The sight of Chinese theatre co-owners Elie Samaha and Don Kushner at this morning’s Robert DeNiro handprint ceremony reminded me of their reported plans to rip out the original orchestra seating and install stadium seating. The Chinese is not just a landmark but a church, a cathedral, a place of worship. And a few months from now the classic look and historical vibe that Sid Grauman created in the main auditorium will be raped and destroyed, at least as far as the seating is concerned.
Chinese co-owners Elie Samaha (l.), Don Kushner (r.) at this morning’s Robert DeNiro handprint ceremony.
Imagine if a couple of oily operators bought the old Paris Opera house and announced plans to turn it into a megaplex and install stadium seating. Do you think Parisians would shrug their shoulders and go “okay, whatever”? But that’s been the reaction so far from Los Angelenos to Samaha and Kishner’s stadium-seating intentions, which will be funded with a $5 million investment from TCL, the Chinese TV maker that has re-branded the classic theatre. It all falls under the general term known as “re-monetizing assets.”
A source tells me that come April, or just after the 2013 Turner Classic Movie Festival, the former Graumans will be closed for five to six months for remodelling. A 1.11 L.A. Times article said that “planned improvements include a new extra-wide screen, stadium seating, superior sound and projection systems, and a new box-office marquee on Hollywood Boulevard.”