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Hollywood Gets a Facelift

Ten years ago, the entertainment district of Hollywood had fallen on hard times when Los Angeles civic and business leaders decided to give it a facelift.

The West Coast movie industry started in Hollywood. Today, most studios have moved to other neighborhoods, but tourists still come to Hollywood by the thousands.

Eric Garcetti, Los Angeles city councilman for the district, says most are pleased with what they see. That was not always the case.

"A decade ago, I think people got off their tour busses, stayed for an average of about 23 minutes, said 'This is Hollywood?' and got out of there as quickly as possible," Mr. Garcetti explains. " Now you're really seeing people who want to come and not only stay for the day but stay for many days."

Visitors stroll down the Walk of Fame, which honors Hollywood entertainers with star shaped plaques in the sidewalk. They visit the courtyard of Grauman's Chinese Theater, where Hollywood legends have left their handprints and footprints in the concrete.

City official Garcetti notes the major theaters have all been refurbished, and their carvings and lush furnishings restored.

"And then of course the centerpiece has been Hollywood and Highland, where two-thirds of a billion dollars have been invested in the new home of the Academy Awards, the Kodak Theatre, shops, entertainment, restaurants. And we'll see another development coming on line, Hollywood and Vine, in a couple of years as well. So almost every six months you really see a huge opening," he says.

The most recently refurbished part of Hollywood Boulevard is a reception hall built in 1921 by the fraternal organization called the Masons. Next to the El Capitan Theater, the building once hosted gala celebrations with stars that included Charlie Chaplin, W. C. Fields and Mary Pickford.

Bob Gault is in charge of special events for Buena Vista Pictures, a division of Disney, which now owns the historic building.

"We'd like to bring back the glamour of the '30s, '40s, the golden era of Hollywood, as they say, with the new Kodak Theatre across the street, and of course the renovation of the El Capitan Theater, which we feel is the premier movie house in Hollywood," says Mr. Gault. " And now with this renovation here at the El Capitan Entertainment Center, the whole boulevard has taken on a new look."

Tourist Carol Trenga of Boise, Idaho, is impressed with Hollywood, which has a lot to offer. "A lot of people, a lot of great things. Lots of stuff to do. I think it's great," she says. "I've seen a lot of homeless. I've seen a lot of rich people. I've seen a lot of everything."

Some visitors, though, had expected a little more glamour. A couple from Singapore were hoping to see some stars instead of shops that sell T-shirts and cheap souvenirs.

"Yes, I was expecting it to be more glamorous. Yeah, but it doesn't seem that way," they comment.

The woman and her husband had just arrived here on vacation. Mr. Garcetti says they should be patient because there is always some excitement in Hollywood.

"If those Singapore tourists are here in a couple of days when we have one of the great movie premieres here on the boulevard, they would see all the glamour that they could take," he says. "When we have those red carpets out and the boulevard is closed down, I think people see some incredible things around here. We still have a lot to do, but it's at a really good point right now."

The city councilman says Hollywood was in need of a facelift. The entertainment district is now midway through the restoration effort. In the future, he hopes to see television and film production back in Hollywood, so tourists can get a taste of the neighborhood's old-time glamour.