More than a century after its first screening, the Egyptian Theatre on Hollywood Boulevard is coming back to life following a meticulous restoration process that kept it dark for three years. This iconic historic venue, which is steeped in Hollywood history and has witnessed countless movie premieres, holds a special place in the heart of the film industry and movie enthusiasts alike.
Sid Grauman’s homage to Egyptian culture, which predates his Chinese Theatre on the same street by five years, opened its doors in 1922 and quickly became the go-to destination for the glitz and glamour of Hollywood premieres. It notably hosted the first Hollywood premiere in history, for the iconic film “Robin Hood” starring Douglas Fairbanks. However, the theater faced challenging times in the 90s and was almost destroyed by the 1994 Northridge earthquake.
In an inspiring turn of events, the theater was purchased for a nominal fee of one dollar by the nonprofit American Cinematheque in 1996, and an extensive renovation process followed. The grand reopening two years later was attended by industry legends like Charlton Heston and Quentin Tarantino, signaling a new chapter in the theater’s storied history. “This is the theater where Hollywood was born, and now it’s becoming our industry’s equivalent of the Getty,” film producer Steve Tisch remarked at the time, underscoring the significance of the Egyptian Theatre to the film industry.
Fast forward to 2019, when Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos approached American Cinematheque chairman Rick Nicita about the possibility of acquiring the theater. This groundbreaking collaboration resulted in a unique arrangement: American Cinematheque will be responsible for screening repertory titles on weekends, while Netflix is set to showcase its own films during the week.
The iconic theater has recently undergone a comprehensive restoration, with specific attention to preserving its original grandeur while incorporating modern technological advancements. Peyton Hall, the restoration architect for the latest refurbishments, focused on rectifying changes made in the ’90s, including removing the outdoor palm trees, updating the technology infrastructure, and preserving the venue’s initial grand vision. The renovations also entailed restoring the auditorium ceiling and Egyptian scarab at the proscenium, removing the balcony, acoustic panels, and reducing the number of seats by 100 to 516.
“When you enter the auditorium, your experience of the walls and ceiling is more like it was in 1922 than it has been since the 1930s,” says Hall, indicating the dedication to restoring the theater to its former glory. The Egyptian Theatre, which was declared a city landmark in 1993, is set to reopen on Nov. 9 with the Netflix film “The Killer” and a Q&A session with director David Fincher. In addition, the streaming giant will release a documentary short titled “Temple of Film: 100 Years of the Egyptian Theatre,” paying homage to the iconic venue’s rich history.
Netflix’s Ted Sarandos emphasizes the importance of restoring this historic theater, stating, “Netflix is still a relatively new part of the film industry, and it’s important for us to contribute to this community that has given so much to us. Restoring this theater has been a labor of love for everyone involved.” This sentiment underscores the commitment of all parties involved to preserve the cultural and historical significance of the Egyptian Theatre for generations to come.
The grand reopening and the collaborative vision behind the restoration of the Egyptian Theatre signify a pivotal moment in the seamless integration of Hollywood’s rich cinematic legacy with the evolving landscape of modern filmmaking and entertainment. The blend of old-world charm and cutting-edge technology at the Egyptian Theatre serves as a testament to the enduring allure and cultural impact of the film industry. Its revival stands as a reminder of the timeless beauty and significance of classic cinemas, highlighting the transformative power of historical preservation and the enduring legacy of the silver screen.
As the Egyptian Theatre embarks on this new chapter, it continues to hold a special place in the hearts of movie enthusiasts and industry professionals alike, bridging the gap between Hollywood’s illustrious past and its promising future. The reopening of the theater is not just a celebration of its historic significance but also a testament to the power of collaboration and innovation in perpetuating the magic of cinema for generations to come.