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How many years have you worked in the Movie Theatre Industry and how did you first become involved?
I have worked in the film industry since high school – my first job was as a Production Assistant on a movie set. I was a film producer for 8 years before joining the team at the TCL Chinese Theaters in Hollywood in 2011.

What’s the best part of your job? Do you have any memorable experiences that you would like to share?
Where do I begin?! There are so many things I love about my job and I have memorable experiences all the time. One of the most special parts of my job is the Hand & Footprint Ceremonies. In the moments before the ceremony begins, the honoree does a practice imprint in the lobby. Each and every honoree is always humbled by the experience. Each honoree always tells a heartfelt story about what the TCL Chinese Theatre means to him or her – bringing tears to their eyes and the same for the audience as well.

What is your fondest movie theatre memory?
Star Wars Episode 7 – People travelled from all over the world to come and camp out for 3 weeks prior to the opening of the film. The devotion and excitement of the fans was contagious. We even hosted a Star Wars wedding – Obi-Wan Kenobi married the couple and Darth Vader walked the bride down the aisle. Experiencing Episode 7 in IMAX laser at this incredible historic movie palace with so many devoted fans was a very special experience.

How old were you when you went to your first movie? Do you remember the theatre and the city?
I remember my parents taking me to the Chinese theatre as a kid. I was in awe then and still am.

What is your favorite movie of all time? What is it about this movie that stands out for you?
I love Scarface, True Romance, The Sound of Music, Dirty Dancing.

Do you have any industry related hobbies or experiences? Please explain. 
Love watching movies of course!

What does being a member of NATO of CA/NV mean to you?
It is great to be a part of this amazing network of exhibitors.

 

It was the 18th of May in 1927 and all Hollywood was abuzz with the grand opening of Sid Grauman’s Chinese Theatre premiering the great Cecil B. DeMille’s, “The King of Kings.” If there ever was a "King of King’s" of theatres, the TCL Chinese is it. What may be more impressive than the actual structure, movies, and events that go on there, is what’s happening behind the scenes and the woman who’s in charge of it all, the "Queen of Kings," President and COO Alwyn Kushner.

 

Ms. Kushner’s actual office is Sid Grauman’s previous office with a secret trap door to hold beverages (once used for booze during the prohibition) and the coffee table and couch where he played poker with Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks. Entrenched in such rich history, Ms. Kushner believes in respecting the legacy of the theatre but to also move it along in the right direction, keeping up with the industry and keeping the TCL Chinese alive and kicking.

 

The Chinese is a theatre of firsts: the first to use cinemascope and the first to use digital presentation. In 2013, the original theatre was converted into the largest IMAX theatre in the world and shortly thereafter, they were one of the first to have the IMAX laser. “It was an incredible fete,” she reveals, "because we obviously wanted to preserve all the historic and character defining features of the theatre but at the same time, we wanted to make it cutting edge.” The team used the pre-existing orchestra pit and basement to create more volume for the IMAX screen and for stadium seating while also restoring the original design of the theatre. After all, Sid Grauman was a showman, his life purpose (or at least one of them) was to put on the best show possible and as Ms. Kushner says, “that means something different every generation, every year, every decade. We believe we’re doing what he would do if he were alive today.”

 

Mr. Grauman brought about the hand and footprint ceremonies from the start, which happens to be Kushner’s favorite aspect of the job. She recalls, “Now when each of the celebrities comes here to do the honors you’re struck by how humbled they are, especially when they are in the midst of such luxurious careers. They come here and place their hand and footprints alongside the greats who have had a huge impact on cinema before them. It’s special to hear their stories about what the TCL Chinese Theatre means to them. They came here before they had a career and they dreamt the dream that was too big to dream.” Needless to say, the TCL Chinese is much more than just a place.

 

The TCL Chinese draws more than 5 million visitors annually and will soon be commemorating the theatre’s 90th anniversary with special events planned; all to be supervised by the busy bee president and COO. She gets to the theatre around 7 or 8 am, leaves sometimes around 10pm, and is usually working on the weekends. Ms. Kushner doesn’t really have time to see many of the movies, especially since her son was born last year, but it is her favorite movie going experience. She says, “There’s nothing as grand as the iconic movie palace, TCL Chinese IMAX Theatre, it is such a special place to see a movie. You could be sitting in a seat Marilyn Monroe might have occupied or Christopher Nolan, or Leonardo DiCaprio.”