Dilletantes

One of the reasons that hustlers like Elie Samaha and Don Kushner believe they can get away with what they’re apparently planning to do with the legendary cathedral that is Grauman’s Chinese is that they know that most Movie Catholics are caught up in their own stuff and will pay closer attention to Transformers 3 trailers than to Samaha and Kushner’s maneuverings.

HE is supposedly read and followed by a vocal and highly aware readership, and so far there are four lousy comments on the story about the Chinese-Studio 54 conversion (which was posted at 9 this morning)? if you’re not going to say something about a true temple of cinema being turned into a part-time temple of Charlie Sheen-style pleasuring, who and what are you?

  • ModernLifeIsRubbish

    It’s a gross idea. Samaha has a piggish vibe. Such a Hollywood landmark shouldn’t be tainted or molested or otherwised abused. Etc., etc.

    But here I am, sitting in Maryland, an utterly powerless movie lover.

  • Kakihara

    I guess people forgot the place was already razed and remodeled under the last owner.

  • MartinBlank

    Bluntly put, most of us had never been there and were never going to get a chance to go there. We’ve already done our mourning for our specific great local theaters that have been shuttered.

    Theaters close every day. Rich scumbags often buy the property, demolish the theater and turn it into a McDonald’s. I appreciate the historical/sentimental value of this particular theater, but, y’know, join the club.

    Thus the few comments.

  • Ray DeRousse

    Sure, it sucks that this is happening … but what can be done? Aside from the opening weekend of tentpoles, theaters everywhere are vacant. I can’t imagine many theaters – even Grauman’s – remaining economically-viable in the long term. I can’t imagine that cavernous space staying in business by showing something like Winter’s Bone, and showing the latest CG robot movie would be as insulting to its legacy as the current plan.

    Not to give approval to the notion, but, given its location, a club would probably make economic sense. Well, at least it would for a few years until the fickle ecstasy-and-coke crowd tires of it.

  • Wrecktem

    The problem is that the Chinese simply doesn’t make money in its current incarnation. Single screen venues in L.A. are slowly disappearing (30 years after the rest of the country, by the way) and unless willing entrepreneur wants to take a bath as owner of this gorgeous, historic building, it’ll have to find another use.

    But please, ANYONE but Elie fuckin Samaha.

  • Hamm Slamwich

    wells, you don’t give a shit about the heartland and express reservations about ever coming here, so, conversely, why should I give a shit about a building I will never step foot in?

  • Deathtongue_Groupie

    I will second Wrectem’s ANYBODY but Elie fuckin Samaha.

    Fuck, how many times has been sued by investors? Isn’t that a giant clue that wherever he got the ducets to do this probably isn’t kosher?

    As to why you should care, non Angelenos..?

    Because there’s the Chinese and then there’s every other theater in the country. Actual movie stars show up to this very day to premier their films there. Shit, actual movie stars still watch films there (I shared a smile with Cameron Diaz in the concession stand once). It is the first thing on every tourist’s list of what to see in L.A.

  • lazarus

    Well said, Deathtongue.

    And it’s ironic that while the owners of the monstrosity that is the Hollywood and Highland complex at least went out of their way to pay tribute to the history of cinema (with the Intolerance-eque design and the Best Picture winner plaques outside the Kodak Theatre) the intersection’s most famous landmark that’s connected to it is going to get raped.

  • MilkMan

    Why would you expect anything less from the hordes of barbarians who populate the entertainment industry. They don’t give a fuck about PEOPLE over the age of 40, let alone a building. I was born and raised in this suckhole and there are hardly any pieces of architecture that I can point to right now and say, Hey, I remember that from when I was a kid. That’s not true. My grandparents used to live in one of the apartment buildings on the corner of Ave of the Stars and Pico, and it’s still there, but that’s the exception. I drive around with my kids and I want to show them places I used to frequent when I was their age (not that they give a shit) and I can’t.

  • Mr. Peel

    I was out all day, so that’s my excuse for not commenting. Look, I’m furious about this but to repeat what Ray asked, is there anything outside of an angry letter to the Times that we or anyone can actually do about this?

  • JackBurton2

    I’m a New Yorker, but lived in LA for 6 years trying to get a writing career going. The VERY first place I went when I got to town was the Chinese. To this out-of-towner coming to LA, it was the embodiment of old Hollywood with the legendary courtyard and modern with state of the art projection and sound. The fact that it will fall into the hands of the man responsible for Battlefield Earth is an affront to the movie gods. I’m not going to go on about tragedies considering what’s going on in the world for real, but this should give someone who purports to love movies pause. This isn’t any old movie theater. This is an historic landmark with strong ties to the glamor days of Hollywood and to sell it off to become ‘da club du jour’ for a slimeball like Samaha is just yet another confirmation that Hollywood has lost its way entirely.

  • CitizenKaned4Life

    Prolific theater and all that (never been, and now never likely will…boo!), but pedigree alone obviously doesn’t pay the bills. And if the best “argument” you have for keeping it open is that “it’s a cool place tourists to visit when they come to L.A.,” none of this should really come as any surprise.

    Other than that, my sentiments echo those of Martin Blank above.

  • Robert Cashill

    Movie Catholics bypassTRANSFORMERS 3 trailers. In fact it’s a venal sin to watch one.

    Don’t trust Samaha but in its current state Studio 54 is now a fine Broadway theater.

  • John Cocktosten

    The LA Times notes the following:

    The single-screen Grauman’s — known for its giant, red Chinese pagoda, signature Chinese dragon guard dogs at the entrance and cement block footprints and hand prints of famous Hollywood figures — was declared a historic and cultural landmark in 1968.

    So until someone in the know can answer what that landmark status means vis-a-vis the impending sale, it may not be the full crisis as theorized. Their grubby hands may be somewhat tied.

  • Efffron

    “The designation of a property as a Historic-Cultural Monument does not prevent demolition or alteration. However, the designation requires permits for demolition or substantial alteration to be presented to the Commission. The Commission has the power to delay the demolition of a designated property for up to one year.”

  • actionlover

    I’ve been dreading this for a while. They stopped being the house for the big releases sometime ago, sadly. Arclight nabs the big openings now.

    What a fucking shame.

    And WHY doesn’t someone like Spielberg step up? He’s always talking about how great it is to see movies on the big screen and how he takes the family out.

    Tarantino saved the New Beverly.

    At least I’ll always have the memories of seeing the following there –

    “Good Fellas”

    “Star Wars” (’97 release)

    “Empire Strikes Back” (same)

    Titanic

    “Casablanca”

    “The Godfather”

    “The Exorcist”

    and so on…..

  • Rev. Slappy

    What I want to know is who books the movies that screen at Grauman’s? Right now they are showing Paul, which has been DOA as a box office attraction for weeks. At this rate, Paul will be out on BluRay and it will still be screening at the Chinese. They can’t book anything Disney because the El Capitan across the street will get it. And a couple of blocks away the Arclight routinely kicks their ass at booking the bigger first run films. At the beginning of last summer Grauman’s was screening Splice for what had to have been at least 8 weeks if not longer. In short, Grauman’s usually books the worst possible movies that nobody wants to see and then runs them for weeks at a time. The Arclight does such a better job of not only booking movies but having cool in-house events. This weekend Werner Hertzog is presenting his 3D cave movie. On top of that, the Hollywood/Highland area is one of the worst tourist trap areas in the city. I don’t see why the city allows the low lifes in their Spiderman “costumes” hustle people for money or allows the carnival barker atmosphere with the tour companies and the businesses. I’m with Jeff, turning the Chinese into a night club is a shitty idea. And it will fail as a nightclub. And then what will happen to it?

  • scooterzz

    so, tomorrow morning, when peter o’toole get his hands/feet muddy with cement, will wells be asking the ‘important’ questions of those involved?…um, prob not…and, yet, we’re dilettantes ….go figure…

  • Wiggumx

    I hate to somewhat agree with Hamm, but I do. I’ve been to LA. I’ve been to the theater. It’s an important landmark. But times change, and areas change. It doesn’t work as a theater now. As Slappy laid out, they have terrible bookings. It’s not like they’re trying terribly hard, it seems. Plus, like Hamm said, I’m from the midwest. So Wells hates me already, therefore it’s not like he can inspire me to do something.

    But what is anyone supposed to do, Jeff? You can lament the loss, for sure. I remember seeing the theater in pictures and on TV forever. I was dying to go there on my first trip to LA. And I did. But I can’t save it. And who can?

    I’m sorry that not enough people are posting on your thread, but what do you want us to do? You chastise us when we change the subject, you chastise us when we don’t post on what you feel is important… and now you chastise us for not saving the theater, or at least posting some sort of eulogy on the thread?

    That’s a lot of responsibility for anonymous readers, Jeff.

  • Terry McCarty

    Random comments re the above:

    1. Assuming DZ/Kakihara is referring to the razing of Chinese Theaters 2 and 3 around the time of Hollywood and Highland to make room for the current adjunct multiplex.

    2. Ironically, the last film I saw at the Chinese was Herzog’s BAD LIEUTENANT: NIC CAGE CHEWS NEW ORLEANS SCENERY.

    3. After reading Jeff’s original post, I went to Richard Verrier’s LAT article–which seemed to be vague-on-purpose about the Chinese’s future. Hoping the L.A. Conservancy can direct some kind of public attention onto this if/when major changes are announced in terms of remodeling.

  • Marty Melville

    It’s dreadful. Sickening. And apart from the historic aspect… it shouldn’t be forgotten that it’s a great movie theater.

    It trumps Arclight with a sound system that could flip a Humvee, a brightly lit and beautifully maintained screen with excellent vantage points from all seating. And hey, you’re sitting in friggin’ Grauman’s Chinese!

    OK, it has crummy popcorn. But where do you find good popcorn in this town? Samaha’s house?

    I know El Capitan (a luminous little jewel-box that seems to thrive in Grauman’s shadow) maintains because of the Disney dough, but Lord I wish Grauman’s could work something out with some moneyed, movie-loving sugar daddy.

    By the way, the lack of posting on this topic may be some form of paralytic denial that something this crummy, wrong and upside-down could be happening. Words do fail sometimes.

  • Kakihara

    Might as well just post my responses to that prior thread here. Ignore my previous comment. I didn’t know that’s what they wanted to do with it. That’s ridiculous. That fuckin’ area’s sidewalks are already over-crowded as is. Do we need to see more of the drunken fights and car-wrecks we already get on the Sunset Strip?

    “The Chinese has been a sagging or failing enterprise for a few years now, largely due to the competition from the Arclight, ”

    It’s not the competition from the Arclight, since Pacific Theaters doesn’t believe in competition! Otherwise, Grauman customers would be allowed to see the same movies the Sucklight gets at better ticket prices with better picture jobs, and without having to deal with assigned seating. And actually, those Pacific nazi fucks decided to do the assigned seating thing for The Grove, too, now, while charging my ass $11.50 for matinees, even on weekends. They got away with at the Fucklight because only asshole yuppies and hipsters with money are willing to deal with Sunset’s shitty parking to catch a flick there, anyway. But The Grove’s a different beast, ‘cus it’s got all the shit most regular folks in the area want to see, and I can totally see a drop-off in attendance with that decision. Hell, even F5, which will make money, had a smaller crowd tonight at my screening. And it *still* didn’t stop jerks with noisy kids and assholes from popping open their PDAs. P.S. Why can Vin Diesel say “Fuck” and F5 gets a PG-13, but a minor can’t hear the same thing in King’s Speech without being accompanied by an adult?

  • Kakihara

    Hamm: You do know the Chinese is where a lot of rural folks stop to take pictures when they visit Hollywood, right?

    Milkman: Yeah, not even the fast-food hangouts I used to dig as a kid are around anymore. This place has been turned into Condo Country, even though anyone who’s rich would rather live in a place they don’t have to drive 30-45 minutes to have fun.

    actionlover: Maybe George will make it up to Star Wars fans forced to be price-gouged by the Arclight because he didn’t want to premiere Sith for only a week there before it would be kicked out by another Adam Sandler movie. After all, he does kind of owe them for camping out to see two of his shitty prequels.

    Slappy: “And a couple of blocks away the Arclight routinely kicks their ass at booking the bigger first run films.”

    That’s because the Arclight is the Blockbuster of the theatrical circuit: over-priced experience, but they rig exclusive deals with the studios which give them monopoly power over what ticket-payers want to see. I can’t wait ’til streaming does in those assholes, too.

    Terry: Yeah, the pre-Samaha management already tore down the classic box office stand, which irked the hell out of me. Actually, the fact that they would rather book an Adam Sandler movie for a whole month, and only give the newest Star Wars a week says it all about how incompetent they became, but I still stick with my argument that Pacific Theaters is engaging in collusion.

  • Kakihara

    Correction: Quasi-collusion. :)

  • LexG

    As an avid L.A. moviegoer, can’t stand to see ANY theater demolished; It’s genuinely upsetting to me every time it happens, as going to the movies on opening weekend is literally my favorite thing in the whole world. Man, I had almost forgotten when the standalone Chinese had “the Twin,” the secondary house next door– saw the Beavis and Butthead movie in there as possibly my first trip to the Chinese at all; And the main house, YES, from that era on, so many big experiences, from Titanic to Phantom Menace– from 98 to 01 or so, would see just about anything that played the Chinese, from those kind of big blockbusters on down to even something like The Pledge or Valentine or Driven; If it played the Chinese, I wanted to see it there…

    Then, very sadly, as others have said, the renovated Hollywood and Highland tourist trap made it less desirable as a destination just to see a movie– you’d go see X-Men 2 at the 6 then get stuck in parking lot hell if a Kodak concert was letting out at the same time… And, yeah, at first Arclight was vaguely “upscale” choices where hipsters would go to see Y Tu Mama or City of God, but over time it just became the destination theater of the area playing all the biggest hits, and basically the Chinese and Chinettes would get new Dimension movies and second-run stuff.

    Still love that theater, love the complex, and I’m a relative johnny-come-lately compared to someone who grew up here and has a lifetime of memories associated with the Chinese, and that it would be razed for a bad disco via the guy from the MYLES BERKOWITZ movie… cringe, and let’s hope this is a case of “I’ll believe it when I see it.”

    And, YES, God, I love a STANDALONE THEATER, where everyone’s there to ACTUALLY SEE THE MOVIE, as happens at the Chinese and the Vista, as opposed to some AMC where people just theater-hop like zombie dumbasses taking a Whitman’s Sampler approach to moviegoing with no respect for their fellow man. At least at the Chinese, you’d never be 123 minutes in Schindler’s List and have a large foreign family sneak in rattling plastic bags and plop down behind you with no idea or care what’s going on in the movie, it’s just more shit in front of their face for their buck. Wish there were more great standalone options like that, or like the Crest in Westwood. Hell, theater-hoppers make me practically more nervous and enraged than cell phone assholes… Mann has closed so many great rooms the last few years… What is it about AMC or Pacific that people actively WANT to go to them, even if they’re a zillion times more crowded and chaotic most showings?

  • BaxterPeanut

    On behalf of your “four lousy comments” thread…you’re welcome. btw, didn’t think the comments were that lousy…

  • GordonCole

    It’s DILETTANTE.

  • taikwan

    I bought my mom and stepdad tickets to see West Side Story there. Even as recently as 2007 I put my feet in George Lucas’ prints – just had to take a virgin New Yorker to see this classic (we were at Star Wars Celebration)…this from a transplanted Michigander.

    It’s iconic but it’s been prostituted (not its fault) by selling out to Kobe Bryant.

    It’s a sacrilige. and damn near blasphemous.

  • K. Bowen

    I would think that if this is the tragedy in the making then LA would have a number of wealthy people who love movies, who don’t want to see it go and who would be willing to purchase it. They could probably do something with it better than show Splice for two months.

    I’ll go out on a limb and say that would be more effective than anything I can do on a message board.

    Then again this is the Baby Boom-GenX divide in action, right? Baby Boomers want to rant and rave and be champion of the right thing. GenXers look at it and say, what would be effective?

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