Hollywood Handprints and Footprints at Grauman's Chinese Theatre

One of the most popular sights in Hollywood, Grauman's Chinese Theatre is best-known for the hand- and footprints in its forecourt. No matter how much tourists claim that they're not star-struck, within a few minutes, they're sticking hands and feet in the prints and snapping photos.

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Grauman's Chinese Theatre

Grauman's Chinese Theatre at Night
©2006 Betsy Malloy Photography. Used by Permission.

This theatre is also one of the most beautiful and best-preserved of the movie palaces from Hollywood's golden era. With its Chinese theme and gold-and-red decor, the interior often upstages the films on the screen.

You'll almost always find street performers on the sidewalk in front, dressed up as everything from Homer Simpson to Wonder Woman. If you take a picture with them, keep in mind that they're making a living by posing with you. Give them a small tip - a dollar will do.

The forecourt is open 24 hours a day, and the theatre shows films daily. Allow about half an hour to see the footprints. It can be crowded and hot in the middle of a summer day. Go early if you want photos without so many annoying strangers in the background. It's also especially pretty at night.

Because Grauman's is such a popular spot for movie premieres, you may find the forecourt filled with cameras, light, carpets, and technicians. Getting there in the morning will give you the best chance of avoiding this disruption.

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Grauman's Chinese Theatre Footprints

Posing for Photos at Hollywood's Chinese Theatre
©Betsy Malloy Photography

In 1927, Hollywood's original "It" couple Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks placed their hands and feet in wet cement. Since then, more than 200 prints have accumulated in the Grauman's Chinese Theatre forecourt.

Besides the assortment of expected human hands and feet, three horses have imprinted their hooves here: Gene Autry's "Champion" Roy Rogers' "Trigger" and Tom Mix's "Tony." 

Actor Jackie Chan continued that tradition by imprinting his nose. He also inscribed a heart and the word Peace. Chan's story is also an unusual one. He is the first star to have his prints done twice. His original imprints were made in 1997, but they mysteriously disappeared. The replacements were done in 2013.

You'll also find prints of Groucho Marx's and George Burns' cigars, John Wayne's fist, Whoopi Goldberg's dreadlocks, Jimmy Durante and Bob Hope's noses, robot R2D2's tread marks, Al Jolson's knees, Roy Rogers' and William Hart's six-guns.

In case you wonder about the "Sid" mentioned in many early inscriptions, he's Grauman's Chinese Theatre creator Sid Grauman.

And here's a dirty little secret you might not know. Not all the imprints ever made are on display. According to BBC.com, slabs are changed often to make room for new entries in the collection.

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Footprint Ceremonies at Grauman's Chinese Theatre

Jackie Chan's Handprint Ceremony
effrey Mayer / Getty Images

Empty spaces in the forecourt are getting scarce, but a few times a year, a new star gets their shot at cement-imprinted fame, usually reserved for the biggest of stars and often scheduled around the celebrity's newest movie release. Those ceremonies are open to the public. If one is scheduled during your visit, you may find it enjoyable to plan the rest of your activities around it.

For footprint ceremony schedules try the website Seeing Stars.

Hand and footprint events are primarily set up for the media. If you stand in the general public veiwing area, their cameras and lights are likely to block your view of the stage. But, if you get there early, you can see the arriving honoree and their actor pals who come along.

After the ceremony, the wet cement will be wrapped in wet burlap to keep it damp until it cures. It may take several days before you'll be able to see the final result.

Tips for Watching the Footprint Ceremony

If you go, these hints will help you enjoy the ceremony:

  • Get there early. The more fans a star has, the earlier. People might be three deep 45 minutes before the scheduled start, or the crowd could get so big that organizers start the ceremony early before things get out of control.
  • When you arrive, check out the layout and try to find a spot with an unobstructed view.
  • Taking photographs can be difficult, even if you arrive early enough to get a place in front of the crowd. While you're waiting, practice. Take a camera with more zoom than your mobile phone if you want close-ups. Take lots of pictures and hope a few of them turn out. 
  • If no footprint ceremonies are scheduled during your visit, you might also enjoy a Hollywood Walk of Fame star ceremony, which happen more often.
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Inside the Chinese Theatre

Inside the Chinese Theatre in Hollywood
©Betsy Malloy Photography

The inside of the Chinese Theatre is a throwback to the days of movie palaces so beautiful they could make you swoon. The best part of the show is when those red curtains swish open to reveal the latest film. If you want to watch a film in this theatre, take care at the box office and confirm that your ticket is for the classic theatre.

Grauman's Chinese Theatre Tour

Tours are offered 7 days a week, but it's just as easy to buy a ticket to see the film currently playing. 

If you're a big fan and really curious, you may also enjoy reading Hollywood at Your Feet: The Story of the World-Famous Chinese Theatre. Its photos and informative captions depict every contributor to the forecourt masonry.

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Movie Premieres at the Chinese Theatre

Getting Ready for a Movie Premiere at the Chinese Theatre
Perttu Raivio/Flickr/(CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Grauman's Chinese Theatre opened with a movie premiere on May 18, 1927, with the debut of Cecil B. DeMille's The King of Kings. Fans lined Hollywood Boulevard to see the stars who turned out for the event.

Today, Grauman's Chinese Theatre is still among the most sought-after theatres in Hollywood for studio premieres. Tickets to these events are by invitation only, but you can watch from the street.

It's easy to tell if one is planned by all the activity and setup out front - and if you check movie schedules online, you may notice no regularly-scheduled films from mid-afternoon through the evening. These gaps are easier to see at IMDB, entering zip code 90028.

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What You Need to Know to Visit the Chinese Theatre

Grauman's Chinese Theatre
Chiara Salvadori / Getty Images

Grauman's Chinese Theatre is at 6925 Hollywood Boulevard, Hollywood, CA. You can get more details at the Chinese Theatre Website.

Grauman's Chinese Theatre is at the northeast corner of Hollywood Boulevard and Orange Drive. The Hollywood and Highland parking lot is nearby. The Los Angeles MTA (Metro Transit Authority) Red Line Hollywood and Highland stop is also just steps away.

Other attractions near Grauman's Chinese Theatre include Hollywood Walk of FameHollywood and Highland and Hollywood Boulevard.

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