How Netflix Restored the Egyptian Theater With $70 Million

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The Big Picture

  • The Egyptian Theatre, an iconic Hollywood landmark, has been restored and reopened by Netflix, showcasing the company’s efforts to break into the Hollywood community.
  • With a long history and significant cultural importance, the theater serves as a symbol of Hollywood’s past and future, and Netflix aims to make their mark on the industry through this venture.
  • The restoration project cost Netflix approximately $70 million, and the theater will host premieres of Netflix films while also continuing to screen films by the American Cinematheque on weekends.


Efforts for historical preservation gained another win from a seemingly unlikely place when Netflix purchased the iconic Egyptian Theatre at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. After the past few years of intensive restoration and construction, the theater will finally reopened last week with the premiere of the new Netflix film The Killer, directed by David Fincher.

However, the deal is even more of a win for Netflix, as the company and its content continues to make more of an effort to break into the Hollywood community. The streaming service has also released a documentary, titled Temple of Film: 100 Years of the Egyptian Theatre detailing the long history and recent restoration of the theater. Through showing respect for Hollywood and its elaborate past, the company hopes to make their own mark on the ever changing industry. Something as impactful and symbolic to Hollywood as the Egyptian Theatre should not be forgotten, and this week will be the start of its resurgence in many ways. Between being host to Hollywood’s very first premiere event to its comeback in the 1990s, the Egyptian Theatre is a part of the old, and now the new, Hollywood industry.

Image via Netflix

Temple of Film: 100 Years of the Egyptian Theatre

Guillermo del Toro, Rian Johnson and other film luminaries look back at LA’s historic Egyptian Theatre as it returns to its former movie palace glory.

Release Date
November 9, 2023

Cast
Guillermo del Toro, Rian Johnson

Main Genre
Documentary

Studio
Netflix

The Creator of the Egyptian Theatre Also Built Another Well-Known Theater

Back in 1922, the venue, located on Hollywood Boulevard, was opened after being built by showman Sid Grauman. The theatre is designed to represent the elaborate and over-the-top productions of Hollywood’s Golden Age, and its architecture eventually inspired a slew of Egyptian revival movie theaters in the years that followed. The ornate space is decorated with recognizable aspects of Ancient Egypt, such as tall columns, hieroglyphics, and Egyptian art.

The first film shown at the theater was Allan Dwan‘s Robin Hood. This was Hollywood’s first red carpet premiere of a motion picture in the industry’s history. It was a night of classic, Golden Age Hollywood, with the $1 million film (the most expensive film of the 1920s) being produced and distributed by industry big-names like Douglas Fairbanks, Charlie Chaplin, and Mary Pickford.

Hot off of the success of the Egyptian Theatre, Graumann continued to be inspired by the architecture of other countries and built the Hollywood landmark, the Chinese Theatre. Also located on Hollywood Boulevard, its official opening was kicked off with the premiere of Cecil B. DeMille‘s The King of Kings in 1927. In the end, the Chinese Theatre became the more popular of the two theaters, evident through its overwhelming stardom in the present day. Between its dazzling exterior and the handprints and signatures of well-known Hollywood figures, its predecessor could not compete. While the Chinese Theatre thrived, and has since been made into an IMAX theater, the Egyptian Theatre ultimately closed in the early 1990s and fell into ruin. On top of that, severe damage was brought to the theater from a high-magnitude earthquake in 1994, leading it to even further disrepair.

The Egyptian Theatre’s Restoration Project Cost Netflix $70 Million

The Egyptian Theatre was only closed for a few years when nonprofit organization American Cinematheque purchased the property. The old theater was bought by the organization for only $1. With the resources they had, American Cinematheque attempted to restore the venue to its original state.

Screening films since the 1980s, American Cinematheque connects moviegoing with community building and had found its new home in 1998 at the newly restored Egyptian Theatre. While some of the decorative elements remained the same, its overall functionality was made to be more modern. The newer model turned its one screening room into two, with the second being named after famous director Steven Spielberg.

By the time Netflix was making its first inquiry in 2019, critical issues regarding the old structure, which were too expensive to tackle in the 1990s, were becoming more apparent. The streaming giant’s intentions included restoring the old theater to its true original state, which meant ridding the venue of the newer elements that were inauthentic to the time period in which it was built. Netflix also stated that they hoped to play their own films and shows on the iconic big screen. This would mean premiere events hosted by Netflix, centered around screening their new content.

After over a year of deliberating, Netflix and American Cinematheque reached a deal that began last week. While Netflix will be playing their original content and hosting events Monday through Thursday each week, the Egyptian Theatre is still home to the American Cinematheque, as they will screen films on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. While ushering the iconic landmark into a new era of Hollywood is undoubtedly historic, this is not the first time Netflix has taken an aging theater under its wing. The entertainment company gave the Paris Theater similar treatment, entering a lease with the screen movie house before it had to close its doors for good.

It is not difficult to imagine the cost of Netflix’s leap towards being a permanent part of Hollywood when it comes to receiving awards and accolades for their content, especially with the restoration alone costing the company approximately $70 million. There is also the timing of the recent writers’ and actors’ strike coming to an end after 6 months of employees requesting fair pay in the age of streaming. Even further, the deal would not feel adequate without a new, Netflix-centric gift shop selling merchandise of content exclusive to their original streaming content. Nevertheless, an opportunity for talent and moviegoers alike at one of the most important places in Hollywood history, especially in the midst of a constantly-evolving industry, is just about as Golden Age-glamour as it gets.

Temple of Film: 100 Years of the Egyptian Theatre is streaming on Netflix in the U.S.

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