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THE BEST...THE BEAUTIFUL...AND THE BIZARRE | GOLDEN
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Gawk Like an Egyptian

November 29, 1998|Janine Alyse Avril

On Friday night, the Egyptian Theater returns. Hollywood VIPs will flow through the forecourt and portico for her grand reopening, not as eager, perhaps, to see Cecil B. De Mille's silent version of "The Ten Commandments"--which premiered 75 years ago on the same date--as to view a movie palace with some historical character. Before the Northridge earthquake knocked her silly, before neighborhood hustlers rendered her sleazy by association, before botched make-overs--wall-to-wall yellow drapes in the auditorium?--undid her glamorous image, Sid Grauman's Egyptian hosted the biggest film events in the business. "Ben-Hur" opened here.

Hoping to make the 1922 landmark worthy of showcasing such epics again and to create a home for its own film series, American Cinematheque, which bought the theater from the Community Redevelopment Agency for $1, mounted the $12.9-million renovation last April. At press time, the paint had dried on the original gilded sunburst ceiling and on the muted reliefs of pharaohs and phoenixes--motifs inspired by the discovery of Tutankhamen's tomb. But the facade at 6712 Hollywood Blvd. was cluttered with construction debris and unfit for a close-up. Even so, it was easy to picture flashbulbs popping again. American Cinematheque, (213) 466-FILM.

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