The Egyptian Theatre, which staged Hollywood’s first-ever red carpet premiere more than a century ago in its forged hieroglyph-adorned courtyard, reopens this week under the new ownership of Netflix.
The legendary Los Angeles movie theatre may appear an unusual purchase for a streaming behemoth that has made a fortune getting customers to watch movies on their TVs, laptops, and even phones.
But for Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos, the opportunity to preserve a failing Hollywood institution and demonstrate his company’s quick rise from tech disruptor to crucial participant at the core of the entertainment industry was a no-brainer.
“Hollywood is all about symbols. The Hollywood Sign and this theatre are probably the two most iconic symbols of Hollywood… this one, unfortunately, was falling down.” Said the CEO.
The theatre officially opened its doors in October 1922, with the world premiere of Douglas Fairbanks’ “Robin Hood.” Previously, the expanding entertainment business in Los Angeles had been concentrated in the downtown region, a few miles distant.
Organizers set up bright lights to attract a gathering and put out a red carpet across the courtyard for VIP guests such as Charlie Chaplin. That idea, designed to mimic the etiquette of European monarchy, would establish the standard for Hollywood premieres for the next century.
The Egyptian Theatre fell on hard times, and it was severely damaged in the Los Angeles earthquake of 1994.
It was taken up by the nonprofit American Cinematheque, which rebuilt the facility but struggled to maintain it – until Netflix came along.
The wealthy streamer decided to fund the renovation of the theatre once more. The price has not been published, although it is estimated to be over $70 million.
Under the terms of the agreement, Netflix will hold its own screenings during the week, beginning with David Fincher’s “The Killer” on Thursday, while the American Cinematheque will show classics like “Lawrence of Arabia” on weekends.