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Grauman's Chinese Theatre to be sold to movie producers

GRAUMANS CHINESE THEATER One of Hollywood's most iconic landmarks, Grauman's Chinese Theatre, is once again changing hands.

A partnership between Warner Bros. and Paramount Pictures parent Viacom Inc. has signed an agreement to sell the historic theater on Hollywood Boulevard for an undisclosed sum to a pair of movie producers: Don Kushner, executive producer of "Tron: Legacy," and the flamboyant and controversial entrepreneur Elie Samaha, two people familiar with the deal said Thursday.

The sale, which is scheduled to close May 20, also includes the operating lease of the Mann's Chinese 6 multiplex, located in the adjacent Hollywood and Highland retail mall.  

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.

Neither Samaha nor Kushner were immediately available to discuss their plans for the theater, but one person familiar with the matter said the theater will continue to screen movies and host premieres and that the new owners plan to upgrade food and beverage services.

The sale involves the Grauman's building only and not the land the theater sits on, which in 2007 was sold to the CIM Group, which owns the Hollywood and Highland complex and other commercial properties in Hollywood.

Representatives of Warner, Viacom and Mann declined to comment on the pending sale.

Samaha, who has owned dry cleaners and nightclubs in Los Angeles, made waves more than a decade  ago when he ventured into the movie business, producing such films as Bruce Willis' hit "The Whole Nine Yards" and John Travolta's box-office flop "Battlefield Earth."

But his business practices led to a high-profile legal battle with the German company Intertainment AG, which alleged in a fraud and racketeering lawsuit in 2000 that Franchise Pictures, the independent film company headed by Samaha, had made up inflated budgets for such movies as "Battlefield Earth."  Samaha had denied any wrongdoing. Intertainment was awarded $122 million in damages, but was unable to collect the money and ultimately settled the complex legal brawl for $3 million.

Warner and Viacom have been trying to sell the historic theater for more than a year but had struggled to find a buyer.

Warner and Viacom acquired Grauman's Chinese Theatre in 2001 along with six other theaters owned by Encino-based Mann Theatres after the circuit declared bankruptcy in the face of rising competition from large theater chains.

Mann continues to operate theaters in Hollywood, Glendale, Van Nuys and Thousand Oaks.

Ted Mann, owner of the Mann chain, had purchased Grauman's Chinese in 1973; it then operated under the Mann name for nearly three decades.

Sid Grauman and partners that included silent screen stars Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks financed construction of the theater, which opened in 1927 with the premiere of Cecil B. DeMille's film "The King of Kings."  Over the decades it has hosted several Academy Awards ceremonies and was used for scores of high-profile premieres, including George Lucas' "Star Wars" in 1977.

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-- Richard Verrier

Photo: Actress Helen Mirren poses as she makes hand and footprints outside Grauman's Chinese Theatre in Hollywood. Credit: REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

 

 
Comments () | Archives (21)

... 1st. attended Grauman's, working-WOLRD-premiere of "Rush Hour" for then Lee Solters PR Agency. Comic Chris Tucker was-a-client, but L.A. Lakers */AIDS Activist Magic Johnson STOLE-thee-SHOW on la Red Carpet! Jackie Chan-WAS-pleasant & thee party-AFTER-was an Asian-FOOD-blowout!!!

Too bad they couldn't wrest the land from those CIM cheats! Those Baltimore bastards are screwing LA royally.

Why doesn't some enterprising broker just bundle together the Los Angeles Dodgers, L.A. Times, Grauman's, the Hollywood sign, and, hell, throw in the Hollywood Freeway for good measure, and do a package deal? As long as I am leaving the comment, is there any concern for the long-term effect of millions of tourists traipsing all over the footprints? This has been exacerbated by the existence of Hollywood Highland as a destination.

Calling Elie Samaha a "producer" is like calling Bernie Madoff a "stock broker."

Better make sure that check clears before handing him the keys.

The Hollywood Walk of Fame Stars are in disrepair; they are cracked and shoddy looking. Since this is one of the major reasons tourists come to L.A. with their $$$ - shouldn't the Trust AND the City do something to make them look better? City Hall wastes so much $$$ on stupid projects while L.A.'s history goes down the tubes.

At least the Scientologists didn't get it.

For a minute there I though Frank McCourt was going to buy it!

Coriolana, where do you get the idea CIM is based in Baltimore? Their offices are in L.A., Oakland, Bethesda MD (that's suburban D.C.), and New York.

Those crazy bosses at MANN Theatres have struck again. They have NEVER been interested in any sort of preservation since they owned a whole string of cinemas dotting Hollywood Boulevard and now this shows their true nature. Helping push the VOD market closer and closer to the point where it no longer is cost effective to be bothered having a real theatre on land. They always had the highest prices, the greasiest popcorn and yet most movie premiers took place at their locations on the Boulevard and in Westwood. When they let The Village and Bruin go to Regency, I knew it was going to signal the start of MANN transitioning into the real estate business. How could any company be so unproud to own and operate The Chinese Theatre?

What would be an interesting thing to know on this "sale"... is it truly changing hands in terms of taxes OR is it owned by a trust & the trustees are only changing? The big difference is my friends is under Prop 13 & the trust scenario (completely legal btw), NO reassessment is done on the valuation for tax purposes due to a sale. This type of corporate sale goes on daily in California! Hmm, & we wonder why our municipalities are short money to keep up infrastructure, schools, etc...

@Alann:
I wonder if the Scientologists didn't get it... Did you read... Producer of Battlefield:Earth ?

Now, maybe after 7 decades, my Grandfather, JEAN W. KLOSSNER,, who actually worked for Meyer & Holler built the Chinese Theater, and performed the Footprint ceremonies for over 40 YEARS, will finally receive some recognition .....

Ya Think??????

"Neither Samaha nor Kushner were immediately available to discuss their plans for the theater..."

Dang, this news cycle bull-crap. Had the editor waited until the end of the day for an exclusive quote, maybe this tabloid rumor could have been an actual news story. I wish REAL news organizations would separate themselves from the cycle and give us the news, not the rumors.

turn it into a mexican bodega. and a middle eastern flea market. its there already.

Hey, Jimmy-Boy, don't hold your breath about recognition. My father, John Gabriel Beckman, also worked for Meyer and Holler as a building designer for Grauman's, and designed much of the Chinese look and feel. (I've still got a lot of his original designs, plus glass slides of the original murals.) I've heard for decades that they were going to give credit to those who created the place, but have yet to see it happen. At least my dad is appreciated on Catalina...

Wonder why the theater & footprints are in dis-repair???
The MANN group has no knowledge of the legacy left to them, and in fact have already paved ofer a set of prints under the "guise" of improving the looks of the forecourt...

MANN doesn't have a clue how to care for the prints ... my family Patriarch, Jean Klossner who performed the ceremonies, left impliciet instructions how to do this to preserve them for years ..... all totally ignored by the MANN group...

And now, Hollywood is paying the price for it's ignorance!

MARLEY- Thank YOU! I take family & visitors to Hollywood & especially to see the Footprints and the sidewalk Stars...I get a little ashamed of the maintenance of them. AND TO JIMMY BOY - We need to get Mr. Klossner the fame he deserves for doing 40 years of footprints!!! A real pioneer and yet not even a mention of him. He should have a star right in the forecourt of the Chinese Theatre itself!!!!!

@Dutchman:

Good point!

Now they have a studio lot (KCET) AND a theatre.

@ Twolfmom
What you said about Property Taxes and this site is not true. These are two different entities. If you are concerned about property taxes, just look at Redevelopment. In Hollywood all increases in Property values since 1991 are taken by the Redevelopment Agency.

But the CA Republicans (and the Redevelopment lobby arms) have protected Redevelopment so this practice can continue.

If you want reform, don't blame Prop 13, blame Redevelopment.

Doesn't everyone realize that Kushner & Samaha are buying the theaters from Warner Bros and Viacom? The Mann Theater Chain hasn't been involved in Grauman's since oh...2001.

I've started a facebook page to save the Chinese Theatre. Join it in an effort to keep it the way it is, as a beautiful theatre from Hollywood's Golden Age! Here's the link: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Save-Graumans-Chinese-Theatre/163532383707109


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