Hollywood Flashback: The Egyptian Theatre Was First Reborn 25 Years Ago

More than a century after its first screening, the Egyptian Theatre on Hollywood Boulevard is coming back to life following a restoration process that kept it dark for three years. But this isn’t the storied venue’s first makeover.

Sid Grauman’s homage to Egyptian culture — which predates his Chinese Theatre on the same street by five years — debuted in 1922 and hosted the first Hollywood premiere in history, for Douglas Fairbanks’ Robin Hood. After the theater shut down in the early 1990s and was nearly destroyed by the 1994 Northridge earthquake, it was purchased for a dollar in 1996 by the nonprofit American Cinematheque. A grand reopening followed two years later, attended by Charlton Heston and Quentin Tarantino.

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“This is the theater where Hollywood was born, and now it’s becoming our industry’s equivalent of the Getty,” film producer Steve Tisch told The Hollywood Reporter at the time.

According to American Cinematheque chairman Rick Nicita, Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos reached out in 2019 about buying the theater. The collaboration worked out, with American Cinematheque set to screen repertory titles on weekends while Netflix runs its own films during the week.

The theater in 1932
The theater in 1932

Peyton Hall, the restoration architect for the latest refurbishments, focused on updating changes made in the ’90s, including removing the outdoor palm trees and adding modern technology, all while honoring the venue’s initial vision. The renovations also have entailed restoring the auditorium ceiling and Egyptian scarab at the proscenium, removing the balcony and 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. The Egyptian — declared a city landmark in 1993 — reopens Nov. 9 with Netflix’s The Killer and a Q&A with director David Fincher; the streamer will also release a documentary short titled Temple of Film: 100 Years of the Egyptian Theatre.

Egyptian Theatre
Rick Nicita, Temple of Film director Angus Wall and Ted Sarandos attend an Egyptian Theatre press event on Nov. 6.

“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,” Sarandos tells THR. “Restoring this theater has been a labor of love for everyone involved.”

This story first appeared in the Nov. 8 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.

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