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Cinegrill: Roosevelt Hotel’s Film-Themed Hotspot

True to its name, the Roosevelt Hotel’s Cinegrill paid tribute to the motion picture industry: A wall mural depicted the history of film, with scenes starring everyone from silent actors like Rudolph Valentino, Pola Negri, and John Bunny to the contemporary Shirley Temple. 

Cinegrill entrance
Cinegrill entrance on Hollywood Boulevard (LAPL)

A place that honored yesterday’s pioneers, it was frequented by “today’s stars” of the 1930s such as Bette Davis, Claudette Colbrert, Marlene Dietrich, Dick Powell, Humphrey Bogart, and Joan Blondell (and later in the 1950s, Marilyn Monroe).

Cinegrill was also a favorite of writers F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, and Arthur Miller.

The bar’s modern design was a peek into the future: red formica (a new material) trimmed with horizontal chrome and lit indirectly from beneath the Brazilian rosewood top. The stools, covered in blue gazelle leather, were modeled after champagne glasses.

Along the perimeter of the space, mirrored Venetian blinds complemented the chrome tube chairs in the dining areas. The modern air conditioning system provided a complete change of air every three minutes.

Cinegrill dining area
Cinegrill dining area (Hollywood Roosevelt Facebook)

Before Cinegrill opened in 1935, the space had been the Roosevelt’s gift shop until Thomas E. Hull took over operations. The entrance at the corner of Hollywood Boulevard and Orange Drive was the first structural glass front on a Southern California hotel. From the Roosevelt's lobby, a second door led to the rear of the grill-lounge-nightclub.

Cinegrill entrance lobby
Cinegrill entrance in lobby (Roosevelt FB)

Opening night was treated like a premiere, with Sid Grauman invited to throw the first switch. Special booths designated for the major studios were also christened by their respective stars.

As part of the “sparkling entertainment,” MGM’s Louis B. Mayer gave permission to contract actress Eadie Adams to perform a nightly six-month stint as she awaited her big break. Over the decades, hundreds of big-name acts graced the Cinegrill stage and it was where Broadway star Mary Martin got her start for $50-a-week.

Roosevelt postcard
Roosevelt postcard (California State Library)

Known for its dancing and dining, the menu offered appetizers such as canapé of anchovies and homemade chicken liver relish, as well as supper specialities Tangy Cheese Omelette, Southern Chicken Short Cake, and Large Tomato Filled With Tuna Fish or Chicken Flakes. Dessert included various flavors of Jell-O, ice cream sundaes, and Criss Cross Fruit Pie.

In addition to cocktails, Cinegrill served “The finest of California table wines”: a glass of white or red for 25 cents.

Cinegrill menu
Cinegrill menu in the 1940s

Hull sank $75,000 ($1.7 million today, with inflation) into Cinegrill in 1935. Thirteen years later, a $500,000 hotel renovation converted the dining room into a space for dancing seven nights a week. In 1955, the sepia film mural was joined by a colorized TV wall of fame (and the decor changed out to shades of pale yellow, lemon, gold, and coral). In 1969, to complement the Walk of Fame just outside the doors, Cinegrill’s interior was updated: brown carpet adorned with starbursts and orange-gold chairs to match the new bar front.

Cinegrill interior 1940s
Cinegrill interior post-renovation (Pomona Public Library)

Over the following decades, Cinegrill evolved with the times (and various new proprieters). In 2003, it was relocated from its original location at the corner of Hollywood and Orange to an inner room at the Roosevelt and renamed Feinstein’s at the Cinegrill. Two years later, as the hotel was revamped, the Old Hollywood relic closed it doors to make way for Teddy’s.

In 2022, the Roosevelt ressurrected Cinegrill as a luxurious theater with a full calendar of film screenings, comedy shows, and cabaret performances.

Roosevelt Hotel 1950s
Roosevelt Hotel post-renovation (USC)


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