Wave Staff and Wire Reports
HOLLYWOOD — With fanfare, cake and even a Marilyn Monroe impersonator, a 95th birthday party was held May 18 for the TCL Chinese Theatre, celebrated as the world’s most famous movie house.
“On this date 95 years ago, Sid Grauman opened this historic movie palace of the stars with the gala world premiere of Cecil B. DeMille’s ‘The King of Kings,’” Levi Tinker, the venue’s theater operations manager, said during the ceremony.
“During these 95 years, the TCL Chinese Theatre has played host to the star-studded red-carpet premieres of some of the biggest and most important movies of all time, becoming the most famous movie theater on the planet,” he added.
Known worldwide for its famous forecourt, which features hand and footprints from dozens of cinema’s most memorable names — including Marilyn Monroe, John Wayne, George Burns, Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks — the theater is also known for its iconic architecture and ornate interior.
Tiffany Nitsche, president of the Los Angeles Historic Theater Foundation, called the venue “indisputably the most famous theater in the world.”
Grauman was “a master showman who was truly a visionary of what theaters could be,” she said. “He always understood the escapism that audiences were looking for.”
The theater “is a tangible idea of Hollywood,” she said. “It’s the first stop on a visitor’s trip to Hollywood, the idea of a place that was once the playground of Hollywood’s favorite actors, writers and directors. It’s a connection to the past and to the future.”
The theater has undergone three name changes over 95 years. Originally Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, it became Mann’s Chinese Theatre in 1973. That lasted until 2001.
In 2013, Chinese electronics manufacturer TCL Corporation purchased naming rights to the theater and it became TCL Chinese Theatre. Later that year, the theater partnered with the IMAX Corporation and the theater was converted into a custom-designed IMAX theater with 932 seats.
Fairbanks and Pickford were the first stars to have their handprints preserved in the theater’s forecourt in April 1927. Since then nearly 200 more stars have added their handprints, footprints and signatures to the collections. Leo the Lion, the symbol of MGM Studio, left his paw prints in the cement in 2014.
Cowboy stars Tom Mix, Gene Autry and Roy Rogers had their horses’ hoofprints placed next to their prints over the years.
The May 18 celebration featured a cake-cutting by a Marilyn Monroe impersonator, who also twirled her white dress in the forecourt where her character is immortalized.
Greg Schreiner, president of the Marilyn Remembered Fan Club, said the theater “played a large role in Marilyn Monroe’s early life.
“As a young girl living with a foster family in Hollywood, she would spend her weekends watching and re-watching whatever film was playing at this theater, and dreaming of one day becoming a movie star herself,” he said. “On June 26, 1951, that dream came true when she formally placed her footprints and handprints in the forecourt of this theater.”
To mark the occasion, a plaque honoring Grauman was unveiled that will be placed in the Chinese Theatre multiplex adjacent to the famed venue.