The historic Egyptian Theater in Hollywood was originally built in 1922. Hodgetts + Fung’s task was to create a radically new cinema and update the technology to accommodate the American Cinematheque’s programming of film and new media after the theater was destroyed by the 1994 Northridge Earthquake.
While the exterior was meticulously restored to its original appearance, every aspect of the theater’s functioning – projection, sound, seating, mechanical systems, and circulation – were brought up to 21st century standards.
The design approach was to create a separate structure to house a state-of-the-art theater within what was left of the historic theater shell. This strategy left the historic walls untouched and visible, allowing compensation for their acoustic shortcomings with an array of huge, retractable panels which deploy during the opening credits of each film.
“As the lights dim and screenings begin, high-tech midnight blue panels slide forward to produce an acoustically improved viewing experience; after the film ends, the panels retract and the opulence of the old Egyptian is visible once more. It’s also a sly reference to the historic theatrical tradition of “atmospheric” movie houses rigged with moving scenery and other visual effects.” – Reed Kroloff
700 seats with poor sightlines were replaced by a new, 616-seat cinema, with steeply raked seating, a new balcony, and a unique system of retracting acoustic panels which correct the acoustics of the historic theater, yet encourages visitors to admire the original Egyptian decor. The more intimate, 78-seat Steven Spielberg Theatre, a black-box screening room, was installed below grade to avoid destruction of a low-slung decorative ceiling