If you are visiting Hollywood and don’t stop in to see the TCL Graumans Chinese Theatre, you haven’t been to Hollywood. Period. The Chinese Theatre is one most iconic movie palaces in the world and it’s where you will find the biggest crowd of tourists in Hollywood.
It’s one of three famous theaters that showman and businessman Sid Grauman either built or ran. The others he built on Hollywood Walk of Fame are the famed Egyptian Theatre and El Capitan Theatre. He also built the Million Dollar Theatre on the Broadway Theatre District and he owned the historic Rialto Theatre for several years in the twenties.
Located on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6925 Hollywood Boulevard where the stars line the sidewalks, it is the location where you can see the handprints and footprints of the stars set in concrete too.
There are many stories explaining how the tradition of placing foot and/or handprints in the concrete in the Grauman’s forecourt came to be.
Many stories exist to explain the origins of the footprints. The theatre’s official account in its books and souvenir programs credit silent film star and producer Norma Talmadge for having inspired the tradition when she accidentally stepped into the wet concrete. In another version Grumman said during a 1937 radio broadcast that he got the idea to put hand and foot prints in the concrete by accidentally stepping into wet concrete himself. So he grabbed Mary Pickford and asked her to put her foot into it. Regardless, the imprint ceremonies have continued ever since.
The Chinese Theatre was built for the stars – you could almost say by the stars – from the start. Norma Talmadge turned the first spade full of dirt in January 1926 and beautiful Chinese actress Anna May Wong drove the first rivet in the steel girders. The Theatre opened eighteen months later at a cost of $2,000,000. The grand opening of Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in Hollywood was on May 18, 1927. It was the most spectacular theatre opening in motion picture history. Thousands of people lined Hollywood Boulevard and a riot broke out as fans tried to catch a glimpse of the movie stars and other celebrities arriving for the opening.
Authorization had to be obtained from the U.S. government to import temple bells, pagodas, stone Heaven Dogs and other artifacts from China. Poet and film director Moon Quon came from China, and under his supervision Chinese artisans created many pieces of statuary in the work area that eventually became the Forecourt of the Stars. Most of these pieces still decorate the ornate interior of the theatre today.
Los Angeles and Hollywood have no shortage of grand historic theatres… after all, we make the movies they show here. But Grauman’s Chinese Theatre is one of the few, if not the only one of them that has not faded out of the spotlight. Since 1927, the TCL Chinese Theatre has been the home to the most prominent red carpet movie premieres and special events. It has remained the most sought after destination for movie premiers and is where Hollywood’s biggest stars come to watch their movies!
It was declared a historic-cultural landmark in 1968. While there have always been ongoing restoration programs occurring to maintain the theatre’s beauty, it underwent major renovations in 2001 that coincided with the opening of the Hollywood & Highland mall that included several earthquake retrofits to ensure the permanence of the structure.
You can see the grander of the Theatre by purchasing VIP Tour Tickets or movie tickets. Should you purchase movie tickets, you will experience the movie of your choice in the world’s largest IMAX auditorium, as well as the only movie palace in California with a state-of-the-art IMAX Laser projection experience. The experience of seeing a movie at the TCL Chinese Theatre IMAX is unequaled.
When I first saw the Theatre, I was a bit confused. I saw Grauman’s and I saw TCL Chinese Theatre. It is so large that I was left to wonder if there were actually two different theatres. There is only one. On January 11, 2013, Grauman’s teamed up with one of China’s biggest electronics manufacturers, TCL, aka “The Creative Life,” in a 10-year naming rights partnership. This partnership has made many upgrades and preservation projects possible.
If you are a tourist and not a local you will want to make a day of it. The Grauman’s Chinese Theatre is located in the part of Hollywood that is the most densely packed with tourist attractions! Click here to find info on the many Hollywood Attractions within blocks of the Theatre. Visit the TCL Chinese Theatres website for Vip Tour Passes, or movie tickets.