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Famed theatre cements Chinese roots

By Aaron Blevins, 1/17/2013

TCL purchases naming rights to Hollywood landmark

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Grauman’s Chinese Theatre is Grauman’s no more; the naming rights of the 85-year-old theatre in Hollywood has been sold to TCL, a Chinese consumer electronics company that purchased the theatre’s name for approximately $5 million.

Confetti flies as Chinese Theatre officials drop the curtain on the theatre’s new logo. TCL reportedly purchased the naming rights for $5 million. (photo by Aaron Blevins)

Details of the 10-year deal were released on Jan. 11 during a ceremony held at the Chinese Theatre’s forecourt, where officials praised the partnership and unveiled the theatre’s new name, TCL Chinese Theatre.

“The Chinese Theatre has endured for 85 years because it’s unique and also because it has adapted to each new advancement in motion picture technology and patron comfort,” said historian Hillsman Wright, co-founder of the Los Angeles Historic Theatre Foundation. “It’s a great place to see a movie. It might even be the best place to see a movie. And thanks to TCL, that experience is about to become even better.”

According to a press release, the partnership will bring improvements to the theatre, such as new stadium theatre seating, a new screen, main lobby refurbishments, audio and visual enhancements, a new box office marquee, landscaping, outdoor lighting and exterior painting.

U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) referred to the Chinese Theatre as “hallowed ground,” and said it is fitting that a Chinese company owns the theatre. He referenced the recent announcement that China is now the entertainment industry’s largest overseas market, and said Hollywood frequently gets tourists from the country.

“It is a natural synergy,” Schiff said. “We hope, through this partnership, to see restoration of this wonderful, iconic movie palace, improvements and upgrades that will continue to make this icon a part of the 21st Century.”

Elie Samaha, co-chairman of the Chinese Theatre, and Donald Kushner, co-chairman and CEO, will retain their positions. Samaha said they were honored to be the caretakers of the entertainment landmark, and he referenced Sid Grauman, who was the “world’s best showman.”

“We, too, are showmen of the 21st Century. …We are hopeful of raising the bar of the theatre-going experience,” he said.

Kushner said the partnership will help the theatre continue to thrive.

“It is our intention to preserve the legacy of the theatre, while also bringing it into the future and making sure that it stays the ultimate destination for people across the world and sets the trend for film exhibition,” he said. “TCL will help make this possible.”

With the help of a translator, TCL chairman and CEO Li Dongsheng said his company has grown from a local Chinese business to a “global, leading brand in the consumer electronics industry.”

“Today, TCL enters a partnership with the Chinese Theatre of Hollywood, which features a long history and extensive cultural achievement. It’s not only an important part of TCL’s strategy in developing a global and U.S. market, but also a great opportunity for us to understand and integrate into the society, the cultural and the business environment of the United States,” he said. “With that being said, I believe now, more than ever, China wants to learn more about the States, and the States want to learn more about China. And I believe we will take advantage of this chance and make sure this will be a place that brings movie fans and visitors the beauty from the perfect integration of technology, the arts and innovation.”

Actor Bill Paxton attended the ceremony, having walked the red carpet at the Chinese Theatre, and spent time filming movies in China. He referenced the history of the theatre, saying that its opening was the “most spectacular movie theatre opening in the history of cinema.”

“It was once stated that to visit Los Angeles and not see the Chinese Theatre was like going to China and not visiting the Great Wall,” Paxton added. “It goes without saying that this theatre is Hollywood’s greatest shrine to motion pictures.”

He said he will be going back to China soon to direct a movie based on the 1970s TV show “Kung Fu.” Paxton said he hopes the movie will premier at the Chinese Theatre.

“For me, that would be a dream come true,” he said.

Luomei Shu, commercial counselor for the Consulate General of the People’s Republic of China, said she was very happy and excited about the partnership. She also praised TCL’s efforts.

“On behalf of the Chinese consulate in Los Angeles, I would like extend our warmest congratulations to TCL and also to the Chinese Theatre,” Shu said. “This is a very important step forward for TCL globalization and multi-nationalization, and it’s a good example for Chinese companies. TCL is one of the household names in China, and one of the most venerable brands in China. It is also well-received and well-recognized by Chinese consumers.”

She said the company has had a close relationship with Hollywood over the past few years, and the purchase of the naming rights shows the commitment they have to the entertainment industry.

“It also demonstrates clearly that TCL has complete confidence in the U.S. economy,” Shu added.

Grauman’s Chinese Theatre opened on May 18, 1927. It is well known for the handprints and footprints that more than 200 film stars have left in the theatre’s forecourt, a tradition started by Grauman himself. Wright, the preservationist, said the theatre was Grauman’s greatest achievement.

“I think somewhere out there today Sid Grauman is smiling,” he said.

 

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