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  • Writer's pictureCarrie Specht

American Cinematheque to Celebrate 20th Anniversary at the Egyptian Theatre

With much fanfare, the American Cinematheque re-opened the landmark 1922 Grauman's Egyptian Theatre in December of 1998. Nearly $15 million was spent on the restoration and renovation of the historic Hollywood Boulevard silent era movie palace. The project was one of the earliest Hollywood revitalization projects of the mid-1990s, and was initiated by the Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA). This December 7, at 8:00 PM, the Film Society, along with the Egyptian Theatre and its devoted fans, will celebrate its 20th anniversary at the acclaime Theatre.

The elaborate celebration is coordinated with the Los Angeles premiere of a new 4K digital restoration of the 1923 Mary Pickford film, Rosita directed by the incredibly talented Ernst Lubitsch. Once considered a "lost film," Rosita will be accompanied by a live orchestra, directed by the renowned musicologist Gillian Anderson. Incredibly, Anderson reconstructed the film's original score by working from a cue sheet preserved by the George Eastman Museum (the goodness for archivist).

In Rosita, Pickford plays a Spanish street singer who catches the eye of the King when she sings songs to satirize him in a mythical Seville. But, as most stories of the era, she loves another. It was Pickford who brought Ernst Lubitsch to Hollywood from Germany so that he could direct her. Despite fervent objections from the American Legion and industry peers (in an era of strong post-WWI anti-German sentiment) Lubitsch revealed a great talent for light-hearted fare and soon became the most celebrated director of the early sound era.

Pickford and her husband, Douglas Fairbanks were friends of movie theatre impresario Sid Grauman and were present on opening night (October 18, 1922) for the premiere of Fairbanks' Robin Hood. Not only was it the first film to play at the Egyptian Theatre, it also holds the distinction of being the first ever Hollywood movie premiere. Several of Fairbanks' pictures opened at the Egyptian in the first few years and in 1926, Mary's, Sparrows premiered as part of a "Double Premiere Night" that paired her film with her husband's latest release, The Black Pirate.

In the silent era, the Egyptian Theatre Orchestra accompanied films from the orchestra pit (no longer part of the building). The screening of ROSITA, accompanied by a live score, is exactly the way audience members would have experienced films in the years before the "talkies." The restored Rosita world premiered in a new restoration at the pre-inaugural evening of the 74th Venice International Film Festival, August of 2017. The restoration was accomplished from elements of the last known surviving nitrate print found at Gosfilmofond in Russia and from various archives. Truly, one of most remarkable finds of modern cinema.

On display, will be items pertaining to Mary Pickford's personal life and career, which will include original promotional items for Rosita. Tickets are $20 for American Cinematheque members in honor of the 20th anniversary and $25 for non-members. Starting December 3, non-member tickets are $30. All tickets at the door are $30. On sale now on or at the box office. Box office opens 90 minutes prior to show time. But I believe an early purchase would wise. This celebration is know to very popular, and is likely sell out early. So, why wait? Secure your tickets for a terrific time celebrating a great venue for great classic cinema.

And as an added bonus, the following day, Saturday, December 8, the Egyptian Theatre will be open for Behind-the-Scenes Tours, which is a walk through cinematic history. Tickets are $9 general admission and $7 for American Cinematheque members/ students/seniors. Senior and Student tickets are only available at the Egyptian Theatre box office and must be accompanied by your I.D. for discount.

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