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
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Life and Style
A still from a scene cut from The Interview showing North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's death.
tech
Voices
'That's the legal bit done. Now on to the ceremony!'
voicesThe fight for marriage equality isn't over yet, says Siobhan Fenton
Life and Style
Approaching sale shopping in a smart way means that you’ll get the most out of your money
life + styleSales shopping tips and tricks from the experts
Arts and Entertainment
Bianca Miller and Katie Bulmer-Cooke are scrutinised by Lord Sugar's aide Nick Hewer on The Apprentice final
tvBut Bianca Miller has taken on board his comments over pricing
News
in picturesWounded and mangy husky puppy rescued from dump
News
newsAstonishing moment a kangaroo takes down a drone
Life and Style
Duchess of Cambridge standswith officials outside of the former wartime spy centre in Bletchley Park
tech
News
people
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

The Jenrick Group: Maintenance Planner

£28000 - £32000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: Maintenance...

The Jenrick Group: World Wide PLC Service Engineer

£30000 - £38000 per annum + pesion + holidays: The Jenrick Group: World Wide S...

The Jenrick Group: Project Manager

£35000 per annum + Pension+Bupa: The Jenrick Group: We are recruiting for an e...

The Jenrick Group: Night Shift Operations Manager

£43500 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: Night Shift Operatio...

Day In a Page

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'