Friday, March 16, 2012

Grauman's Chinese Theatre

Grauman's Chinese Theatre is a movie theater on Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood, California. It is on the historic Hollywood Walk of Fame but is probably most famous for the concrete blocks in its forecourt, which bear the signatures, footprints, and handprints of many movie stars.

Mom & Dad were both very interested in it and the first time they came to California (1976) it was high on their list of places they wanted to see.

I’ve seen two movies there.  In the spring of 1977 I was visiting LA with friends from Shaver Lake who had family near LA.  Looking in the paper I saw that there was a science fiction movie playing at Grauman’s.  I’d always wanted to see the inside of the theater (I’d been in the forecourt before, but not inside the theater) and I liked science fiction movies, so I suggested to my friends that we go see it in a matinee.  None of us knew anything about this movie, but everyone thought it would be a fun way to spend the afternoon.

When we got to the theater we found that there was a bit of a queue.  I was surprised as having to wait in line to get into a movie was very rare.  I could only remember this once or twice before and those were for movies which “everyone” was trying to see.  We’d never even heard of the movie we were intending to see.  Eventually we got in and found seats – the theater wasn’t crowded. 

It was a gorgeous theater and quite interesting to gawk about.  We knew that many world premieres had been held there, as well as Academy Award events, so as we waited we speculated on which famous stars and celebrities had sat in our seats at one time or another.

Finally the movie began and it began spectacularly.  The music and sound effects were incredible.  The first scene was a space ship coming in low at the top of the screen and it was so realistic that I wanted to duck my head.  Moments later an even bigger ship came onto the screen and the feeling of needing to duck was even more compelling.

So, do you know what the movie was?  It was the first Star Wars (now called A New Hope).  Yes, I first saw it at Grauman's Chinese Theatre and had not heard anything about it before then.  I saw it before anyone I knew saw it and before it became the phenomenal hit that it became later that summer.

The next time I was in there was May 16, 1984.  Again, I was visiting LA with friends.  The Natural, a baseball movie starring Robert Redford, was playing at Grauman’s.  We went over to see it.  When we came out into the forecourt after the movie there was a “buzz” in the air.  It was immediately obvious that something notable had happened.  There was a security guard standing nearby and I asked him what was going on.

He replied, “Lucas and Spielberg just put their hand and foot prints in concrete over there.”  He pointed to a group of people standing across the forecourt.  “You just missed them,” he added, “They just left about five minutes ago.”

We walked over and looked at the still-wet concrete, roped off and heavily guarded.  I think there were actually some LAPD officers there, it wasn’t just private security.

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