Hollywood's Grauman's Chinese Theatre To Convert Into Third Largest IMAX Theater In North America

Hollywood's Grauman's Chinese Theatre is one of the most famous movie theaters in the world, but in recent years it has become more of a tourist attraction and venue for movie premieres. The theater plans to enter the 21st century with plans to convert the huge theater into an IMAX theater.

CompanyTown has learned the following (which IMAX and Grauman's have yet to officially confirm):

Imax plans to make the Chinese Theatre one of its main venues for holding premieres of big budget action movies. The new Imax theater will be 94 feet wide and seat 986 people, making it the largest in terms of seating capacity among more than 730 Imax theaters in at least 50 countries. It would be the third-largest Imax theater in North America, only slightly smaller than Imax venues in San Francisco and Lincoln Square in New York City.

Of course, the deal would be subject to permit approval by the city. The bad news is that the new theater will abandon film all-together and run 100% on digital projectors:

The Imax theater is expected to open by September and with new stadium seating, as well as a new Imax sound system and digital projector, which will later be replaced by a laser projector system that Imax is adding to its circuit. The system, expected to be installed next year, uses patents that Imax acquired from Kodak and provides much brighter images and better color contrast than conventional digital systems.

We have not yet seen the possibilities from IMAX's upcoming laser projection system, but word is that it will be a real game changer. The company has plans to eventually replace all the existing 70mm film projectors with this new laser technology. Grauman's seating was build on a slight slope and had many bad seats, so stadium seating will be a welcome addition (required for the IMAX set-up).

In addition to upgrading the venues to accommodate bigger premieres, It seems to me the movie is largely strategic to compete against the movie theaters in the surrounding Hollywood area.

The historic 1927 landmark is frequented by tourists from around the globe looking to see the hand prints in the concrete in front of the cinema.

In the early 1990's, the Walt Disney Company began leasing the El Capitan theatre across the street, thereby preventing Grauman's from screening any of the new Disney films playing at the other historic theater.

Then in 2002, The Decurion Corporation opened the Arclight Hollywood just a walk down the road in 2002. The proximity of that premiere 14-screen multiplex prevents any film screening at the Arclight from being shown at Grauman's Chinese Theatre (or the Grauman Multiplex in the Hollywood Highland Center). It also doesn't help that the Arclight Hollywood is often voted as one of the best movie theaters in the world, making that the choice of film geeks of the area. Grauman's has been having trouble securing some of the bigger films in recent years.

Putting an IMAX theater in this location may allow the theater to show some of the premier film releases that it wouldn't already be allowed to screen. IMAX has deals with many of the big studios, but their relationship with Disney has proven to be one of the greatest. I wonder if the mouse house will allow IMAX to screen new Disney releases across the street from their own El Capitan movie theater?