Grauman's Egyptian Theatre is a noted movie theater located at 6706 Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood, California. Opened in 1922, it is an early example of a lavish movie palace and is noted as having been the site of the first-ever Hollywood film premiere. Since 1998 it has been operated by the American Cinematheque film archive.
The Egyptian Theatre was built by showman Sid Grauman and real estate developer Charles E. Toberman, who subsequently built the nearby El Capitan Theatre and Chinese Theatre on Hollywood Boulevard. Grauman had previously opened one of the United States' first movie palaces, the Million Dollar Theater, on Broadway in Downtown Los Angeles in 1918. The Egyptian Theatre cost $800,000 to build and took eighteen months to construct. Architects Meyer & Holler designed the building and it was built by The Milwaukee Building Company.
The Egyptian Theatre was the venue for the first-ever Hollywood premiere, Robin Hood, starring Douglas Fairbanks, on Wednesday, October 18, 1922. As the film reportedly cost over $1 million to produce, the admission price to the premiere was $5.00. One could reserve a seat up to two weeks in advance for the daily performances. Evening admission was 75¢, $1.00 or $1.50. The film was not shown in any other Los Angeles theater during that year.
In 1927, Grauman opened a second movie theater further west on Hollywood Boulevard. In keeping with the public fascination in that era with international themes, he named his new theater the Chinese Theatre. Its popularity eventually rivaled and surpassed the Egyptian because of its numerous celebrity handprints, footprints, and signatures in the cement of its forecourt.
Inspiration for other movie theatres
The layout, design and name of the Egyptian Theatre was emulated by other movie palaces in the USA. Peery's Egyptian Theatre in Ogden, Utah, opened in 1924, is one example.
The exterior of the theatre is in the Egyptian Revival style. However, the attentive visitor will notice roof pans above the main entrance, items which are not in ancient Egyptian style. The original plans for the theatre show a Hispanic-themed theatre, but at some point these plans were changed to an Egyptian style. It is probable that this was due to public fascination with the multiple expeditions searching for the tomb of Tutankhamun by archaeologist Howard Carter over the preceding years. (Carter eventually discovered the tomb on November 4, 1922—just two weeks after the Egyptian Theatre opened.) At that time the change in architectural style was determined, the Hispanic-styled roof pans had already been delivered and paid for; they were kept and used in the building.
The exterior and interior walls contain Egyptian-style paintings and hieroglyphs. The four massive columns that mark the theatre's main entrance are 4 1⁄2 feet (1.4 m) wide and rise 20 feet (6 m).
Capitalizing on Southern California's sunny weather is the large courtyard (45 ft × 150 ft (14 m × 46 m)) in the front, complete with a fountain and queen palm trees. This is actually the "entrance hall" (the theatre doors used to open directly into the auditorium) and was specifically designed to host the theatre's famous red carpet ceremonies. Guided tours are offered by American Cinematheque's staff on weekends.
Reflecting the ebb and flow of Hollywood's popularity as a location, the Egyptian's fortunes also changed over the years. As Hollywood declined in the 1980s and early 1990s, the theatre eventually fell into disrepair. In 1996, the city of Los Angeles sold the theatre to the American Cinematheque for a nominal one dollar with the provision that the landmark building be restored to its original grandeur and re-opened as a movie theatre. The Cinematheque committed to raising the funds to pay for the restoration and to using the renovated theatre as home for its programs of public film exhibition.
The Egyptian Theatre was re-opened to the public on December 4, 1998, after a $12.8 million renovation. The original theatre seated 1760 patrons in a single auditorium. In the restored Egyptian the building has been reconfigured to add a second screening theatre. The main theatre now accommodates 616 patrons and is named after Los Angeles philanthropist Lloyd E. Rigler. The smaller, 77-seat theatre is named for Hollywood director Steven Spielberg.