Chinese Theater Gets Imax Makeover

Construction expected to start in May

Imax is planning  a major makeover of the iconic Chinese Theater in Hollywood.

The giant-screen chain announced Friday that it had struck a deal with the venue’s owners to redo the former Grauman’s — renamed the TCL Chinese Theater earlier this year — into Imax’s largest auditorium in the world in terms of seating capacity with 986 seats.

Imax said the closing of the deal is subject to the issuance of final permits for the facility, which hosts more than 40 premieres per year. The theater will close May 1 and is expected to re-open in late summer.

“As we embark on our much-anticipated renovation of the TCL Chinese Theater, Imax will play a key role in rejuvenating this historical landmark,” said president Alwyn Hight Kushner in a statement.

Imax CEO Richard L. Gelfond, said, “Today’s agreement is the perfect marriage of Hollywood history and cutting-edge entertainment technology that will transform the movie-going experience for guests of the TCL Chinese Theater for years to come.”

The forecourt area — with its tourist attraction of stars’ handprints and footprints — and the adjacent Chinese 6 Theaters will continue operating during construction.

Producers Don Kushner and Elie Samaha acquired the property and leases in 2011 from a partnership between Warner Bros. and Viacom for an undisclosed price.

The Chinese, built by a partnership led by Sid Grauman, opened in 1927 with the premiere of Cecil B. DeMille’s “The King of Kings.” Grauman’s, known for nearly 200 footprints, handprints and autographs of celebrities in cement blocks, was declared a historic and cultural landmark in 1968.

The Chinese was owned by the Fox West Coast chain until 1973, when it was sold to the Mann chain. In 2000, the Warner-Viacom partnership acquired the theater as part of the purchase of Mann properties when the chain filed for bankruptcy.

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