Chinese Theater @ 85

More than 20,000 tourists daily flock to the forecourt of Grauman’s Chinese, but gawkers sticking their feet where Marilyn Monroe and Donald Duck once trod aren’t enough to keep the venerable movie palace thriving.

So the powers-that-be behind the Chinese aim to raise the facility’s profile for pros and public.

“We want to make it the way it was back in 1927 when Sid Grauman first opened the theater,” says Donald Kushner, part of the ownership team that took control of the theater and the associated multiplex last year. “Whatever we can do to create that sense of excitement that it has had over the last 85 years.”

The ownership group, which includes Kushner, Peter Locke, Elie Samaha, Steve Markoff, Enrique Steiger and Film Finances Inc., are stepping up efforts to monetize the tourist traffic. They’re planning a documentary short on the Chinese to be shown during theater tours.

New are screenings of Hollywood classics 25-cent tickets, the same price as when the theater opened in 1927. That price may not drive profits, but with fresh licensed merchandise, souvenir and concession sales should boost the bottom line.

To enhance the theater as a venue for premieres, the lobby area of the adjacent Chinese 6 multiplex has been redesigned into a “ballroom” with an upstairs VIP area.

In the planning stages is a “very exclusive” Oscar party to benefit a still-unidentified charity.

Kushner also says, “We’ve made a concerted effort to attract more film festivals here and to make it more of a cultural center of Holllywood,” citing recent Michael Jackson and Katy Perry events aimed at younger fans.

One change everyone will see is new exterior lighting designed by Steven Lieberman. The current colored lights will be replaced with all-white lighting scheme.

Says Samaha, “We want to bring it back to its real real roots and history, it’s a piece of art, a piece of jewelry, it’s a piece of history. It’s like lighting a diamond.”

Chinese Theater @ 85
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