Hollywood Journal – The Egyptian

The Egyptian Theatre, Hollywood’s first movie palace, opened in nineteen twenty two with Robin Hood, starring Douglas Fairbanks. Over the years its fortunes rose and fell along with the rest of Hollywood Boulevard. I started going to the Egyptian around nineteen seventy. My friend Paul took me there to see 2001. It blew me away.

I saw many more films at the Egyptian throughout the seventies and eighties, but by the early nineties the theatre was in bad shape. It closed in ninety two. After the Northridge earthquake in ninety four, I was walking past the rear of the auditorium and saw a gaping hole in the wall. I was sure they’d tear it down and put up a mini-mall.

Fortunately, the American Cinematheque bought the Egyptian from the City of LA a few years later, and it reopened in nineteen ninety eight. Hodgetts + Fung was the firm in charge of the renovation/restoration. This journal entry was written around the time they were finishing up.

The photo below is not from the nineties. It was just taken recently.

DSC02060

December, Nineteen Ninety Eight

A cold, windy day in Hollywood. But still a lot of people out and about. The coffee house I’m sitting in seems to be doing good business.

On my way over here I went by the Egyptian. In fact, I walked into the courtyard. It’s open again. They’ve finally finished their renovation or restoration or whatever they’re calling it. My feelings were mixed. On one hand, yeah, I’m glad it’s open and I’m glad it’s being used as a theatre instead of a swap meet.

On the other hand I can’t say I’m crazy about the finished product. Even though they’ve obviously gone to a lot of trouble to restore certain features of the original design. I feel like they’ve ended up with self-conscious kitsch. But I should wait till I’ve seen the inside before I make any rash judgments.

It’s gotta be hard for an architect working on a project like this. The original Egyptian wasn’t a masterpiece of design. It was impressive, theatrical kitsch that overwhelmed you with its size. And god, it was a great place to see movies. Brian says when the Times reviewed the restored building they didn’t even mention that the auditorium is much smaller than it used to be.

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