Developed by L.A. real estate giants Charles E. Toberman and Sid Grauman, the vaudeville showman and movie-palace mogul behind the nearby Chinese Theatre, this 1922 Egyptian-themed landmark capitalized on the national fervor of British archeologists' early 1920s discoveries of ancient Egyptian tombs and artifacts. The Egyptian Theatre's dramatic entrance courtyard bears huge columns and mock hieroglyphics, similar in feel (if not scale) to the Babylonian design details of its neighbor, the Hollywood & Highland mall complex.
The first Hollywood theater to host a national movie premiere (The Ten Commandments, 1922), the Egyptian became famous for its pre-screening live performances staged by Grauman himself; eventually, the theater became best known for long-term engagements of big box office films likeMy Fair Lady andBen-Hur.
The Egyptian -- and Hollywood itself -- began to experience a slow decline in the 1970s, and by the early '90s, the theater's owner, United Artists, opted to let it go. By 1998, though, non-profit cinephile organization American Cinematheque had chosen it as its Eastside home (the Westside branch is the Aero Theatre in Santa Monica), invested over $12 million in its full restoration, and re-launched it as a working movie theater.
These days, screenings at the Egyptian's two theaters (one with 616 seats, the other 78) include American Film Institute events, gala premieres, and double features of movies by the same director. The organization's American Cinematheque Awards are televised here each year and all screenings are open to the public.
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