Historic Chinese Theatre Getting an Imax Makeover

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Pending approvals, this fall the theater could reopen with the third largest Imax screen in North America.

Hollywood’s iconic Chinese Theatre is about to get an internal makeover that will transform it into an Imax auditorium.

Imax, the Toronto-based large-screen theater company, has struck a deal with the owners of the Chinese, but declined comment on the high-profile move into the landmark Hollywood Boulevard property pending necessary city approvals for the project.

Nightclub operator-turned-film producer Elie Samaha and producer Don Kushner bought The Chinese Theatre, which was originally built in 1927 as Grauman's Chinese Theatre, from Warner Bros. and Viacom in 2011. In January, Chinese TV manufacturer TCL purchased naming rights as part of 10-year, $5 million deal, and the theater is now known as the TCL Chinese Theatre.

Plans call for the theater to close for renovations in May and reopen in the fall. According to sources, the Chinese’s current screen, which measures 72 feet wide by 33 feet tall, will be replaced by a screen that is 94 feet wide by 46 feet 2 inches tall. It will be the third-largest Imax screen in North America, behind only venues at the AMC Lincoln Square 13 in New York City and the AMC Metreon 16 in San Francisco.

New stadium seating will give the theater a capacity of 986 seats, making it the largest Imax theater in the world. That, in turn, will allow the theater to host movie premieres, something that other Imax theaters in the L.A. area are not large enough to accommodate.

When the theater reopens, it will utilize Imax’s current digital projection system, but within 18 to 24 months, that will be replaced with the new laser technology projection system that the company is currently developing.