Movies

Netflix buys Hollywood’s classic Egyptian Theatre

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MUMBAI: Netflix has just bought a classic edifice from Hollywood’s Golden Age, the Egyptian Theatre, reinforcing the streaming giant’s interest in the movie industry.  

The historically significant Egyptian Theatre is a classic and esteemed movie palace originally built in 1922 during the silent film era. Located in Hollywood, the movie palace was the site of the first-ever Hollywood movie premiere, of Robin Hood, starring Douglas Fairbanks.  At the premiere, Fairbanks was joined by Charlie Chaplin, Cecil B. DeMille, Jesse L. Lasky, and Mary Pickford. Other notable silent-era premieres held at the Egyptian include: Cecil B. DeMille’s The Ten Commandments (1923), Charlie Chaplin’s The Gold Rush (1925) and Don Juan (1926) starring John Barrymore and Mary Astor.

The storied theatre was owned and operated by a member-based cultural outfit named American Cinematheque between 1998 and 2020.

“The Egyptian Theatre is an incredible part of Hollywood history and has been treasured by the Los Angeles film community for nearly a century,” said Netflix Films head Scott Stuber.  “We’re honoured to partner with the American Cinematheque to preserve the theatre’s storied legacy and continue providing remarkable film experiences for audiences. We look forward to expanding programming at the theatre in ways that will benefit both cinema lovers and the community.”

Netflix, which did not reveal the quantum of money in the deal, will invest in the theatre’s renovation and will use the revitalized space for special events, screenings and premieres during the week.

“This collaboration will enable the non-profit American Cinematheque to expand the scope and diversity of its widely praised movie and event programming, its filmmaker-centric festivals and its educational outreach at the beloved theatre,” said a Netflix press release.

Established in Los Angeles in 1984 as a non-profit, member-supported cultural organisation, the American Cinematheque creates spaces where both the public and members of the film industry come together as a community with the common language of film.  The Egyptian Theatre will remain the home of the American Cinematheque with the organisation’s celebrated curation team continuing to autonomously program Friday, Saturday and Sunday. 

“The American Cinematheque was honoured to bring the Egyptian back to life in 1998, and together with Netflix we are thrilled to continue this stewardship by restoring it once again for a new generation of film fans to experience movies on the big screen,” said American Cinematheque chairman Rick Nicita.  “The Egyptian Theatre remains our Hollywood home and we are grateful to both the City of Los Angeles and the Attorney General of the State of California as we accept this incredible opportunity that will greatly benefit the American Cinematheque.”

“Love for film is inseparable from L.A.’s history and identity,” said mayor Eric Garcetti. “We are working toward the day when audiences can return to theatres –– and this extraordinary partnership will preserve an important piece of our cultural heritage that can be shared for years to come.” 

"The Netflix and American Cinematheque partnership at the Egyptian Theater is a win-win for film, historic preservation, and the arts,” said council member Mitch O’Farrell, Los Angeles city council 13th District.  “The collaboration ensures the cultural destination remains in the Heart of Hollywood for decades to come."

Moviegoers’ destination

The historic venue remains to this day an ultimate destination for moviegoers, where it has hosted groundbreaking film festivals and incredible cinematic experiences over the near-century it has been in Hollywood, the movie-making capital of the world.  In 1996, the City of Los Angeles sold the building to the American Cinematheque as part of the City’s Hollywood Revitalization project.  The Cinematheque then raised the extensive funds to renovate and restore the theatre to its original grandeur and reopened it as a movie theatre showcasing the long-time organisation’s celebrated public programming.

In 2016, with the generous support of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, Turner Classic Movies and The Film Foundation, the projection booth at the Egyptian Theatre was retrofitted to begin screening 35mm nitrate film and is now one of only four theatres in the United States capable of showing this rare, ultra-fragile and flammable film stock. Part of the new plans include upgrading equipment to enhance the audience experience, and renovating and restoring the theatre.

The Cinematheque will continue to programme and operate a second historic theatre, the Aero in Santa Monica.

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