Hollywood strives to recapture its glamour

HOLLYWOOD Boulevard has the unenviable reputation of being the most disappointing tourist spot on the planet.

More than nine million people spill out of coaches each year, hoping to see the landmarks that created the myth of the American film industry in the 1920s and 1930s. What they get instead is a ragtag collection of dilapidated art deco facades, traffic, noise and dirt, tacky restaurants and museums, a sprinkling of vagrants and the hint of the real trades - drugs and prostitution - that have been downtown Hollywood's after-hours mainstay for years.

No wonder the average visitor stays for just 20 minutes - snatching a quick glimpse of Mann's Chinese Theater and the footprints of the stars on the pavement outside before jumping straight back on the coach.

If the Los Angeles city council has its way, though, such evasive action may not be necessary much longer. Hollywood Boulevard is about to turn into a billion-dollar building site, involving renovations, restorations and a vast entertainment complex on a vacant lot behind Mann's Chinese that will include cinemas to host premieres, a recreation of the Babylon set from DW Griffith's silent masterpiece Intolerance, a ballroom, restaurants and open-air cafes, and a permanent theatre in which to stage the annual Academy Awards.

In a part of town that has become a byword for dinginess, the city and the Canadian property developer TrizecHahn held a colourful ground-breaking ceremony for the new complex last week, complete with an all-star line- up, and - a strange sight to behold at breakfast - a fireworks display.

"We're going to put Hollywood back where it belongs, right here on Hollywood Boulevard," announced the impresario and music producer Quincy Jones, sounding as though he were warming up for 2001, the year the Oscars are due to reach their new home.

Beyond the hype, there is good reason to take Jones at his word. Inspired by the example of Times Square in New York, property owners on the Boulevard have formed a Business Improvement District, a scheme whereby they agree to tax themselves for five years to clean up the place and hound out the criminals with private security guards. On top of that, the notoriously bogged-down Los Angeles public transport authority is providing an underground train line that will stop on the corner of Hollywood and Vine on its way from downtown to Burbank.

The redevelopment strategy seems to be working, since a number of film companies have already moved back into the area, including Disney, with its animation centre, cinema and museum in the 1930s El Capitan building.

One note of caution: Hollywood has heard all this before. A decade ago there was a very similar ground-breaking, except that at that time it was scuppered by lawsuits from local property owners. Instead, Los Angeles nosedived into calamities, from recession to riots to the 1994 earthquake, which devastated a number of Hollywood landmarks and forced several theatres to close.

The difference now is that the economy is doing well and the politicians are in rare agreement. Hollywood's councilwoman, Jackie Goldberg, has managed to rally the community to the cause, and the investors are slowly rolling in. In a way, the previous failures laid the groundwork for the current revival, because property prices fell to a point where the project again became attractive.

Indeed, Hollywood appears to be coming full circle from its origins early this century, when film companies preferred it over downtown LA because it was cheaper and had good transport links - by streetcar, in those days - to the city.

One can take heart that Hollywood has resisted the LA trend of demolishing landmark buildings. At one point it looked as though the earthquake-damaged Egyptian Theater might be knocked down, but now it is being fully restored as the new home of the American Cinematheque. It will reopen in December with a 75th anniversary showing of Cecil B DeMille's Ten Commandments. Don't stare too hard, and it could almost feel like magic again.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
peopleMathematician John Nash inspired the film Beautiful Mind
Richard Blair is concerned the trenches are falling into disrepair
newsGeorge Orwell's son wants to save war site that inspired book
Life and Style
Audrey Hepburn with Hubert De Givenchy, whose well-cut black tuxedo is a 'timeless look'
fashionIt may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
Arts and Entertainment
The pair in their heyday in 1967
Life and Style
fashionFrom bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine