Grauman’s Chinese Theatre LA

Forecourt of the Stars at the TCL Chinese Theatre

Since its opening in 1927, Grauman’s Chinese Theater (now TCL Chinese Theater due to a change in naming rights) has become a revered landmark in Hollywood and a must-visit attraction for anyone looking for an authentic Los Angeles experience. The theater regularly hosts highly-anticipated film premieres and is often featured on city tours of the area, giving visitors the chance to appreciate its classic art deco architecture and iconic handprints cemented in its forecourt. With its storied history and glittering facade, the TCL Chinese Theater is truly an LA icon not to be missed.

Grauman's Chinese Theatre
Grauman’s Chinese Theatre by einalem

More than 2 million visitors a year. As hokey as it sounds, searching for your favorite star’s autograph – from among the 200+, multicolored blocks in the cement courtyard – is genuinely fun. Tourists can’t seem to resist comparing their shoe size to the stars’ footprints. Few can match the smallest adult footprint in the forecourt, which belongs to Jeanette MacDonald. It measures just 6 1/2 inches. Even smaller are the barefoot, childhood footprints of Shirley Temple.

Forecourt of the Stars Celebrity Imprints

Eddie Murphy, Tom Cruise, Michael Keaton, and Mel Gibson received the honor of placing their hands and feet in the famous wet cement. So did directors Steven Spielberg and George Lucas, along with the “Star Wars” characters of Darth Vader, R2D2, and C-3PO.

There have only been over 200 star imprints made so far, and the remaining empty space in the theatre’s small forecourt is scarce – so the honor has normally been reserved solely for true Hollywood superstars. Here are some of the most famous imprint stories at the TCL Chinese Theatre:

Marilyn Monroe’s Heels

Marilyn Monroe’s imprints stand out due to the way she positioned her feet. Rather than the traditional side-by-side placement, she placed her heels together and her toes slightly apart. This unique pose has become an iconic image in Hollywood history.

Grauman's Chinese Theatre: Marilyn Monroe
Grauman’s Chinese Theatre: Marilyn Monroe by SarahMcGowen

John Wayne’s Larger Block

John Wayne’s footprints are notably larger than most other celebrities’, reflecting his status as a larger-than-life Hollywood icon.

Sid Grauman’s Prints

The theatre’s founder, Sid Grauman, placed his handprints, footprints, and signature in the cement during the opening ceremony in 1927, marking the beginning of this tradition.

Shirley Temple’s Tiny Footprints

Child star Shirley Temple left her tiny footprints at the age of 7. Her imprints are among the smallest in the courtyard.

Groucho Marx’s Cigar

Groucho Marx’s imprint includes a cigar that he placed in the cement, showcasing his iconic cigar-smoking persona.

Marx Bros. at the Grauman’s Chinese Theatre (1933)
Marx Bros. at the Grauman’s Chinese Theatre (1933) by kndynt2099

Star Trek Cast

The original cast of “Star Trek” (William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, and DeForest Kelley) left their imprints, including the Vulcan salute by Leonard Nimoy, adding a touch of sci-fi history to the courtyard.

Harry Potter Trio

In July of 2007, the three young stars of the “Harry Potter” movies (Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson & Rupert Grint) placed their hand, foot, and wand prints in the wet cement.

Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, and Rupert Grint, stars of the “Harry Potter” film series, left their imprints as a trio, commemorating their roles in the beloved franchise.

Robin Williams’ Bicycle Tracks

Robin Williams left his bicycle tracks alongside his hand and footprints, referencing his role in the movie “Jumanji,” where he famously rode a bike through the jungle.

Michael Jackson’s Moonwalk

Michael Jackson’s imprints were placed in the cement with a moonwalk pose, celebrating his legendary dance moves.

R2-D2 and C-3PO

The iconic “Star Wars” droids, R2-D2 and C-3PO, have their imprints in cement, marking the enduring popularity of the “Star Wars” franchise.

Star Wars cast handprints
Star Wars cast handprints at Grauman’s by astroot

Tom Hanks’ Dress Shoes

Tom Hanks famously left his imprints in elegant dress shoes instead of traditional sneakers or casual footwear.

Twlight Trio Handprints

In November 2011, the three main stars of the Twilight Saga were similarly enshrined. The prints of Taylor Lautner, Kristin Stewart, and Robert Pattinson are a real hit with our younger travelers.

Under new ownership, the theater has liberalized its selectivity and in 2011 had 11 imprinting ceremonies, the most since its first year in 1927 when 9 stars were enshrined. This has raised some concern as the likes of Alvin and the Chipmunks, the Smurfs, and a French DJ have been honored in ceremonies in the famous forecourt. It is unclear how many of these will ever be installed. However, as one of the owners has stated the minor ceremonies are not really installations but merely mock ceremonies and they will never really be installed in the forecourt.

History of Chinese Theatre

On May 18th, 1927, the incomparably grand Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in Hollywood made its official debut to the public. Thousands of people descended on Hollywood Boulevard, desperate for a glimpse of the stars and celebrities who had arrived for the opening ceremony. That night marked the premiere of Cecil B. DeMille’s “The King of Kings,” preceded by Sid Grauman’s innovative live prologue, “Glories of the Scriptures,” which was accompanied by a 65-piece orchestra and a Wurlitzer organ.

LAMTA Grauman's Chinese Theatre
LAMTA Grauman’s Chinese Theatre by Metro Transportation Library and Archive

Sid Grauman had already achieved success through his Million Dollar Theatre in downtown Los Angeles and the lavish Egyptian Theatre situated just a few blocks from the Chinese, but this project served as the fulfillment of his dream. This impressive feat cost him $2 million in 1927 dollars. The theatre opened to the public the following day, cementing Grauman’s legacy as one of the most renowned showmen in motion picture history.

Grauman believed that the theater itself should be as beautiful as the films shown inside. Furthermore, he had the vision to recognize that film would be the primary entertainment medium of the future and built his theaters to reflect his vision. Other theaters of the day possessed a stage for live performances with a screen to show films; Grauman did away with the stage and built theaters with movie screens only.

Authorization had to be obtained from the U.S. government for Chinese craftsmen to bring temple bells, pagodas, stone Heaven Dogs, and other artifacts into the United States. Poet and film director Moon Quon was instrumental in facilitating this process and closely supervised the Chinese artisans who constructed many pieces of statuary for the theatre’s forecourt. Most of these pieces still adorn the ornate interior today.

Welcoming Oasis

Protected by its 40-foot-high curved walls and copper-topped turrets, the theatre’s forecourt serves as an oasis for the stars of yesterday and today, honoring them with ten-foot-tall lotus-shaped fountains and intricate artwork. Hundreds of celebrity footprints are set in concrete alongside handprints and signatures of some of Hollywood’s most elite.

Impressive Sight & Historical Monuments

Rising 90 feet high, two gigantic coral-red columns, topped by wrought iron masks, hold aloft the bronze roof of the Chinese Theatre. Between these columns stands a 30-foot-high dragon carved from stone. At the entrance to the theatre can be found two of the original giant Heaven Dogs brought from China, serving as constant reminders of this building’s rich history.

Ownership & Management

The theatre was never owned outright by Grauman; instead, he held a one-third portion of the theatre alongside his partners, Howard Schenck, Mary Pickford, and Douglas Fairbanks, Sr. In 1929, Grauman sold his share and took over as Managing Director of the theatre until his death in 1950.

Hollywood Landmark

The iconic Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in Hollywood is one of the most sought-after destinations for film premieres. Movie fans from around the world travel to these events to witness the arrival of their favorite celebrities on the red carpet, an experience unrivaled in the world of entertainment.

History and Preservation

Declared a historic-cultural landmark in 1968, Grauman’s Chinese Theatre has long been the subject of concerted restoration efforts to maintain its beauty. After the 1994 Los Angeles earthquake, experts were brought in to inspect the theatre and advise on ways to strengthen and protect the structure. Through an extensive earthquake retrofit process, builders ensured the theatre’s protection and permanence for future generations.

A Bright Future

Today, Grauman’s Chinese Theatre remains one of the most prestigious venues for movie premieres in Hollywood. With its iconic status assured, this treasured destination will continue to offer moviegoers around the world a truly memorable experience for years to come.

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