One thing I’ve been musing about is the venue where Apple will announce their video subscription service to the world. Everyone needs a hobby, don’t judge.
It seems unlikely that Apple will premiere it at this year’s World Wide Developer Conference, or at their annual iPhone event. A Los Angeles event seems like a given, considering Apple wants to send a signal not just to the public that will subscribe, but to talent that may choose to work with them. I really think it’ll be a Spring event, but it could be as early as January, but March seems like a likely candidate, because it will be just after Southern California’s Awards Season, when the billboards change to “FYC”. Apple’s no stranger to a March event. An event concurrent with, or very near to, an awards ceremony might be kind of tacky and awkward if Apple is trying to demonstrate a connection to filmmaking.
That is really the reason to hold an event in LA, of course, just like Apple has held events at prestigious institutions. Apple isn’t playing off of nostalgia, like Disney does, but they do seek to establish a historical through line that connects an established past to a future product they are premiering. That’s why I’ve further narrowed it down from “Los Angeles” — which is 502 square miles (1,302 square kilometers) to historical locations that have a direct connection to the experience of watching media. Since Apple doesn’t have a historic studio lot, there’s no reason to shove a bunch of journalists into a space in Culver City near the Apple offices. Zero chance that popular beach city Santa Monica would be used either.
Hollywood isn’t a real place. There’s this imaginary world that exists spread all over LA, and beyond, is a glamorous fiction with a mythic past. There is, however, the geographical Hollywood neighborhood of Los Angeles. It’s mostly tourist traps and dirty walk of fame sidewalk stars. It’s not quite what anyone expects when they first arrive. The main drag, Hollywood Blvd., is still dotted with theatres used for movie premieres and special events.
- Grauman’s Egyptian Theatre (1922)
- El Capitan Theatre (1926)
- TCL Chinese Theatre (1927)
- Pantages Theatre (1930)
- Dolby Theatre (2001)
The TCL Chinese Theatre was originally Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, and Mann’s Chinese Theatre for a period of time. It’s probably the most iconic on the list, and replicas have been built in various places. It certainly overshadows its less famous predecessor, Grauman’s Egyptian Theatre. “International themes” were very big, which is why a firm from the American Midwest made these sort of caricature buildings. One of Sid’s business partner’s on Grauman’s Egyptian Theatre was Charles E. Toberman, who went on to make El Capitan Theatre. Pantages, while being in the same era, and a similar ornateness level, was not directly related. It was owned for a period by Howard Hughes RKO Pictures. The Dolby Theatre doesn’t have a strong historical pedigree, but since it’s inception as the Kodak Theatre it’s hosted major events like the annual Academy Awards.
All of these would be perfectly justifiable venues except for a few obvious flaws. TCL owns the naming rights for the Chinese Theatre, so unless people can envision Tim Cook getting on stage and saying “TCL” — a company that exclusively uses Roku embedded software for its smart TVs — then I think we can write it off. Even if Apple announces a TV app for competing platforms like Roku, it seems unlikely they’d want to do it on TCL’s turf.
El Capitan Theatre hosts many events, and premieres, like TCL Chinese Theatre does, but it’s unfortunately owned by Disney. Apple doesn’t currently have a deal with Disney to sell UHD HDR content on iTunes, and Disney is going to be launching a streaming service next year. I don’t think Apple is so cozy with Disney that they would want to use their facilities to premiere a video product and talk about all the great content on Apple TV.
Apple is buddy-buddy with Dolby, so it’s possible they’d host an event in the Dolby Theatre, but I still think the lack of historical character might not be what Apple event planners would look for.
Grauman’s Egyptian Theatre is owned by the non-profit American Cinematheque, and Pantages is owned by the Nederlander Organization (they own a lot of theatres). Either would be neutral choices, and full of historical connection.
One thing is absolutely certain, if Apple hosts an event on Hollywood Blvd. the street will probably close down like a red carpet movie premiere so morning traffic is going to suuuuuuuuuck if you need to drive through.
There are certainly other locations that are capable of hosting events in the immediate area, but these are the candidates I think make the most sense, with Egyptian and Pantages weighted the strongest.
Downtown is also unpleasant, but it wasn’t always that way. Before most people fled for the suburbs, enabled by the LA freeway system, it was a bustling city like its contemporaries in the 1920s and 1930s. Efforts are being made to revitalize (gentrify) areas, like historically important Broadway. It never ceased to be a place for performances, and film exhibition, but many theatres fell into disrepair, and some closed. Newer theatre spaces opened a couple miles away at The Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, and the Walt Disney Concert Hall, but the former is blah, and the latter is Disney’s, obviously.
Apple made waves when they announced that they had leased the Tower Theatre on Broadway with plans to renovate and restore it as a new Apple Store. It’s a very peculiar location for an Apple Store, if you ask me, but when it’s done it’s going to be one of the most thoughtfully considered Apple Stores in LA (the rest of them are sad boxes, even the recent ones).
Part of Apple’s renovation plan will make Tower an event space in addition to a store. I don’t know if renovation has even started inside the property, but the renderings lead me to believe that it wouldn’t be an ideal space to host a large media event once reno is complete. I also can’t picture Tim Cook saying, “Yeah, we’re gonna gut this place after this event.” and then proceeding to conduct the construction.
Why go to all of the trouble of building a store in a remote, downtown, historical, theatre location if it’s not going to be a part of Apple’s video service narrative? That would be like purchasing a historic watch store and only selling iPads in it.
Apple could turn to another theatre on Broadway to host a large event, and have some part of the press-handling conducted at Tower.
If you look at the area on a map you’ll see a lot more theatres that what I have listed, but many of them are in severe disrepair, or have been converted to other uses like retail, or religious worship.
Palace and Los Angeles are both owned by the same company that Apple leases Tower from. It’s conceivable that Apple would make arrangements with them for the use of one of those nearby locations.
The Orpheum is mostly known as a live performance venue, with music, stand-up comedy, but could host nearly anything in the structure.
The Orpheum also has a pipe organ. How sweet would it be if the music prior to he Apple event was all old film scores played on a pipe organ? Sure, it would drive the journalists into a frenzy, but I would be very entertained.
There’s no doubt the service is going to launch soon in 2019, and I’m very certain that Apple wants to connect to the traditions of Hollywood, to insert itself as a powerful force that feels like it has an association with the language, and trappings, of that industry. I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see stars in attendance, observing as the journalists and Apple employees do at these events, in addition to more on stage pitching the Apple shows they’re starring, producing, or directing. I’m looking forward to seeing what Apple is considering in terms of films, like their recent deal with A24. There’s just so much to present to consumers, and to future industry peers.
It would be pretty bizarre if Apple rented out any old auditorium, or convention space, and presented their video service like Eddy Cue presented the Music service at WWDC 2015. I believe some lessons have been learned.