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Sitting Pretty

September 04, 2002|SCOTT TIMBERG | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The Shrine Auditorium, that venerable 1926 hall near Exposition Park, has empty nest syndrome. Walking through the building, now nearing the end of a $10-million make-over, Shrine manager and historical consultant Andy Stamatin sounds like a parent fixing up the house in hopes that the kids will come home after college.

"We're designing this for the Emmys, and the Oscars--when they come back," Stamatin says, showing off the newly refurbished seats, repainted offices and dressing rooms, the array of just-planted palm trees and antique lighting outside the entrance.

It's all part of a five-year plan to sharpen up the building, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, within restrictions for historic landmarks.

At the Shrine, which will host the Emmy Awards on Sept. 22, most of the recent work is on parts of the theater not obvious to the public eye: the seats with their crumbling cushions, wood floors that needed a major sanding, and a green room and backstage that had gone a bad shade of white. The outside of the building, which had drifted to cottage white, is back to the beige/stone palette that the restorers think is closer to its original color.

"The new work hasn't been about Kodak or Staples Center," says Doug Worthington, the hall's general manager, naming the auditoriums to which the Shrine has recently lost the Oscars and the Grammy awards, respectively.

What the Shrine has that the Kodak Theatre and Staples Center never will is a history that goes back to King Kong (scenes from the 1933 movie were filmed there), early Elvis Presley, Sammy Davis Jr. and Frank Sinatra (who celebrated his 80th birthday at the Shriners' Moorish palace).

At the time of its opening, the Shrine--with 6,300 seats--was the largest theater in the world; it's still the largest in the country.

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