10 Fun Facts About Grauman's Chinese Theatre

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Grauman's Chinese Theatre is one of the world's most famous cinemas, and one of Los Angeles's best-known tourist traps. With the handprints, footprints, and signatures of Hollywood's biggest stars peppered across the forecourt of the theater—and everyone from Spider-man to SpongeBob standing by ready to pose for a photo with you—tourists can't really help themselves. But there's more to this theater than meets the eye. Here are 10 things you might not know about the world-famous cinema, which opened its doors on May 18, 1927.

1. IT WAS THE LAST OF SID GRAUMAN'S THEATERS TO BE BUILT.

It may (arguably) be the most well-known of Sid Grauman's theaters, but it was the last one to be built. After Grauman was unsuccessful at gold mining during the Klondike days, he decided to open up a chain of theaters in Alaska and Northern California before setting his sights on Los Angeles. The Million Dollar Theatre (which actually cost $800,000 to build, not $1 million) opened in 1918 and the Egyptian Theater opened in 1922. Hollywood quickly caught on to Grauman's movie theater vision and started booking his establishments for high-profile events. In fact, the first-ever film premiere, for an adaptation of Robin Hood starring Douglas Fairbanks, was held at the Egyptian the same year it opened. Grauman built the first two to appeal to the public, and once they were successful, he was able to build a theater in the style that he personally really wanted to see, and that ended up being the Chinese Theatre.

2. IT GOT ITS FIRST NAME CHANGE IN 1973.

If you're sitting there thinking to yourself, "Wait, wasn't it Mann's Chinese Theatre?" Well, you're right—it was. Ted Mann purchased the theater in 1973 (nearly 25 years after Sid Grauman's death) and renamed the historic landmark. He even had a wax likeness of his wife, actress Rhonda Fleming, created to sit in a chair in the middle of all the Chinese wax figures that stood in the lobby. They divorced in 2001, which was the year before Mann declared bankruptcy and sold the theater to Warner Bros. and Paramount Pictures. Though it reverted to its original name in 2001, that changed yet again in 2013, when the TCL Corporation, a Chinese television manufacturer, purchased the naming rights to the theater, which is now officially known as TCL Chinese Theatre (though no one will mind—or argue—if you still call it Grauman's).

3. THE FIRST FOOTPRINT WAS SUPPOSEDLY NORMA TALMADGE'S.

The story of how the idea to immortalize celebs in cement came about has been told in many a brochure about the place, though it may not necessarily be true. The story is that Norma Talmadge, a friend of Grauman's, stepped out of her car to check out Sid's new digs. The cement was still wet, and a light bulb went off in old Grauman's head. But the theater owner himself later said that yes, it was an accident—but that it was he, not Talmadge, was the one who stepped into the fresh sludge. The first "official" signature in the forecourt was Mary Pickford's. Mary and her then-husband Douglas Fairbanks were the theater's co-owners.

4. THE INSIDE OF THE THEATER IS DECORATED WITH PIECES HAND-SELECTED BY GRAUMAN HIMSELF.

The inside of the theater is decorated with authentic treasures hand-selected from China by Sid Grauman himself, but one of the things that draws the most attention is the Chinese wax figures. They were once considered to be so lifelike that people would actually try to talk to them, then turn away in embarrassment when their lack of response tipped the inquisitive conversationalist off to the fact that they were just wax. It used to be good luck for actors and film execs to come to the theater and touch the wax people for good luck before embarking upon a new project.

5. IF YOU EVER GET THE CHANCE TO PRESS YOUR PALMS INTO THE CEMENT AT GRAUMAN'S, DON'T BE AFRAID TO GET CREATIVE.

Marilyn Monroe's handprints at Grauman's Chinese Theatre
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Should you ever get the chance to press your palms into cement at Grauman's, feel free to think outside of the box and include more than just your hands, feet, and signature. Whoopi Goldberg pressed a dreadlock into the cement; Betty Grable did an imprint of her leg; George Burns left his cigar print; and John Wayne left his fist. Marilyn Monroe dotted the "I" in her name with a rhinestone but some souvenir-hunter chipped it out of the cement.

6. NOT ALL OF THE IMMORTALIZED NAMES ARE FAMILIAR ONES (AT LEAST NOT TODAY).

You might find a few unfamiliar names in the cement: Charles Nelson, the Talent Quest winner, for one. But there's also former Yahoo! chairman and CEO Terry Semel; Clarence Nash, the voice of Donald Duck; and opera singers Lauritz Melchior and Ezio Pinza. Any of the other unfamiliar names are probably older actors. Rosa Grauman is the only person in the forecourt with her own square who has nothing to do with the entertainment industry except for the fact that she gave birth to Sid. Also vying for the best son title: actor Donald O'Connor, who had his mom write her name in his square right next to his.

7. ONCE A SLAB OF CEMENT HAS BEEN SIGNED, IT STAYS IN THE FORECOURT FOREVER.

Once a slab of cement has been signed, it stays there. Yes, even the guy who won Talent Quest in 1949; though he ended up more like Ruben Studdard than Carrie Underwood, and could probably be removed without anyone protesting too much, he's still there today.

8. IT'S BEEN THE SITE OF A NUMBER OF MAJOR MOVIE PREMIERES.

Movies that premiered at Grauman's include A Farewell to Arms, The King and I, Shane, Giant, West Side Story, Breakfast at Tiffany's, Mary Poppins, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, Hello Dolly, Jungle Book, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, and Star Wars—and the hits keep coming. More recent premieres have included Solo: A Star Wars Story, Avengers: Infinity War, Call Me By Your Name, and It.

9. IT'S ALSO HOSTED THE OSCARS.

The theater has been home to Hollywood's biggest night on a few occasions; from 1944 to 1946, Grauman's Chinese Theatre was home to the Academy Awards.

10. THE EXTERIOR ARCHITECTURE HAS CHANGED A BIT OVER THE YEARS.

Right now, it's simply the theater and the forecourt. But there used to be marquees on either side of the pagoda-esque building announcing what movie was playing and who was starring in it. And at one point, a Cinemascope sign stood directly in the view of the pagoda. There also used to be a small ticket booth right in the middle, because the theater was (and still is) a real, working theater—not just a showcase for premieres and galas. The booth's gone now as well.

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EvgeniyShkolenko/iStock via Getty Images

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The 25 Greatest Heist Movies of All Time

Steve McQueen stars in The Thomas Crown Affair (1968).
Steve McQueen stars in The Thomas Crown Affair (1968).
MGM Home Entertainment

In the vast landscape of crime cinema—from movies about murder investigations to small-time crooks to gangster pictures—the heist movie holds a special place in the heart of many fans. There's something about watching all of that planning come together, seeing the often clashing personalities of the characters work side-by-side, and even sometimes laughing or crying as it falls apart, that holds a special fascination. Perhaps because there's a certain satisfaction to seeing all the pieces click into place that more chaotic crime films just can't give you.

In the long history of crime cinema, there have been dozens of heist films ranging in size from small jobs to massive capers, but only a select few stand out as the perfect combination of planning and execution, of character chemistry and filmmaking intricacy. With those factors in mind, we took a look back at the long history of heist films and picked 25 of our very favorites (presented here in chronological order).

1. The Asphalt Jungle (1950)

Billed as a story of "the city under the city," John Huston's The Asphalt Jungle is the godfather of all modern heist films, and it's easy to see how the various hallmarks of the genre grew out of this gritty, taut caper. It's got a mastermind fresh out of prison, a down-on-his-luck hood looking to turn his life around, and a climactic heist sequence where everything starts to unravel. It's a foundational document in the subgenre, and still holds up as a tense noir masterpiece.

2. Rififi (1955)

After he was blacklisted in his home country, American director Jules Dassin went to France and produced what many people still consider to be the finest heist film ever made. Rififi bears many marks of influence from The Asphalt Jungle, but takes things into more stylized territory, particularly when it comes to the centerpiece heist. It unfolds completely free of dialogue, but the film has set it up so well that the silence is enough to keep you on the edge of your seat. It even features the crooks descending on their target from above, something numerous later heist films (including Dassin's Topkapi) would embrace.

3. The Ladykillers (1955)

Part of the appeal of heist films has always been the number of ways in which the plan can go wrong, whether it's in the execution or in the clash of personalities within the gang of criminals. The Ladykillers, one of the most distinctly British crime films ever made, has a bit of both. It features a wickedly iconic performance from Alec Guinness, an essential turn from Peter Sellers, and a final act that devolves in pure impish mayhem when the various crooks all turn on each other as their elderly landlady looks on. (If the title sounds familiar, it might be because Joel and Ethan Coen remade it with Tom Hanks in 2004.)

4. The Killing (1956)

The best heist filmmakers are often the most intricate thinkers, which means it's no surprise that Stanley Kubrick absolutely nailed his turn at the subgenre. The story of a tightly orchestrated racetrack robbery, The Killing unfolds in a somewhat nonlinear style, as Kubrick shows you one character's role, then rewinds the timeline a bit to show you what another character was doing at the exact same time. It's a risky structure, but it pays off spectacularly in Kubrick's hands, and it all builds to one of the most beautifully ironic endings in crime cinema history.

5. Bob le Flambeur (1956)

Jean-Pierre Melville's Bob le flambeur is another of those classic '50s heist films that's still influencing the subgenre in a major way today. A sleek, incredibly stylish, and sexy film about an aging gambler who hatches a plan to rob a casino, the film is a masterclass in balancing the intricate setup of the central heist with the often tumultuous lives of its characters. The arc of the title character (Roger Duchesne) in particular builds in a truly spectacular way, until the final minutes are positively quaking with tension.

6. The Thomas Crown Affair (1968)

If you wanted to make a cool movie in the 1960s, casting Steve McQueen got you halfway to where you wanted to be. The Thomas Crown Affair stars McQueen as a bored millionaire who can basically do whatever he wants with his time, and what he wants is to stage extremely intricate robberies just to see if he can. Then along comes Faye Dunaway, and Crown's plans get just a little more complicated. While John McTiernan's 1999 remake is fun in its own right, it's hard to touch the pure effortless cool of the original.

7. The Italian Job (1969)

Ideally, you want a heist film that can pull out of some kind of spectacular caper setpiece while also making you care about the characters pulling said caper off through some combination of a great script and great chemistry. Some films do one better than the other, but The Italian Job manages to excel at both. Even now, more than 50 years after its release, it stands as one of the funniest films on this list. And while the Mini Cooper car chase remains an iconic piece of heist movie history, the final scene on the bus is almost as impressive.

8. The Sting (1973)

Most heist films are about a group of guys who are going somewhere to get something, whether it's a bank or a casino or a fancy house. The Sting, anchored by the pure magic that is the Paul Newman/Robert Redford team-up, flips that and tells a story about two con artists who make the heist come to them. It's got all the hallmarks of a great heist picture, from the assembly of the team to the planning to the teasing out of the relationship with the target, but it all unfolds with an amusing sense of reversal. By the final scene, you're just as giddy that it all came together as the characters are.

9. Dog Day Afternoon (1975)

Some heist films spend most of their time setting up the caper, while others prefer to leap into it right at the beginning. No matter where they start, there's usually a clear indication that there was a plan. Dog Day Afternoon, Sidney Lumet's white-hot bank robbery picture starring Al Pacino in what is arguably his best performance, makes it clear that the crooks at the center of the story did have a plan. It was just a plan with a whole lot of flaws, and the very human response to how all of those flaws reveal themselves throughout the film makes for one of the most raw displays of empathy in crime cinema history.

10. Blue Collar (1978)

After making a name for himself as a writer with films like Taxi Driver, Paul Schrader chose this story of down-on-their-luck auto workers who plot to rob their union's safe as his directorial debut. It remains, even today, a searing portrait of income inequality, middle class pain, and the way those with power manipulate the powerless into thinking they might be able to get some of their own. Yaphet Kotto, Harvey Keitel, and Richard Pryor all turn in powerful performances, and the whole film is a masterclass in how to use the hook of a heist plot to say something bigger.

11. Thief (1981)

Michael Mann remains one of crime cinema's greatest living practitioners, and he came out of the gate swinging in the subgenre with his directorial debut. Thief is the story of a safecracker (James Caan in top form) who longs for a fulfilling life beyond criminal pursuits after he gets out of prison. Of course, in classic crime cinema fashion, he finds that having it all isn't as within reach as he'd like. Thief features some of the best scenes of fiery, authentic safe-cracking in cinema, and remains one of the highlights of both Mann and Caan's stellar careers.

12. Die Hard (1988)

Whether or not Die Hard is a Christmas movie is still up for debate. What's not up for debate is its place in the pantheon of gripping, high-octane heist films. While it's best remembered for its action setpieces that take place around the heist, the inciting incident of John McTiernan's legendary film is indeed Hans Gruber and crew plotting to steal a corporation's stash of bearer bonds under the guise of a terrorist hostage situation. It's got everything you want from a great heist, from manipulating law enforcement to drilling a safe to an amazing mastermind at the head of it all. They just didn't count on a barefoot New York cop who's really into Roy Rogers to come and steal their thunder.

13. Reservoir Dogs (1992)

Quentin Tarantino has hyped his debut film in countless interviews as a heist film where you never see the actual heist, and it's true that Reservoir Dogs never shows us exactly what happened during the planned diamond robbery at the heart of the story. So why is it on this list? Because, through a combination of careful character work, planning sequences, and absolute mayhem as everything goes wrong, Tarantino allows us to piece the heist together in our heads. By the end we feel like we were there with the characters even if we weren't.

14. Heat (1995)

At two hours and 50 minutes long, Michael Mann's Heat is the very definition of an epic crime film, and from the outside looking in it seems so massive that you might wonder what the filmmaker is possibly filling it with. Once that opening armored car robbery hits, though, the film moves at such a blistering pace that we're left wishing it was even longer. The film is best remembered now as the first time Robert De Niro and Al Pacino shared the screen, but it should be just as remembered for one of the greatest shootout sequences in film history.

15. Bottle Rocket (1996)

Wes Anderson's debut feature is his take on "what if a group of total weirdos and idiots tried to pull a heist," with everything the Wes Anderson style implies about that—and the result is an unforgettably quirky entry in the subgenre. The practice heist in which the main characters (played by Owen and Luke Wilson) steal from a predetermined list of items within one of their family owns, remains a classic Wes Anderson moment.

16. Out of Sight (1998)

Before he made a trilogy of stylish, impossibly star-packed heist films in the 2000s, Steven Soderbergh turned his eye for genre cinema to this adaptation of Elmore Leonard's novel of the same name, about a U.S. Marshal's budding romance with a bank robber she just happens to meet as he's escaping prison. George Clooney and Jennifer Lopez bring the sex appeal, Don Cheadle and Steve Zahn bring the comedy, and Soderbergh brings his eye for setups and payoffs to one of the best crime films of the 1990s.

17. Sexy Beast (2000)

At its core, Sexy Beast is less about a heist than it is about a retired criminal who can't shake the demons of his past, which arrive on his doorstep in the form of a sociopathic colleague (Ben Kingsley at the peak of his powers) who demands he do one more job for him. Through this lens of regret and fear and tension, director Jonathan Glazer also manages to deliver one of the most spectacular heist setpieces of all time, as a crew breaks into a vault by drilling through the wall of a filled swimming pool.

18. Ocean's Eleven (2001)

Steven Soderbergh is one of those directors who feels as much like a perpetual student of film as he is a filmmaker, so it makes sense that if he was going to make a star-filled heist film on the scale of Ocean's Eleven, he'd try to make the ultimate heist movie. While the sheer amount of stuff going on in Ocean's Eleven might mean it doesn't always succeed in certain respects like its heist cinema ancestors, the film still plays today as an endlessly entertaining, utterly stylish, and effortlessly witty take on the subgenre that has just about everything you could ever want in a heist film.

19. Inside Man (2006)

Spike Lee's Inside Man is a film that promised in its trailers to show us "the perfect bank robbery," and it hooks us immediately by throwing us right into things with very little prologue or sense of a plan. The plan for this perfect robbery is only revealed to the audience at the same speed as it's revealed to the NYPD detective (Denzel Washington) and the secretive fixer (Jodie Foster) who are watching it unfold from the outside as the robbery's mastermind (Clive Owen) moves forward with an agenda we can't see coming. Lee pushes the film at a breathless pace, delivering twist after twist with the grace of a master, until we finally see the whole game board.

20. The Town (2010)

What Heat was for Los Angeles, Ben Affleck's The Town is for Boston. Affleck clearly learned a lot of his tricks from Mann, but what's most striking about The Town—aside from its structural similarities to Heat—is the way that Affleck and company take that sensibility then twist it to defy our expectations. What starts with a gloriously tense opening robbery setpiece and builds to a big last job ultimately becomes a standoff not between a cop and a crook who respect each other, but between two best friends who are supposed to be on the same side, each longing for their own version of freedom.

21. Fast Five (2011)

The Fast & Furious films began as a solid street racing franchise before becoming globe-hopping action spectaculars that defy all laws of motion and speed. Fast Five is the pivot point between those two eras of the franchise, and the one that leans most heavily on heist movie conventions. As Dominic Toretto and his crew plot to steal a drug lord's safe and a relentless DSS agent (Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, in his first appearance in the series) tries to bring them down, the film builds and builds in its ambition. By the end, a giant safe is racing through the streets of Rio, and from that daring heist on the franchise would never be the same.

22. Hell or High Water (2016)

There are a lot of films out there (Arthur Penn's brilliant Bonnie and Clyde among them) that stage a series of bank robberies in an effort to set up some kind of fiery last stand between the robbers and law enforcement, but few of them unfold with the intricacy of Hell or High Water. Chris Pine and Ben Foster shine as two brothers who've planned a high-stakes series of bank robberies, complete with a money-laundering scheme, to save their family's land. The plan is elegant in its simplicity, but grows increasingly complicated as a wise Texas Ranger (Jeff Bridges) closes in. It all builds to one of the most emotional climaxes of any film on this list.

23. Baby Driver (2017)

You'd think a film that's ostensibly about the getaway driver wouldn't necessarily lean as heavily on the heist elements, but Edgar Wright's clever car chase musical Baby Driver manages to find room for them in between all the driving. Wright's hero, Baby (Ansel Elgort), is a young man who is gifted behind the wheel yet just wants to escape the criminal life. But what's supposed to be his last job puts him in deeper than he's ever been before. Come for the car chases, stay for the complexity of the setup and the fallout that heist movie fans crave.

24. Logan Lucky (2017)

Yes, Steven Soderbergh is on this list three times. And yes, he deserves it. After completing his Ocean's trilogy and playing in various other subgenres for a while, Soderbergh returned to heist pictures with this hilarious story of two brothers who try to turn their family's luck around by robbing Charlotte Motor Speedway in the middle of a busy race weekend. The accents alone—particular Daniel Craig's turn as an explosives expert named "Joe Bang"—are worth the price of admission, but the heist itself is also every bit as satisfying and intricate as anything Danny Ocean's crew ever pulled off.

25. Widows (2018)

After the success of 12 Years a Slave, Steve McQueen could have made a lot of different movies. What he chose was a team-up with Gone Girl author Gillian Flynn to tell the story of a group of women driven to desperation after the deaths of their criminal husbands. Together they hatch a plan to rob a local corrupt politician based on an idea one of their husband's left behind, and in so doing find their own power. What's perhaps most striking about Widows is that it could have worked as a very straightforward heist film. In McQueen and Flynn's hands, though, it becomes a twist-filled ensemble drama about so much more than planning and executing a job.