L.A. Times staffer Amy Kaufman has reported on the gradual mongrelization of Hollywood’s Grauman’s Chinese plex by its sleazebag owners, Donald Kushner and Elie Samaha. They’re not high priests of cinema, these guys, so they’re after the dough, of course. And that means lowering the value of the place by inviting various downmarket types to leave their handprints and footprints.

(l.) Elie Samaha, (r.) Donald Kushner.

Okay, not all the changes are for the worse. Kaufman writes that “plans are in the works to relight the forecourt and restore old theater signs to resemble their 1930s appearance.” But the aura is otherwise being downgraded on a step-by-step basis, it seems, with the cement handprints and footprints of Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner, Mickey Rourke and Kobe Bryant having been added, and with the deteriorating handprints of Groucho Marx being given the heave-ho.

“It has nothing to do with who is an authentic, for-the-ages star,” film critic and documentarian Richard Schickel tells Kaufman. “That has deteriorated. It’s obviously driven entirely by what is hot at this moment, publicity and money. I guess it’s kinda nice, but it’s not the ultimate accolade for a movie actor.”

I ran a piece about the apparent intentions of Kaufman-Samaha on 4.29.11. The sporadic or special-event conversion of the main Chinese theatre into a Studio 54-like space with removable seats hasn’t happened yet, but tomorrow is another day.