Culture + Style

Go Behind the Curtain at L.A.’s Iconic Hollywood Boulevard Theaters

The lights of Hollywood Boulevard and its theaters twinkle at night. (Photo: Sean Pavone / Alamy Stock Photo)

Experience the glitz, glamour, and grandeur of Old Hollywood on a tour of Hollywood Boulevard’s iconic trio of LA theaters. Built the 1920s by two visionaries, Charles E. Toberman and Sid Grauman, the themed theaters still dazzle visitors to Tinseltown with stunning facades, ornate interiors, and star-studded histories. Now restored to their original grandeur and enhanced with the latest cinema technology, the theaters present a striking glimpse into Hollywood’s past and present.

Walk in Stars’ Footsteps at TCL Chinese Theatre

The looming and ornate Chinese-inspired facade that marks the entrance to the TCL Chinese Theatre is a worthy distraction. But pause before entering the historic cinema. Before you lies the Forecourt of the Stars, arguably the world’s most famous patch of concrete. Since the 1920s, Hollywood luminaries have placed their handprints, footprints, and signatures in the storied concrete blocks.

TCL Chinese Theatre
The Forecourt of the Stars and exterior of TCL Chinese Theatre. (Photo: mauritius images GmbH / Alamy Stock Photo)

Try to fill Bob Hope’s shoes, or stand in the hoof prints of Trigger, Roy Rogers’ horse. Harry Potter fans can snap selfies next to Daniel Radcliffe and Emma Watson’s signatures.

When you pry yourself from the courtyard and enter the theater, you’ll pass beneath a carved stone dragon and between two Heaven Dog statues imported from China. The theater’s interior is marked by plush red seats and lavish accents, while state-of-the-art IMAX projection immerses you in 3D adventures.

Better known by its original name, Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, the cinema was once the setting for openings of historic flicks like the 1977 launch of George Lucas’ “Star Wars.” It also plays host to premieres of current Hollywood blockbusters.

Experience Elegance and Artistry at Hollywood’s Egyptian Theatre

The 1922 discovery of King Tut’s tomb unleashed a frenzy around the globe for Egyptian decor and artifacts, to which Hollywood was not immune. This obsession inspired the design for Grauman’s Egyptian Theatre. Before entering the theater, you’ll find regal palm trees leading toward a columned entrance. Inside the theater, Egyptian-style paintings and hieroglyphs adorn the walls, and sphinx statues stand guard in the lobby. Be sure to look up: the auditorium’s ornate ceiling showcases a scarab beetle.

The Egyptian Theatre’s greatest claim to historic fame is that it hosted Hollywood’s first-ever movie premiere, showing “Robin Hood,” in October 1922. American Cinematheque bought and restored the theater in 1998, adding a second screening theater. The Egyptian shows a rotating lineup of classic and contemporary films. The theater also hosts festivals and series. Directors such as Werner Herzog have been known to present their films, and actors hold Q&A sessions.

Catch the Latest Walt Disney Flick at El Capitan

With its glittering Spanish Colonial-style facade and East Indian decor, El Capitan Theatre retains all its Old Hollywood glamour. Now owned by a subsidiary of Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, the theater hosts most of The Walt Disney Studios’ film premieres.

El Capitan Theatre
The glittering exterior of Hollywood Boulevard’s El Capitan Theatre. (Photo: Richard Broadwell / Alamy Stock Photo)

Even if your trip doesn’t coincide with an opening, this theater’s rich heritage and exhibits make a can’t-miss sight in Hollywood. If you see a film here, arrive early and visit the basement museum. You’ll find a showcase of costumes and props, often from the movie that’s currently playing.

Before the start of your show, head upstairs to the lobby to hear music performed on a historic Wurlitzer Theatre organ. The restored instrument dates to the 1920s and features more than 2,500 pipes.

It’s worth the extra money to spring for VIP tickets — which include popcorn and a bottled beverage — to the theater’s regularly scheduled Disney or Pixar film screenings. Insider tip: the balcony provides optimal viewing, but if you’re tall, you might want to sit by an aisle because those seats don’t offer a lot of leg room.


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