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King Tut’s North Dakota Connection

11/27/2014:

On this date in 1922, Lord Caernarvon and Howard Carter opened an ancient tomb. Their discovery of King Tut’s Tomb was the sensation of the year, featured on the front page of newspapers and in newsreels at movie theaters. An Egyptian craze swept the country.

At that same time, a real estate agent was looking for someone to build a grand motion picture theater in Hollywood. Sid Grauman, who had built several extravagant theaters in Los Angeles, agreed to take on the project. Inspired by King Tut, Grauman designed the Egyptian Theater.

The theater was, indeed, extravagant. Four massive columns at the theater’s entrance rose twenty feet. An actor dressed as an Egyptian guard marched back and forth on the roof and called out the start of each performance. Robin Hood, starring Douglas Fairbanks was the first film to open at the Egyptian on October 18, 1922. Tickets cost $5.00.

The theater could hold 2,000 patrons. Before film showings, the 30 by 73 foot stage often accommodated elaborate prologues. The prologue to The Ten Commandments featured over 100 performers.

When the Egyptian closed in 1992, it was a sad relic of its former glory. The American Cinematheque purchased it from the city for $1. The original cost to build the theater was $800,000. It was estimated that a full renovation would cost $12.9 million. The massive sum would fully restore the Egyptian to its original splendor, and a philanthropist from North Dakota stepped forward with substantial support.

Lloyd Rigler was born near Lehr, North Dakota in 1915. He wanted to be an actor, but never found success on the stage. In 1948, Rigler and his business partner purchased the recipe for Adolph’s Meat Tenderizer and turned it into a national brand. In the wake of their success, they formed the Lloyd E. Rigler-Lawrence E. Deutsch Foundation. The Foundation contributed to the creation of the Los Angeles Music Center and the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

Rigler supported a variety of causes including Amnesty International, the American Ballet Theater, the Joffrey Ballet, AIDS research, and the refurbishing of Carnegie Hall. He served on the board of directors of the Los Angeles Philharmonic for more than 20 years and was co-chair of the New York City Opera. He is honored at the Egyptian Theater with the 650 seat Lloyd Rigler Theater.

Dakota Datebook written by Carole Butcher

The Egyptian Theater. "http://www.americancinematheque.com/egyptian/egypt.htm" http://www.americancinematheque.com/egyptian/egypt.htm Accessed 17 August, 2014

New York Times.
://www.nytimes.com/2003/12/13/arts/lloyd-e-rigler-88-industrialist-backer-variety-arts-groups-across-us.html
://www.nytimes.com/2003/12/13/arts/lloyd-e-rigler-88-industrialist-backer-variety-arts-groups-across-us.html
Accessed 17 August 2014