Footprints of Droids Immortalized in Cement: Mann's Chinese Theatre Souvenir Brochure
Star Wars and the Chinese Theatre in Hollywood have been inextricably linked since the film debuted there on May 25th, 1977. From George Lucas' oft-cited anecdote of coincidentally grabbing dinner at the Hamburger Hamlet across the street on opening night while "forgetting" that the movie was playing there to the familiar images and footage of epic lines of crazed moviegoers queuing up outside, the connection between the genesis of Star Wars Mania and the historic venue is permanently embedded in popular culture.
Though I was not there forty years ago, the Chinese has always been a special place to me and finding any piece of memorabilia tying the theater to Star Wars is certainly rewarding from a collecting standpoint. A good friend recently gave me a neat souvenir brochure from the then-named Mann's Chinese Theatre that dates to 1981 (based on its list of Academy Award Best Picture winners ending with Robert Redford's Ordinary People).
The brochure has the aesthetic of a high school yearbook. A variety of black-and-white photographs depict Tinseltown's finest marking their hand and footprints in the famed "Forecourt of the Stars" and attending various premieres, fittingly stating that "It has been correctly said that visiting Hollywood and failing to attend a premiere is like visiting Egypt and ignoring the pyramids."
With Star Wars hysteria hitting a fever pitch in the United States, three of the most recognizable characters from a galaxy far, far away were fast-tracked to a footprint ceremony at the Chinese Forecourt on August 5th, 1977. A page in the brochure is dedicated to the event where the film's advertising and publicity supervisor Charles Lippincott can be seen providing assistance to Darth Vader while producer Gary Kurtz aids C-3PO with his cement signature. Many were likely introduced to this moment via its use as an introduction in The Making of Star Wars television special that originally aired on ABC in September, 1977. Below is some raw news footage of the scene which includes an egregious cement misstep by Regis Philbin.
Beyond the nice bit of Star Wars content, the brochure offers a look back at the state of the theater in the 1970s and 80s. Having long been curious about what the rest of that block of Hollywood Blvd. looked like at the time, the section on the opening of two additional theaters adjacent to the original in 1979 was particularly interesting. A modern TCL multiplex stands there today as part of the larger Hollywood and Highland complex.
One of my favorite aspects of the brochure is the selection of photographs of the theaters' exteriors and interiors, especially those of the long-gone pair of cinemas adjacent to the main theater. Below are some shots of the 1979 expansion and various celebrities attending its grand opening where Egregious Regis (hey, that has a ring to it) was apparently at it again. Note the exterior signage for Flash Gordon (PATHETIC EARTHLINGS...WHO CAN SAVE YOU NOW?) and the large lobby standee for the French film Loulou being one-upped by the elaborate display for the All-American classic Popeye.
Also worth mentioning is what took place at the Chinese the day before Star Wars was unleashed upon audiences: May 24th, 1977 happened to be the 50th Anniversary of the theater. A day long celebration took place which culminated in a screening of Cecil B. DeMille's 1927 biblical epic King of Kings, which was the first film to premiere at the venue.
How fitting would it be for the original version of Star Wars to be screened to commemorate the legendary movie palace's 100th anniversary and its own 50th in 2027? R2 and 3PO could even open the Time Capsule!