I saw a movie this past Sunday evening at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre. Have you seen a movie there? You should. Like the Egyptian and the Vista and any of the other old and ornate theatres, the space does not fail to draw you in and make moviegoing feel like a regal privilege. Los Angeles spaces like these stand as obvious reminders of our history and as architectural altars for us to celebrate the creatives that have come before us.
The Chinese theatre is exactly what you think it is: a “Chinese” themed movie house. From when you approach it, giant dragon frescos, gongs, and samurai influenced fixtures greet you from the exterior of the building. I pass this space every day and and have visited the connected, underwhelming “Chinese 6 Theatre” before and have never actually thought that the actual Chinese Theatre space would be anything but what you see from the outside of it: touristy, boring, and bad. It is not that. The only thing that could make this space bad is the movie being screened in there (which is currently Sinister and I very much enjoyed it).
Like all the other themed theatres in town, this space is entirely committed to its name (even if it does step into cliché territory with Asian inspired fonts). The carpets are covered in dragons, the walls are all tapestries of pastoral Chinese scenes, and the ceilings have elaborate, dripping fixtures with hanging tassels and intricate carved wood figures. There is a lot of red silk and paintings of cherry trees blossoming on the walls, too. Inauthentic to how China actually is? Perhaps. Capturing early twentieth century Hollywood magic? Undoubtedly.
Apart from the decor, the space is huge. It’s gigantic! It’s almost the exact same size as the Egyptian, an unsurprising fact to most because they were both designed by Raymond Kennedy. Both are unassuming in size but, once you step into the theatre, you’re in another world. I was pissed Sinister wasn’t playing at the Arclight but the experience at the Chinese Theatre was almost more favorable because there was only ten people in the theatre, there is so much room in between the seats, your seats recline almost all the way to the ground, and it’s on the same block as a Metro station. The only downside is the mass you have to fight through to get into the theatre and the unbearable pre-movie whatever they play on the screen.
Doing The Hollywood And Highland Character Count and walking past this place every day on the way to work, I took it for granted. You forget why visitors stop by for a visit and why it is such a lauded Los Angeles landmark. Yes, it is a large commercial center and it is dripping with Hollywood dollars–but it is a beautiful LA architectural treat. Next time you want to see a super mainstream movie (or a twenty five cent classic movie), hop on the Metro or any bus on Hollywood and check out Grauman’s Chinese Theatre. It’s one of those Los Angeles wonders hidden in front of our faces. It’s worth a visit–especially on a Sunday evening for a horror movie, a time that no one is visiting the theatre.