Netflix buys Los Angeles’ Egyptian Theatre
Staff Reporter | On 30, May 2020Reading time: 4 mins
Netflix has officially closed the deal to buy Los Angeles’ Egyptian Theatre.
The site of the first Hollywood movie premiere and the long-time home of the American Cinematheque, the venue was originally built in 1922 during the silent film era. A fixture in Hollywood’s Golden Age, the Egyptian was the site of the first Hollywood movie premiere, of Robin Hood, starring Douglas Fairbanks. At the premiere, Fairbanks was joined by Cecil B. DeMille, Charlie Chaplin, 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 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 theater to its original grandeur and reopened it as a movie theater showcasing the longtime organization’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 theaters in the United States capable of showing this rare, ultra fragile and flammable film stock.
Now, Netflix and the American Cinematheque are officially joining forces to ensure the long-term future of the Egyptian Theatre. This collaboration will enable the nonprofit 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 theater.
“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 Scott Stuber, head of Netflix Films. “We’re honored to partner with the American Cinematheque to preserve the theater’s storied legacy and continue providing remarkable film experiences for audiences. We look forward to expanding programming at the theater in ways that will benefit both cinema lovers and the community.”
“The American Cinematheque was honored 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 Chairman of the American Cinematheque, 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.”
The transaction has been in the works for more than a year and gives Netflix a venue to showcase its own films on the big screen, given that major cinema chains refuse to show the streaming giant’s movies, as they break the typical theatrical window. Indeed, the deal comes at a time when cinemas have bristled at the decision by Universal to release several films directly to digital instead of cinemas, during the coronavirus lockdown that has seen cinemas shut their doors.
Netflix in talks to buy Hollywood’s Egyptian Theatre
10th April 2019
Netflix is in talks to buy the Egyptian Theatre.
The historic cinema was built by Sid Grauman in the 1920s. Hosting Hollywood’s first ever premiere in 1922 – Robin Hood starring Douglas Fairbanks – the Egypt-themed venue is an iconic put of America’s movie history. Just over 20 years ago, it was renovated by American Cinematheque, the independent, nonprofit cultural organisation, which uses it alongside Santa Monica to present festivals and retrospectives.
Now, it may become home to a different kind of owner altogether, with Netflix in early talks to buy the Hollywood Boulevard establishment. The acquisition, should it come to pass, would mark Netflix’s first brick-and-mortar exhibition venue. It comes after a lengthy period of disruption and disagreement between the streaming giant and cinemas, with larger chains refusing to show Netflix movies that don’t abide by the traditional theatrical window. After Roma won three Oscars and four BAFTAs this year, pressure is now on both the British and American Academy to change their eligibility rules for awards, to require any nominee to be given a theatrical release.
This deal, which is reportedly in the eight-figure range, would give Netflix a chance to both screen its titles on the big screen and contribute to preserving cinema history, as it helps uphold a landmark theatre and provide more stable financial backing for American Cinematheque. Indeed, it is not being seen as a venture into a Netflix-owned cinema chain, with the streaming giant continuing to have relationships with independent chains, such as Landmark, that currently screen its releases. The deal would likely be a partnership of sorts, with Netflix programming screenings on weekday nights, along with occasional special event screenings, while American Cinematheque would operate on an autonomous basis for its own lectures, screenings and events.
Deadline reports that Netflix Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos, who is a board member of American Cinematheque, recused himself from the board as voting on the deal took place.
Photo: American Cinematheque