TCL Chinese Theatre: The Story of an L.A. Icon

Experience state-of-the-art IMAX Laser projection, MX4D, and the Forecourt of the Stars

TCL Chinese Theatre IMAX in Hollywood
TCL Chinese Theatre IMAX | Photo: TCL Chinese Theatre IMAX

One of the world's most iconic cinemas, the TCL Chinese Theatre opened as Grauman's Chinese Theatre on May 18, 1927, with the premiere of Cecil B. DeMille's The King of Kings. Thousands of people lined Hollywood Boulevard for the theatre’s grand opening. The theatre opened to the public the following day, on May 19.

The Hollywood landmark has hosted many movie premieres since then, as well as three Academy Award ceremonies and numerous events. The TCL Chinese Theatre boasts the single largest IMAX auditorium in the world, and the third largest commercial movie screen in North America. The theatre welcomes more than four million visitors from around the world every year.

Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in 1927 | Photo courtesy of TCL Chinese Theatre, Facebook
Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in 1927 | Photo courtesy of TCL Chinese Theatre, Facebook

After his success with the nearby Egyptian Theatre, Sid Grauman turned to real estate developer Charles E. Toberman (Hollywood Bowl, Hollywood Roosevelt) to secure a long-term lease on a property on Hollywood Boulevard. Grauman developed the plans for his “dream theatre” with architect Raymond Kennedy of Meyer & Holler. Grauman financed and owned a one-third interest in the Chinese Theatre. His partners - Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks, Howard Schenck - owned the rest.

TCL Chinese Theatre at dusk | Photo courtesy of ScottM9000, Flickr
TCL Chinese Theatre at dusk | Photo courtesy of ScottM9000, Flickr

Built at a cost of $2 million, the theatre’s striking exterior is designed to resemble a giant Chinese pagoda. The theatre is 90 feet high and two massive coral-red columns, topped by wrought iron masks, hold the bronze roof aloft. Between the columns is a 30-foot high dragon carved from stone. The two original giant Heaven Dogs imported from China continue to guard the theatre entrance to this day. The theatre was designated Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument No. 55 in 1968.

Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell leave their handprints in the Forecourt of the Stars (June 26, 1953) | Photo courtesy of TCL Chinese Theatre, Facebook
Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell leave their handprints in the Forecourt of the Stars (June 26, 1953) | Photo courtesy of TCL Chinese Theatre, Facebook

Forecourt of the Stars

Besides its Chinese design, the theatre’s most distinct feature is the famous Forecourt of the Stars, with nearly 200 celebrity handprints, footprints, and autographs immortalized in the concrete. Visitors can literally touch Hollywood history, from Marilyn Monroe to Tom Hanks, Betty Grable’s legs, Jimmy Durante’s nose, and the magic wands of Harry Potter’s heroic trio. While the origin stories vary, the theatre's official account in its books and souvenir programs credits actress Norma Talmadge for inspiring the tradition when she accidentally stepped into wet concrete. Sid Grauman himself claimed in a radio interview that he came up with the idea when he stepped in soft concrete - his autograph and handprint, dated 1927, remain today.

Photo courtesy of TCL Chinese Theatre, Facebook
Photo courtesy of TCL Chinese Theatre, Facebook

IMAX Theatre

In April 2013, plans were announced to convert the original theatre to IMAX. The TCL’s IMAX theatre ranks as the largest (by seating capacity) IMAX theatre in the world. The new 94 foot × 46 foot silver screen is curved and can be masked for premieres and screening events of non-IMAX films. To accommodate better sightlines and a taller screen, the seating is arranged in stepped rows, descending from street level to the floor of the former basement. The auditorium's decorative walls and ceiling remained unaltered, the existing curtain was extended, decorative lighting effects were added and TCL added digital signage. The theatre reopened on Sept. 20, 2013, with the IMAX 3D version of The Wizard of Oz (1939).

MX4D Motion EFX


Timed to coincide with the opening of Star Wars: The Last Jedi in December 2017, one of the auditoriums in the TCL Chinese 6 complex was remodeled as an MX4D® Motion EFX movie theatre. Following the $2-million revamp, all 104 seats of the theatre move in sync with the movie action and special effects in the cinema - moviegoers “feel” the movie’s motion, jolts, pokes, wind, water, and even scents. The immersive experience includes moving seats, air/water blasts, leg/neck ticklers, fog, seat/back pokers, seat rumblers, and other special effects such as smoke, snow, rain and more.

Property of Discover Los Angeles
Photo courtesy of TCL Chinese Theatre, Facebook

TCL Chinese Theatre Tour

The exclusive TCL Chinese Theatre Tour offers visitors a chance to learn the history of the theatres, inside and out, from its earliest days to the present. The tour features stories and fun facts about the theatre’s Hollywood premieres and the famous Forecourt of the Stars. The 30-minute tour is offered seven days a week, excluding special events. To find out availability, call 323.463.9576 or email Group rates are available.

TCL Chinese Theatre
6925 Hollywood Blvd, Hollywood