles' article "Magnified Grandeur -- The Big Screen 1926-1931" on the site  full size view  

Grandeur used a frame with four jumbo perforations, about 25% higher than a 35mm frame and twice as wide. The aspect ratio was about 2.13 to 1. The image area was almost the same as the 1955 TODD-AO image.

The sound was a wide mono optical track using a scaled up version of the Fox Movietone technology. Sound quality was evidently quite good due to the faster film speed and the wide track.

For more information about early widescreen runs in Los Angeles see the great 70mm & Wide Gauge: The Early Years page on

Also see the information on our Movie Links & Resources page on this site about various other early widescreen processes processes.  See the page on the Carthay Circle Theatre (which also got a 70mm Grandeur installation) for more information and photos.

A few frames of the 70mm Grandeur film from the  now-
vanished website Critical Flicker. It's part of an illustration
from the December 1929 Photoplay magazine. Note the
Western Electric variable density soundtrack at the left.

A view of one the hand built Simplex 70mm
projectors for Fox Grandeur. The photo is from
the article
"Magnified Grandeur "
full size view

A photo of one of the specially built machines in the
 Carey Williams Collection. It's on the page
"Simplex Grandeur 70 Projector," where there's also an interior
view. This dual gauge 35/70mm machine is quite different than
the one pictured above -- perhaps it's a prototype for a
Grandeur production run that never happened.

There's also a photo and article about the Simplex 35/70
 machine in the August 1, 1931 issue of Motion Picture Herald. By
that time nothing was happening with wide film (except continued
 enthusiasm by a few partisans) and there had been a lot of talk
about abandoning 70mm and going to 50mm instead.

The Chinese Theatre in the 1940's: 

When the Academy Awards banquets grew too popular and a theatre was needed for more seating, the Chinese was chosen. The Oscar ceremonies were held at Grauman's in 1944, 1945 and 1946. 

A view of Grauman's during the 1946 Academy Awards. It's
a view from the Los Angeles Public Library collection.
full size view

Cinemascope at the Chinese Theatre - 1953: 

During the 50's the Chinese was the home for most of the major Fox Cinemascope pictures including the first Cinemascope feature "The Robe" (1953).

A 50s postcard view showing the east wall of the forecourt
with signage advertising the theatre as the "Hollywood Home
 of Cinemascope." The card was displayed on the now vanished
website Yesterday LA. 
full size view

The idea of Cinemascope, "The Miracle You Can See Without Glasses," had been kicking around for years. Inspired by the widescreen panoramas of the triple screen sequences of Abel Gance's "Napoleon" (1927 + variations thereafter), French inventor Henri Chretien designed an anamorphic lens to compress a picture by a factor of two during photography and spread it out again during projection.

A fanciful promotional piece from Fox to convey the
glories of "The Robe" in Cinemascope. It was much like the
ads for Cinerama. The image is from page 2 of the American
Widescreen Museum's wonderful Cinemascope section.

Nobody was interested in anamorphic photography until Fox dusted off the idea when faced by the competition of TV, 3-D and Cinerama.  They borrowed the stereo sound idea from Disney's "Fantasia" and the more recent stereo success of Cinerama.

Instead of Cinera
ma's 5 speakers behind the screen, Cinemascope went with 3 plus a surround track. Instead of a separate sound reproducer, they put magnetic stripes on the film. Instead of a deeply curved screen, Fox opted for a shallower curvature for better focus.

The enlarged view of a 35mm Cinemascope frame shown here has the original Fox 4 channel magnetic striping and reduced size (fox-hole) perforations to make room for 2 sound tracks inside the perforations.

The original aspect ratio for the format was 2.55 to 1 and the prints were to have no optical sound track. Most later mag prints also had a 1/2 width optical track visible and were intended to be shown at 2.35 to 1, the currently used ratio.

Exhibitors had to do a new wider screen, buy new Cinemascope lenses and aperture plates, add adjustable masking, buy new speakers and amplifiers, change out their old projector sprockets and add a new attachment atop the projector to read the magnetic sound tracks.

Most releases were soon available in mono optical versions for theatres opting for less costly conversions.
The view at right is of the Simplex gear that probably was in the Chinese booth at the time.

On the top it's a new 4 channel magnetic sound head, a Simplex X-L projector in the middle and a Simplex SH-1000 optical soundhead underneath. 

The illustration is from the article "Cinemascope - Information for the Theatre" from American Widescreen Museum.  See the site's wonderful Cinemascope section for lots of data and illustrations. Also see the resources about different projection processes listed on our Movie Links page.

Cinemiracle at the Chinese - 1958:

The Chinese was equipped for 3-strip Cinemiracle projection in 1958 for the only film in the process, "Windjammer." For the Cinemiracle remodel the stage was gutted and much of the proscenium removed.

The Cinemiracle screen size was 40' x 100' with an actual image size of 38' x 92'. A new booth was built on the main floor.  Boxoffice magazine ran an article on "Windjammer" on April 14, 1958 which included ads for the Hurley screen and the Century projectors employed.  The same issue had another article on the Cinemiracle process and the renovations necessary.  "Too Exciting To Describe" was the heading on one ad running with the story.

A ticket to the premiere of "Windjammer" at the Chinese.
It's from the Chinese Theatre page of the In Cinerama
website curated by Roland Lataille.
larger view

A postcard view of the 1958 premiere of "Windjammer" at the
Chinese from the In Cinerama website of Roland Lataille.  The site
 is packed with Cinerama and Cinemiracle photos and memorabilia.
full size view

"Windjammer" ran at the Chinese Theatre for 37 weeks, then moved over to the Music Box for an additional 15 week run.   For more information on Cinemiracle projection see our Movie Links page.

70mm at the Chinese:

The theatre was later equipped for 70mm. The first feature was a May, 1961 re-release of "The King and I" in "Grandeur 70." It was filmed in Cinemascope 55 but played its original 1956 release in 35mm.

The Chinese has enjoyed lots of long runs of major films in 70mm, including  "West Side Story" (December, 1961 - 57 weeks), "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang" (1968), "Hello, Dolly!" (1969), "Star Wars" (1977), "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom" (1984), "Return of the Jedi" (1987) and "Titanic" (1997). 

A full size frame from a 70mm print of "Star Wars."
It's from Michael Coate's article on the greats site
 entitled "The Original First Week Engagements of Star Wars"

The Chinese had 2 35/70mm Norelco DP70s in the booth for decades (serial numbers 920 & 921) and the theatre was equipped for all sound formats conceivable including Dolby Digital, SDDS and conventional 6 track mag. The house was THX certified in 1987 prior to the run of "Return of the Jedi."

In 2001 JBL did an update on the speaker system including five custom three-way "ScreenArray" speakers behind the screen, 4642A subwoofers and 8340A surround speakers.

Our Movie Links page has lots of resources for information on 70mm processes. Also see the main page on the Egyptian Theatre for a discussion of TODD-AO, the first of the 70mm processes in the 1950s.

The 2001 Restoration:

Behr Browers Architects spearheaded a serious restoration of the building's interior. 

A view of the auditorium ceiling from the
photo album on the Behr Browers website.
larger view

The firm designed seismic retrofit work including a shear wall at the rear of the stagehouse. The concession area got a renovation and the booth got moved back upstairs.  The new bar was pushed into the auditorium area where booth and seating had been.

Some of the balcony soffit area that had been covered up above the booth ceiling was restored and now graces the area in front of the new bar. Also included in the work was restoration of many interior and exterior decorative surfaces. New carpeting and wider seats were also installed. PCL Construction was the contractor and their website has a page detailing the seismic work and other aspects of the project.

Decorative finishes wonder worker
Amy Higgins re-lacquers the lobby ceiling
during the 2001 restoration. 
full size view

Amy Higgins restoring finishes in the forecourt.
Her work also included lots of plaster repair.
full size view

A view of some of the cast stonework on
the facade before restoration.
full size view  | after restoration

See scenic artist/restoration artist/plaster wizard Amy Higgins' Grauman's Chinese page for many photos detailing her work on the project. also has information on other projects she's been involved with. Thanks for the photos, Amy!

Projection goes digital:

The first digital presentation at the Chinese was "The Last Samurai" in 2003 using a Christie CP2000 unit. Within a couple of years, most presentations at the theatre were digital with film use becoming a rarity only for special events or premieres when directors favored film.

The theatre had been through a variety of digital gear including a 2006 installation of a Starus NC2500S from NEC with a Doremi server in a package from Technicolor. In 2009 for the "blue carpet" premiere of "Avatar," some sort of gear from American Hi-Definition was installed. They had a pair overlapped to get the brightness up. A second pair ran as backup. A single 2K Christie unit was used in 2010 for the 3-D run of "Clash of the Titans." It was a  a DP4K-32B 4K unit by Barco used for the 2011 TCM Festival.

The film gear in the booth when the theatre closed for the 2013 renovations was a 35/70mm Norelco AAII projector with a Christie platter. Used infrequently. In the #2 spot there was a 2K Christie digital projector.

The 2013 Renovations:

The theatre closed May 1, 2013 to upgrade projection and sound equipment. The floor got a re-slope raising the back row to lobby level and lowering the front to allow the installation of a modified stadium seating plan and a taller and wider screen. Seating capacity is now 932, down from the 1,151 that was the number after the 2001 remodel.  The architects for the renovation were Blair Ballard Architects (BBA) in Laguna Beach.

Adrian Glick Kudler had an April 30 story about the closing on Curbed L.A. accompanied by over 30 fine photos by Elizabeth Daniels. Don't miss Andy Oleck's terrific 2 & 1/2 minute time lapse video of the whole 2013 IMAX renovation process on YouTube.

In a shot from Andy's video we're high on the backstage wall
looking toward the rear of the auditorium. The view down in
front is through where the stage was and on into the basement. 
larger view | watch the video on YouTube

An April 13, 2013  L.A. Times story by Richard Varrier included mention of the Los Angeles Historic Theatre Foundation's support of the project and its assurances that the essential historic fabric of the auditorium would be protected. Deadline Hollywood and L.A. Times both had April 2013 articles about the then-pending project.

In an early April 2013 story on Curbed L.A. by Adrian Glick Kudler there were photos from BB Architects showing the look before and the simulated difference after the renovations. The story noted:

"'[W]e're not changing anything that's historical about the building,' President and COO Alwyn Hight Kushner tells us. 'All of the beautiful character-defining features will stay as is.' The floor (changed many times over the years) will be put on a steeper slope and the enormous new screen will descend partway into what is now the basement, according to Hillsman Wright of the Los Angeles Historic Theatre Foundation, who's been working with the Chinese. The projection booth will also be moved forward and lowered a bit (over the theater's fake balcony)."

A July 2013 Curbed L.A. story  on the makeover had a construction update and photos of the new floor configuration.  L.A. Times ran an August 6 story discussing the reopening.  Variety ran a September 2013 article discussing the changes wrought by the renovation. Curbed L.A. had a  September 19 article and photos about the reopening.

The theatre reopened with the IMAX digital 3-D version of "The Wizard of Oz."  See our  auditorium page for construction photos.

The rebuilt booth - 2013:

After the 2013 IMAX renovations, the booth had two 2K IMAX  digital projectors on a lower level and two 4K Christie digital units for non-IMAX films above on a new second level. At the time of reopening, there was no film equipment. Space space is available on the upper level for a 35/70 machine and platter if an installation is warranted in the future.  The sound system is also a new IMAX brand installation.

The Return of Film - 70mm IMAX:

The lower level of the two-level projection booth got 70mm IMAX film equipment installed for the November 2014 run of Christopher Nolan's "Interstellar." The two digital projectors and the film unit are all on tracks so it's an easy changeover to slide the equipment for the desired format into position at the center port.

A comparison between 35mm, 5 perf regular 70mm
 and the horizontal 15 perf 70mm IMAX formats.
full size view

IMAX Laser projection:

IMAX installed its new laser projection system at the Chinese in March 2015 with the first film on the new gear being the April run of that great epic "Furious 7."  Along with that was an "immersive" sound upgrade. ABC News had a story about it. Also see the 39 photo set (taken by Escott O. Norton) of the middle of the night installation on the LAHTF Facebook page.

See the upstairs page for more about the projection booth and its equipment.

Screen size:

The IMAX silver screen size is 46' high and 94' wide. The floor was sloped down into former basement areas to accommodate the increased height.  The first several IMAX films in scope format used 87' of that width.

With the installation of the IMAX laser projectors in 2015 the picture width for IMAX presentations was increased to 92'.  The top and side masking is movable. A 70' width has been used for non-IMAX presentations in 'scope format. To raise the height of the bottom of the image for non-IMAX shows, a 9' high sectional berm is maneuvered into place at the bottom of the screen.

Digital scope format images prior to the IMAX renovations were reported as being in the 72' to 75' range. Maximum image height was 33'. The maximum image width was 85'  after a new screen was installed as part of the 2001 restoration.  Prior to 2001 the 35mm scope picture was 75' with 81' being used for 70mm. 

The 1958 Cinemiracle presentation of "Windjammer" had an image size of 38' x 92' on a deeply curved screen. The curvature approximated the design of the Cinerama screens but it was a single sheet, not vertical louvers. Later screen installations (including the 2013 IMAX screen) had reduced curvature.

                                                                 ... continued in the right column

about the photos from other websites...

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Grauman's Chinese may be the most photographed
 movie theatre in the world--at least on the exterior.

photo: Bill Counter - 2007

[ click any of these to enlarge ]

Here on a typical 2007 afternoon there were
hundreds of people in the forecourt but the
first show started with 3 in the auditorium.

photo: Bill Counter

Another street view.

photo: Bill Counter - 2012


The interior is plush and impeccably maintained.
The main lobby (above) is tiny by movie palace
standards but impressively ornate.

photo: Bill Counter - 2007

[ see the
lobby page for many more views ]

The auditorium retains much of the 1927 splendor
despite loss of ornamentation at the proscenium

due to wider screen installations.  The main

chandelier has also been reduced in size.

photo: Bill Counter - 2007

[ see the auditorium page for more interior views including
many taken during the 2013 renovations ]

Looking along the stagehouse and west side of
the auditorium toward Hollywood Blvd

photo: Bill Counter - 2007

The theatre is surrounded by the Hollywood & Highland
complex, which also houses
the Chinese 6. And here on the right,
there's been another building added since this p
hoto to house a wax
 museum and additional stores.

Here we see from the front what has sadly grown up
around the Chinese. It originally stood alone.

photo: Bill Counter - 2012

The back wall of the Chinese stagehouse.  That's
the dressing room wing in the center of the photo.

photo: Bill Counter - 2013

The Chinese at night in 2010.

photo: Bill Counter

[ click on any of these images to enlarge ]

Another 2010 night view.

photo: Bill Counter

This new boxoffice just east of the theatre
both the Grauman's Chinese and the
Chinese 6,
upstairs in the mall.

photo: Bill Counter - 2007

  A 2012 night view.

photo: Bill Counter

Theatre history, continued from the bottom of column 1:

The forecourt furor: There have been souvenir stands, various kiosks, displays, and other merchandising going on in the forecourt for decades. In the fall of 2016 an ugly discussion erupted about various carts obscuring certain footprints. See the posts on the Vintage Los Angeles and Los Angeles Historic Theatre Foundation Facebook pages for lots of unhappy comments and name-calling.

Curbed L.A. also covered the fracas with their "Famous handprints...covered up by souvenir stalls" story on October 2.  More comments on Vintage L.A. followed an October 2 post about the story on Curbed.  And, of course, there's a petition. VLA declared victory in an October 3 post. There were followup stories in the Hollywood Reporter ("Vendor carts removed...") and on Curbed ("...famous handprints no longer blocked...").

The Chinese Theatre in the Movies:

 Grauman's Chinese has had leading or
supporting roles in a number of movies.

In "Free and Easy" (MGM, 1930) Buster Keaton
 arrives in Hollywood and goes to a premiere at Grauman's
Chinese. The film is something called "The Love Call"
starring an actor he met on the train.
larger view | another shot - note the Colman banner

The "Free and Easy" footage is actually from the December 5,
1929 premiere of "Condemned" with Ronald Colman. Thanks
 to Kurt Wahlner for identifying the photo. See his listing for
 "Condemned" on his Grauman's Chinese site.

There's lots of fine exterior Grauman's premiere footage
in George Cukor's "What Price Hollywood?" (RKO Pathe,
1932) with Constance Bennett and Neil Hamilton.

Historian Mary Mallory notes that "Hollywood Boulevard"
(Paramount, 1936) features Herbert Rawlinson as the
manager of the Chinese. Near the beginning of the film
we get a hand/footprint ceremony in the forecourt.

In 1937 Janet Gaynor comes to Hollywood and her
first stop is the Chinese Theatre forecourt in William
Wellman's "A Star is Born" (Selznick International). 
larger view

See our  post on Theatres in Movies about
"A Star Is Born" for two more views from the film.

In "Star Dust" (Fox, 1940) Linda Darnell comes to
Hollywood to be a star and, of course, visits the Chinese.

The Chinese sort of bookends Stanley Donen and Gene
 Kelly's "Singin' In The Rain" (MGM, 1952) with nice scenes at
the beginning and end of the film. We get lovely facade views
(both times enhanced by matte painting work for the signage) plus
a forecourt scene at the beginning of the film -- but it's an MGM set.

The interior views (the one above is from near the beginning
of the film) are also not shot in the Chinese itself. We see the interior
 set again at the end with Debbie Reynolds running up the aisle.
larger view

 A few more shots from "Singin' In The Rain"
are on our Theatres In Movies post.

Although we're headed to the Shrine Auditorium,
George Cukor tries to pretend it's in Hollywood at the beginning
of "A Star is Born" (Warner Bros., 1954). This shot was taken across
 from the Chinese during the 1953 premiere of "The Robe."
See our "A Star Is Born" post on
Theatres in Movies for several more
Hollywood Blvd. shots as well as many
at the Shrine Auditorium.

Lucy digs up the forecourt in a 1955 episode of "I Love
Lucy."Thanks to Kurt Wahlner for the screenshot.

See our Theatres In Movies post
 for more Lucy episode photos.

In Frank Tashlin's "Hollywood or Bust" (Paramount, 1956) we
 get this nice forecourt view as part of a process shot during
 the opening credits. The Dean Martin/Jerry Lewis film comes
back to the Chinese for a premiere later, but they use studio sets.
larger view

We get this nice view east on Hollywood Blvd. in the Jerry
Lewis film "The Errand Boy" (Paramount, 1961) but the rest of
the Chinese that we see for a preview is done on studio sets.
larger view

See our Theatres in Movies post about "The Errand Boy"
 for the faux-Chinese set, a look at the Fox Westwood Village and
several fine aerial views of Hollywood that begin the film.

We get a look at the facade in "What A Way To Go!" (Fox, 1964)
as one of Shirley MacLaine's husbands, Pinky (Gene Kelly), has
his film premiered there. He later gets trampled by the mob.
Note that this is old footage with the show's title matted in.
Look at the age of the vehicles. Also, in '64 there was no
signage across the arch.
larger view

Kim Novak pays a visit to the Chinese in Robert
Aldrich's "The Legend of Lylah Clare" (MGM, 1968). The
 film is a sordid satire of Hollywood with Kim Novak
 playing no-good star Lylah as well as the actress Elisa
who stars in a biopic about her years later.

Thanks to Kurt Wahlner for the "Lylah Clare" photos. 
See his amazing Grauman's Chinese film list.

Looking east on Hollywood Blvd. past the Chinese
 in "Lylah Clare."  We also take a look over at the
 El Capitan where, of course, another Aldrich
film is playing. The Chinese is running
"In The Heat Of The Night."

Back at the Chinese for a premiere 20 years later in
"Lylah Clare." The marquee reads "Elisa Campbell as
 LYLAH CLARE - FILM STAR  A Barney Sheehan Production."
 Peter Finch guided Lylah's career as well as directed the
pic about her that gets the premiere.  He was involved
 with both Kims: Lylah and Elisa.

Looking into the forecourt on premiere night in
"Lylah Clare." It's a hit - which is a surprise to those
of us watching the movie get made. Elisa had died during
 the filming, seemingly possessed by the dead star
she's playing. But Finch got the scene in the can.

We get a fine view of the Chinese auditorium by
cinematographer Joseph Biroc in "Lylah Clare." That's
Peter Finch all alone after being told off by his producer
Bart Langner, played by Milton Selzer.

The booth we see on the main floor (and the revised seating)
 reflect the 1958 remodel for 3-projector Cinemiracle. Note the
big ports on either end of the booth where mirrors were used
 to bounce the image onto the extreme right and left sides
of the huge screen employed for the run of "Windjammer."

We get a view of the Chinese and the Hollywood
Hotel beyond in Francis Ford Coppola's "The Godfather"
 (Paramount, 1972). The shot is from 1944.  Note the signage
 still employed in the parking lot east of the theatre. Kurt
Wahlner on his Chinese Theatre site notes that "Climax"
and "San Diego I Love You" are playing.
  larger view

Thanks to Patrick Sweeney for the "Godfather" screenshot,
 a post of his on our Los Angeles Theatres Facebook page.

Where do you visit if you want to become a star?
The Chinese, of course. Philomena Nowlin does that
 in the opening sequence of "Miss Melody Jones"
(American Films Ltd., 1972).
See our "Miss Melody Jones" Theatres In Movies post
for three more fuzzy shots of the Chinese from the film.

The Chinese appears in Mel Brooks' "Blazing
Saddles" (Warner Bros., 1974).  Here is the establishing
 shot by  Joseph Biroc who six years earlier had shot
 the Chinese in "The Legend of Lylah Clare."
Thanks to Chinese Theatre historian Kurt Wahlner for
the photo. See his Grauman's Chinese website for, among
other projects, his list of all the films to play the theatre.

The lobby of the Chinese in "Blazing Saddles."  Harvey
 Korman buys a box of Raisinets. Note the cows.
larger view

The facade shows up during a premiere turned riot in
"Day of the Locust" (Paramount, 1975) but the shooting
 was actually done on a set rather than at the theatre.
Thanks to the site Films in Films for the screenshot.
"The Day of the Locust" does actually go
 inside a real theatre when they visit the Fox Ritz.
See our Theatres in Movies post.

We oogle the Grauman's forecourt at the beginning of
Michael Winner's "Won Ton Ton: The Dog Who Saved
Hollywood" (Paramount, 1976). Later in the film, we return
to the theatre for a premiere of one of the canine star's films.
larger view

We get a look at the Chinese while we're cruising the town
 in Martha Coolidge's "Valley Girl" (Atlantic Releasing, 1983)
with Nicholas Cage and Deborah Foreman.  Thanks to Chas
Demster for the screenshot on his Filming Locations blog.
See our Theatres In Movies post on "Valley Girl"
for several shots of the Sherman Theatre.

Sandra Bullock and Keanu Reeves end up in front
of the Chinese in an overturned Red Line car in the last
scene of Jan de Bont's "Speed" (Fox, 1994).
larger view

 Our "Speed" Theatres in Movies post
 also has another shot - looking east.

The Chinese makes an appearance in "Forrest Gump" (1994).

We get this look down on the theatre in the Harold
Ramis film "Stuart Saves His Family" (Paramount, 1995).
They've got "Alfie," a 1966 film on the marquee. Thanks
to Chas Demster for the screenshot on his blog
Filming Locations of Chicago and Los Angeles.
 larger view | on Chas's blog

The Chinese is seen in "Twins" (1998), "Rush Hour"
(1998), "The Majestic" (2001), "Italian Job" (2003),
 and "Hollywood Homicide" (2003).

In "The Aviator" (Warner Bros., 2004) Martin Scorsese's lovely
swoop up Hollywood Blvd. uses some colorized versions of Howard
Hughes' original promotional footage of the premiere of "Hell's Angels"
but the final shot with planes flying overhead was done with a 40'
long miniature set and lots of digital magic.
larger view

In "The Aviator" we do get the real theatre for some scenes
in the auditorium, passing through the lobby, and at the
entrance doors. Most of the forecourt shots were a set. 

A look back at the audience after the "Hell's Angels" premiere
in "The Aviator." Note that the production designer has added
a strange projection booth at the head of the center aisle.
larger view

In 1930, the booth was upstairs. It was moved down to the
main floor in 1958 for three-strip Cinemiracle projection and
 stayed there until the 2001 restoration.

Howard Hughes (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his associate
John C. Reilly leaving the Chinese auditorium in "The Aviator."
The color palate in this portion of the film is an homage to the
look of early two-color Technicolor (red and blue-green).
larger view

See the wonderful history of Technicolor on
Martin Hart's Widescreen Museum site.

"The Aviator" also visits the Pantages. See our
 Theatres In Movies post on the film for more views.

John Travolta and Uma Thurman have a moment in
front of the Chinese in F. Gary Gray's "Be Cool" (MGM,
2005).   It's based on an Elmore Leonard novel.
larger view

The film also pays a visit to the Shrine Auditorium
 and the Mayan Theatre. See our Theatres In Movies
post about "Be Cool" for shots at those theatres.

The opening of "Footprints" (Our Gal Pictures,
 2009) gives us  a pan across the murals on the west
side of the building. The parking lot there has been
replaced by a building and the murals are no more.

In "Footprints," we start with our amnesiac leading lady,
 Sybil Temtchine, waking up in the forecourt.  The film by
 Steven Peros features H.M. Wynant and Pippa Scott.

Various passersby try to help our heroine in
 "Footprints." Playing at the Chinese the week of
the filming was "The Brave One" (2007).
larger view

Later in "Footprints" we go to a show at the Egyptian.
 See our Theatres in Movies post for more from the film.

A look at a scene being shot for "Gangster Squad" (Warner
Bros., 2013) in front of the Chinese in December 2011. Thanks
to Martin Pal for putting it on  Noirish Los Angeles.
full size view | on Noirish LA

A bit more of the "Gangster Squad"
shoot that evening appears on YouTube.

For "Gangster Squad"  scenes were filmed at the
Chinese involving gunmen behind the screen spraying the
audience with machine gun fire. The scene was cut and
 did not appear in the film as released -- we got
 a new finale shot in Chinatown instead.

Jon Favreau has a tough time in the forecourt in "Iron Man 3"
 (Marvel/Disney, 2013) with spontaneously combusting humans
whose DNA has been messed with. He ends up in the hospital
 and the Chinese Theatre gets destroyed.

The 1964 premiere of "Mary Poppins" gets recreated in
 "Saving Mr. Banks" (Disney, 2013), a film about the battle
 by Walt Disney (Tom Hanks) to get the rights to film
 the book by P.L. Travers (Emma Thompson).
larger view

The shot here is a nice combination of old footage around the edges
 (top of the building, flashing dragon marquees, etc.) and new stuff
 in the middle. Note the absence of the forecourt boxoffice and long
 canopy to the entrance that would have been there in 1964.

In "I Saw the Light" (Sony Pictures Classics, 2015), a biopic
of the singer Hank Williams, we get some 1952 stock footage
of the Chinese when Hank comes to Hollywood to talk about
 a film deal. The film, directed by Marc Abraham, stars
Tom Hiddleston and Elizabeth Olsen.

In Woody Allen's "Café Society" (Lionsgate, 2016) we get a
nice pan down the pagoda to find Jesse Eisenberg admiring the hand
and foot prints of Gloria Swanson. The time is the 30s -- posters are out
 for "Swing Time." Later  we see the facade of the Vista Theatre
when Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart go to see Barbara
 Stanwyck in "The Woman In Red."

 IMDB has a page on the Chinese Theatre, with a list of
many more films using it as a location. And, you can always
 check out our Theatres in Movies site.

The Chinese on Video:

As noted above, you shouldn't miss Andy Oleck's terrific 2 & 1/2 minute time lapse video of the whole 2013 IMAX renovation process on YouTube.

Visit the theatre in a 3 minute 2012 " Grauman's Chinese Behind The Scenes" LA Observed tour featuring LAHTF's Hillsman Wright.

Also see the 12 minute "Grauman's Chinese The Tour" by Ms. Random Notes  from 2012.

Book of Secrets:

There was a tunnel under Hollywood Blvd. from the Chinese to the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel. The stars could make a public entrance on the red carpet for a premiere then escape the fans undetected later. 

Save the Dragon:

The 1958 vintage signage with the famously animated neon dragons atop the readerboards came down with the 2001 renovations. The two pieces got saved by Hollywood Heritage and one that is now owned by the Museum of Neon Art in Glendale is slated for renovation. The L.A. Times had a September 2013 story by Nita Lelyveld about the project.

A 2013 look at one of the dragons from
the September 2013 L.A. Times.

The museum had an Indiegogo fundraiser going for the project.  And check out the photos of the dragons on Kurt Wahlner's page about signage at the Chinese.  Sandi Hemmerlein also has some nice dragon views in her 2013 Avoiding Regret article "The Neon of LA and Its One Darkened Dragon."

More information:

Also see our listings for the Chinese 6 and the Mann Chinese Twin.

The superb Chinese Theatre site compiled by Kurt Wahlner includes lists of the films that played the Chinese year by year as well as an alphabetical film list. Don't miss his great page on signage at the Chinese.

See the extensive page on Grauman's Chinese on Cinema Treasures and don't miss the photo section. There are a few more interior shots for you to peruse on the Cinema Tour page. 

Chinese CEO Alwyn Hight Kushner got a nice write up about her job in a January 2015 L.A. Times story.

Photo sets of interest include the 2012 LAHTF tour sets by Albert Domasin, Hot Patootie and Michelle Gerdes.  And check out Sandi Hemmerlein's Avoiding Regret blog post about the tour.

Floyd Bariscale's 2007 Big Orange Landmarks article on Grauman's Chinese is highly recommended. From Script to DVD's  Chinese Theatre page by Michael Coate and William Kallay has lots of great photos.

For a nice run-down on the declining fortunes of the Fox West Coast / National General / Mann Theatres empire see the 2009 posts on Cinelog by Christopher Crouch: "End Credits,"  "Rise and Fall" and "National General's Chinese."

Debra Gust's blog "Life In A Postcard Mirror" has a selection of postcards. See the Curt Teich Postcard Archive for more Chinese Theatre postcards.  See "Diary of a Celluloid Girl" for a nice 2011 blog post about Sid Grauman.

See Martin Turnbull's blog "The Garden of Allah Novels" and especially his post about the Chinese forecourt: "The Most Famous Slab of Concrete in the World" for a history of Sid Grauman and the Chinese.

Wikipedia's article on the Chinese Theatre has, among other things, a full rundown of the dates of the stars' imprints in the forecourt concrete.  Wikipedia also has an article on Sid Grauman. There are, of course, many photos of the Chinese on Yelp.

The definitive book on the career of Sid Grauman has yet to be written. The best we have so far is Charles Beardsley's "Sid Grauman: Hollywood's Master Showman" (Cornwall Books, 1983)It's available on Amazon.

For a lavishly illustrated history of the Chinese (and some Egyptian stuff as well) see the March 2015 GlamAmor article by Kimberly Truhler "Out & About--Hollywood's Historic TCL Chinese Theatre Still Takes Center Stage."  The article, with over 70 photos, features many historic views grabbed without specific credits from a variety of sources as well as some nice views of the interior taken recently by Ms. Truhler.

Visit our pages on the other Grauman theatres in Los Angeles: the Million Dollar (1918), the Rialto (taken over by Grauman in 1919) the Egyptian (1922) and the Metropolitan (1923, later called the Paramount).

A recent aerial view of the Hollywood and Highland area
 that appeared on Ken McIntyre's Photos of Los Angeles.
full size view | on Photos of LA

more chinese theatre pages:
street view timeline  | forecourt  |  lobby  |  lounges  |
auditorium  |  upstairs  |  stage  |  basement  |  attic  |
Chinese 6  |  Chinese Twin |