As it moves into the digital future, the former Grauman’s Chinese Theatre will draw from its Hollywood past when it unveils a giant Imax auditorium with a 3-D screening of “The Wizard of Oz.”
The new theater, now called TCL Chinese Theatre Imax, will reopen to the public next month with a digitally remastered version of the classic that held its Hollywood premiere at the Chinese in 1939. The Chinese has been closed for renovations since May 1.
TCL partnered with Warner Bros. and Imax to release “The Wizard of Oz” in Imax 3-D format. The theater will host a private premiere at the theater Sept. 15, followed by an exclusive one-week engagement at the Chinese and other Imax theaters across North America beginning Sept. 20.
“This film and the TCL Chinese Theatre are among the best-known and most-beloved icons of Hollywood filmmaking, and of course, the amazing Imax technology represents the future of filmmaking,” said Alwyn Hight Kushner, president and chief operating officer for TCL Chinese Theatres. “It’s going to be a game changer for the film industry and the city of Hollywood.”
The iconic Hollywood Boulevard theater will feature a 90-foot-wide, 46-foot-tall screen in an auditorium that will seat 932 people. It will be the world’s largest Imax auditorium in terms of seating capacity among about 730 theaters worldwide.
Consumers will pay a premium to watch Dorothy and her companions on the giant screen in 3-D: Tickets for the “Oz” screening will cost $19.
“There are very few people alive who’ve ever seen ‘Wizard of Oz’ in a movie theater, let alone an Imax movie theater,” said Richard Gelfond, chief executive of Imax Corp. “We’ve been surprised by the level of interest we’ve had in it.”
TCL has invested more than $5 million in the renovations, which also include new LEDs on the interior and exterior of the building. Plans to replace the marquee are still underway.
The renovations involved removing the flooring and seating of the Chinese Theatre and did not disturb historic features, such as the ornate lighting fixtures, murals and medallions.
“The Chinese decor has been completely preserved and protected,” Kushner said.
Imax plans to make TCL Chinese Theatre one of its main venues for holding premieres of big-budget action movies. The remodeled Chinese will feature stadium seating, as well as a new Imax sound system and digital projector, with plans to replace it with a laser projector system that Imax is adding to its circuit.
Following a model that it has used in other venues, Imax will sell its equipment to the owners and receive a percentage of ticket sales.
“It’s a very big deal for us,” said Greg Foster, CEO of Imax Entertainment. “It’s sort of the perfect manifestation of what we’re supposed to do, which is provide an experience for moviegoers that can’t be replicated elsewhere.”
The storied Hollywood Boulevard theater, best known for its giant red Chinese pagoda, 30-foot-tall Chinese dragon and footprints and handprints of famous stars in concrete, opened in 1927 and was declared a historic and cultural landmark in 1968. Judy Garland, the star of “Wizard of Oz,” was the honoree for the 50th handprint ceremony in the forecourt in 1939.
The Chinese is one of the most popular tourism draws in Los Angeles. It was the site of the Academy Award ceremonies in the 1940s and has hosted numerous high-profile premieres.
Warner Bros. spent years on the digital remastering of “The Wizard of Oz.”
“We couldn’t be happier to partner with Imax as we celebrate the 75th anniversary of this iconic film,” said Dan Fellman, president of domestic distribution for Warner Bros. Pictures. “We are excited to give fans the rare opportunity to see this stunning version on the big screen.”