You could see it on their faces.
When you looked at tourists arriving on Hollywood Boulevard for the first
time, you could almost read their minds: "This is Hollywood?"
Looking around, they were shocked and disappointed.
For decades, Hollywood was
a major disappointment, a case study in urban decay and neglect - a seedy,
run-down area populated by a virtual freak-show of young runaways, homeless
transients, wannabe heavy-metal rockers, frenzied traffic, and harried
crowds of bewildered tourists wandering the dirty sidewalks while trying
to find some hint of former glamour left on the famous boulevard.
For the most part, the Boulevard
contained one shabby storefront after another, some vacant, but most housing
tacky shops offering t-shirts & cheap Tinseltown souvenirs, fast food,
and the occasional x-rated movie. (And that's not to mention the giant,
pink & grey Frederick's of Hollywood building.) This is definitely
not what springs to mind when most tourists think of "Hollywood."
True glamour has always awaited
tourists a few miles to the west, of course, in Beverly
Hills, but the actual Hollywood area - the downtown shopping district
centered around Hollywood Boulevard - had degenerated from a cozy small
town to into a bad dream of urban blight.
But no matter what anyone said,
the curious still flocked to that famous street by the millions. Like it
or not, Hollywood Boulevard was the official "center" of Hollywood.
While it wasn't always obvious
to a casual visitor on the Boulevard, if you knew where to look, there
have always been quite a few precious
jewels of Old Hollywood buried beneath
the ash heap that the Boulevard had become. It would be a shame to miss
But the great news today is that the old town finally seems to be getting
its act together, and appears to be undergoing the kind of renaissance
that has been predicted for years. This time, there genuinely appears to
be a light at the end of the tunnel. The signs seem clear. The long-awaited
rebirth of Hollywood is well under way.
Take, for example, the historic
Egyptian Theatre, the first grand
movie palace built in Hollywood (back in 1922).
decades the Egyptian sat on Hollywood Boulevard like an abandoned ruin
- closed and in a sad state of disrepair - as did many other former Hollywood
landmarks. There were huge holes in its walls, and homeless people camped
out inside the former theatre. But in 1998 the Egyptian got a major make-over
which restored the classic theatre to its former glory. It reopened in
1999 as the new home to American Cinematheque.
If that were an isolated example,
we wouldn't get our hopes up. But there is far more afoot along the Boulevard.
Slowly but surely, the fabled street is being restored:
One of the first major efforts at restorying the Boulevard came when the Disney
company restored the El Capitan Theatre,
and they did a wonderful job - complete with uniformed ushers and live
stages shows (featuring Disney characters) before many movie screenings.
The theatre looks fabulous, and has attracted long lines of eager customers
ever since. It is now the single most profitable theatre in the country.
Recently, the company also added a new Disney Store right next door, as well as a sparkling Disney Ice Cream Parlor.
Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel
is another restored jewel. Just across the street from the Chinese Theatre,
this was the site of the very first Academy Awards banquet. It had languished
for years, but now gleams again with its original luster.
Theatre at Hollywood & Vine reopened in 2000, dazzling after
a $10 million facelift, has been home to Disney's hit Broadway musical,
"The Lion King", and will next host Mel Brooks' hit musical "The
Right next door to the Egyptian
Theatre, the landmark Pig 'N Whistle
restaurant (a favorite of Shirley Temple, Judy Garland and other stars
of Hollywood's Golden Age) has been restored to its original luster. It
reopened in 2001, after half a century of neglect.
Another new $70 million project
was built around the classic Cinerama
Dome, near Sunset & Vine offering the new ArcLight theatres, shops and restaurants.
Farther south, at the corner
of Third & Fairfax, next to the historic Farmers
Market, they've opened "The Grove",
a delightful outdoor shopping center which offers shopping, al fresco
dining, fountains, theatres, and even a brass trolley ride - all in a charming
ambiance which mixes elements of Two Rodeo and Disneyland.
New restaurants and nightclubs
are luring celebrities back to downtown Hollywood.
But most ambitious of all,
is the "Hollywood
& Highland," a massive new
project which takes up the entire block east of the Grauman's Chinese Theatre.
This 1-million-square-foot, $600 million retail and movie complex by TrizecHahn
Corp. (the developer of San Diego's Horton Plaza), is
an open-air entertainment complex similar to CityWalk
or Two Rodeo.
It includes restaurants,
clubs, unique shops, even a new subway station. But perhaps most importantly,
it is home to the new state-of-the-art Kodak
theatre which now serves as the permanent home to the annual
Academy Awards show. When Hollywood throws its annual celebration, Oscar
Night, it will now take place in the actual heart of Hollywood.
This project could well be
the crown jewel which finally turns the Boulevard around (much as Times Square
in New York was transformed after Disney opened the revived New Amsterdam
In 2009, another major attraction
opened right next to Grauman's and the Kodak: Madame Tussauds,
a state-of-the-art wax museum that offers visitors a chance to literally
rub elbows with spectacularly lifelike versions of Hollywood's top celebs.
And in 2011, Cirque du Soleil opened a glittering new show, named "IRIS", which will become a permanent part of the Boulevard, occupying the Kodak Theatre when the Oscars aren't underway.
Add it all up and Hollywood's
future is looking brighter than it has in decades.
At the same time, while the
west end of the Boulevard (at Hollywood & Highland) is
consolidating its recent gains, there is now work being done at the other
(east) end of Hollywood Blvd, where a brand new $350 million,
305-room "W" luxury
hotel complex has been built at the southeast corner of Hollywood & Vine.
It also includes 143 condos and 50,000 square feet of retail space,
including a new Delphine Brasserie at ground level, and the new
Drai's Hollywood nightclub near the top. It is next to the new subway station
(which will link Hollywood & Vine with Hollywood & Highland)
and across the street from the Pantages Theatre.
For more information by phone, you can call The Hollywood Chamber of Commerce
at: (323) 469-8311. That number will put you in touch with the Hollywood
InfoCenter, a recorded service that provides touch-button phone information
about Hollywood attractions and upcoming Hollywood events.
To reach Hollywood Boulevard from downtown Los Angeles, take the
Hollywood (101) Freeway north to the Hollywood Boulevard exit, then head
west (about a mile and a half) to Grauman's Chinese Theatre, which will
be on your right (north) side.
This webpage is not associated with any business
described in the article above, and does not constitute an
endorsement of this or any other business. The photos of celebrities on
this page also do not constitute
endorsements by them of any kind, and are used by the author solely to
illustrate this online article.
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