L.A.’s Greatest Landmarks: Grauman’s Chinese Theatre

The Footprints. Everyone knows about the famous Footprints. Black and white memories of smiling stars in tuxedos signing their names in concrete after ruining a pair of shoes worth a weeks wages to most people.

Those footprints are part of some people’s Hollywood Dream.

The first time I was lucky enough to see a movie at Grauman’s, it was for a 20th Anniversary showing of the original theatrical release of Star Wars. This was before those dreadful Prequels, and some months, even, before the release of the newer re-edited versions.

While there were several showings, my friends and I were only able to procure tickets for a showing at around 7:30AM, all others were sold out. I pointed out that 20 years earlier, when we were all in Grade school, if we could have convinced our parents to take us to see Star Wars at 7:30 in the morning, we certainly would have.

It remains one of my favorite places to see a film.

The third of failed gold prospector Sid Grauman’s famous L.A. theatres, it’s success dwarfed even that of The Egyptian, which was a phenomenom at the time. Between the two, many think Grauman is at least partially responsible for bringing L.A.’s entertainment district to Hollywood from Downtown in the mid ’20’s.

The theatres were certainly cornerstones in the revitalization of Hollywood later, in the first part of the new Millennium, as I can¬†personally¬†attest. I first moved to the middle of Hollywood in the late nineties, and it was, how shall I put this delicately, a shithole. Tourists would show up looking for bright lights and find abject squalor. When the decision was made to revitalize Hollywood, they began with Grauman’s two most famed venues.

First the Egyptian, which had fallen into disrepair, was sold by the city for the nominal fee of one dollar to The American Cinematheque, under the condition that they restore it to its former glory and open it as a theatre once again. As their whole gig is the preservation and display of film, that worked out pretty well.

Shortly thereafter, work began on the Hollywood and Highland mall, which was not only to include a theatre for the express purpose of hosting the Oscars, (The Kodak) but to envelop and restore The Chinese theatre. The mall has since, in a remarkably short time, become a legitimate landmark in its own right. (A fact, as my fellow bloggers may later point out, I was somewhat reluctant to admit. I have, however, been proven wrong, and I’m not above admitting so. HiHo’s a Landmark. I’m at peace with that.)

But that’s a story for another time…

One last thing:
My favorite set of footprints? Humphrey Bogart.
Next to his prints he wrote, “Sid, may you live forever, until I kill you.”
Gotta love Bogart.

10 Replies to “L.A.’s Greatest Landmarks: Grauman’s Chinese Theatre”

  1. I love the Chinese theatre. My first movie there was “Return of the Jedi” so it must’ve been about a month after yours.

  2. Great post. I remember my first time there, it was well before the rebirth of the area and it was populated with kids cruising in their cars, drugs and ho’s. Maybe that is how “HiHo” got its name?

  3. My first Grauman’s Chinese movie was actually probably my first Los Angeles moviegoing experience. At that time, it was called the Mann Chinese, or as we called it, the “The Chinese Man.” This was before they added all the other screens, so if you were seeing a movie at the Chinese, you were seeing it on the proper screen, no doubt about it.

    The movie: Pulp Fiction. Didn’t know anything about it, never saw Reservoir Dogs, so I didn’t know Tarantino’s style. I just remember being completely shocked, coming from a small clean cut lifestyle in a small town in central Oregon, by the amused, vocal reaction to heads being blown off.

    Welcome to Los Angeles. I got on track with this crazy place real quick.

  4. Have to concur with Jodi. A great theater that I haven’t been to in years, mostly because the ArcLight is right down the street.

    I think Bogart’s are probably my favorite footprints as well, but I think it’s because I always marveled at how small they are. On the screen, Bogie always seemed to me to be a giant of a man, but his shoes are comparatively diminutive.

  5. I love the Marilyn Monroe/Jane Russell footprints – they shared a square after Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. And the first time I went to the Chinese, I was absolutely astonished at how tiny Joan Crawford’s feet were! Like Burns says about Bogie – she’s so big on screen that it’s weird to see how tiny she must have been in person.

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