HOLLYWOOD — The Egyptian Theatre, one of the oldest movie theaters in Hollywood and the place where the big film premiere was essentially invented, is one step closer to reopening its fabled doors.
The Community Redevelopment Agency recommended this month that it be allowed to enter into exclusive negotiations with American Cinematheque to agree on a plan to operate the faded movie palace.
The Egyptian, opened in 1922 by Hollywood theater pioneer Sid Grauman, was closed in July, 1992, by United Artists, which said the theater was losing money. Subsequently, the Egyptian was taken over by the CRA, which earlier this year solicited theater operators to submit plans to renovate and manage the 1,200-seat facility. Of the nearly 90 proposals received by the CRA, the proposal offered by American Cinematheque, a nonprofit cultural organization dedicated to film and video, won the agency's nod.
Barbara Smith, executive director of American Cinematheque, says the organization offered a mixed-use plan, in which the premieres of new films, the rerunning of old movies that once premiered at the Egyptian, and film marathons would be presented, along with weekend children's and senior citizens' programming.
American Cinematheque also envisions showing a movie on the history of Hollywood, reinstalling a theater organ that was originally made in 1921 for the Raymond Theater in Pasadena and inviting community and film groups to use the Egyptian's stage for panel discussions and meetings.
"We want to have a use for the theater from morning to night, every day," said Smith. "This theater should be preserved. It should not be abandoned."
The Community Redevelopment and Housing Committee, the CRA's oversight committee, will be presented with the agency's recommendation Monday, with the City Council scheduled to review the proposal next month. If approved by the council, American Cinematheque and the agency have 120 days to agree on a management plan, with the option of extending the negotiating period by an additional 120 days. If the agreement is approved, Smith says American Cinematheque will restore much of the theater's interior, while the CRA will handle the theater's outdoor rehabilitation.
"We're very much in favor of (the proposal)," said Harry Prongue of the Los Angeles Historic Theater Foundation, who noted that the theater began like so many Hollywood productions: by going $300,000 over budget during its construction. "It's a marvelous use and the tentative plans are great."