The world’s most famous movie theater is 87 years old this week. Though considered ancient by Hollywood standards, the TCL Chinese Theatre (though natives always call it Grauman’s Chinese Theatre) recently underwent a state-of-the-art renovation that makes it the largest single IMAX auditorium in the world. The big screen might draw cinefiles, but it’s the sidewalk in the theatre’s forecourt that pulls in the tourists, nearly four million a year, according to one estimate. The hand and footprints of some 200 Hollywood luminaries, from the 1920s to the present day, are set in cement in the patio. For more than 80 years, visitors have been intrigued by the concrete impressions left by the stars, from John Wayne’s boots to Whoopi Goldberg’s dreadlocks.
In addition to the hand print ceremonies, the Chinese Theatre has been the venue for three Academy Awards presentations and numerous movie premieres. It’s been used as a set and recreated as a setting in dozens of movies, including Singin’ In The Rain, A Star Is Born, The Aviator and Saving Mr. Banks. In 1968 the city of Los Angeles gave the theatre landmark status, though it was a landmark long before the formal designation.
Here’s a little-known fact: TCL, the company that bought the naming rights for the theatre three years ago, is a Chinese electronics firm.
Now that I’ve provided all this info about the Chinese Theatre, I should mention that although I grew up in L.A. and have visited the famous cement courtyard several times, I’ve only been to a movie there once. It was many years ago, and I can’t recall what picture I saw. I just remember the footprints outside.