Hollywood's Chinese Theater Reopens After Makeover

The iconic Grauman's Chinese Theatre in Hollywood reopens to the public this weekend after a four-month renovation. The venue now holds one of the nation's largest IMAX screens. And it has a new name, after a purchase from Chinese TV maker TCL.

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ARUN RATH, HOST:

Our first show from NPR West in Southern California coincides with another grand occasion, the reopening of the iconic Chinese Theater on Hollywood Boulevard. It's been refurbished and reconfigured. And as NPR's Sam Sanders reports, it has a new name too.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell...

SAM SANDERS, BYLINE: Since 1927, stars have been parading down the red carpet and making their marks here.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: ...in the famous concrete of Grauman's Chinese Theater in Hollywood.

SANDERS: But for the last four months, the theater's been closed for renovations. Yesterday, it reopened, the ornate Chinese fixtures retouched, over 900 stadium seats installed, and a new centerpiece, the world's third largest IMAX screen. The first showing? An updated version of "The Wizard of Oz" in IMAX 3D.

JULIA SADLER NAKAJIMA: (imitating The Cowardly Lion) What makes a king out of a slave? Courage! What makes a flag on the mast to wave? Courage! What have they...

SANDERS: Julia Sadler Nakajima was the first person in line for the 10:30 a.m. screening. She thinks the changes to the theater and the neighborhood are a good thing.

NAKAJIMA: For a long time, Hollywood was just looking very dumpy, especially for people from all over the world. They come a long way to see Hollywood. We don't want to disappoint them.

SANDERS: Scott Morris came to see the show as well.

SCOTT MORRIS: Hey, I'm just picking up.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Can I have your credit card, please?

MORRIS: Sure.

SANDERS: He was a little concerned about the theater's new name.

MORRIS: You know, I think everybody, who's local, still thinks of it as Grauman's Chinese no matter what they call it.

SANDERS: Well, it's not Grauman's anymore. In January, a Chinese TV maker called TCL bought 10 years of naming rights to the theater for more than $5 million. Now, this is not the venue's first name change, but it's the first time a Chinese company will own the name of the Chinese theater. For Scott Morris, that's a little strange.

MORRIS: It's weird to have different countries owning sort of iconic things here in the States. But that's just the way the world is these days.

ROBERT BIRCHARD: Hollywood isn't going to fall apart because TCL has got their name on the Chinese Theater.

SANDERS: Robert Birchard is the editor of the American Film Institute's catalog of feature films. He says the name change really isn't a big deal. For Birchard, TCL's purchase mirrors a larger shift in the entire movie industry.

BIRCHARD: There's a lot of cross-pollination. It used to be foreign receipts amounted to maybe 10 percent of a film's gross. Now, it's the lion's share of a film's gross.

SANDERS: China is now the largest foreign market for U.S. films. And Chinese companies want a piece of the U.S. market too. Just last year, China's Dalian Wanda Group bought the entire AMC Theater chain. Back at the Chinese Theater, once Scott Morris bought his popcorn and walked into the main hall, the gilded ceiling and old Hollywood flair left him impressed.

MORRIS: Wow. Yeah, the house looks great, the theater itself.

SANDERS: And when the lights dimmed and the show started, it was all about the movie.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "THE WIZARD OF OZ")

SANDERS: Everyone here was off to see the Wizard. The name of the Chinese Theater really didn't matter at all.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "THE WIZARD OF OZ")

SANDERS: Sam Sanders, NPR News.

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