Close-up look at the new Chinese Theatre lighting and searchlights at Disney's Hollywood Studios

Mar 26, 2021 in "Disney's Hollywood Studios"

New lighting design and searchlights at Disney's Hollywood Studios Chinese Theater
Posted: Friday March 26, 2021 8:52am ET by WDWMAGIC Staff

The Chinese Theatre at Disney's Hollywood Studios debuted a new lighting scheme this week and we took a trip after-dark for a closer look.

New lighting brings a much warmer color to some of the theater's signature elements, such as the dragon above the Runaway Railway marquee. The update really helps to highlight some of its features and makes it pop with more dimension than was there previously.

What will be most noticeable to most guests with the new lighting package is a return of the searchlights on the rooftop of the Chinese Theatre. A staple of the park from its opening days, the original lights could easily be seen miles away from the park and really helped to bring attention to what was then Disney-MGM Studios.

The original effect was achieved with large rooftop SkyTracker search lights using thousands of watts of xenon lamps - the same lights that were used at real premieres in Hollywood. The lights fell into disrepair in 2010 and where never to be seen again - until now.

The new searchlights are much smaller than their predecessors, and the fixtures can just about be seen on the rooftop of the theater. The new lights use LED as the lightsource, and are much more more energy efficient, using just a fraction of the power of the original. 

At close quarters, around the courtyard area, the beams of light are quite visible to the naked eye. The beams are much narrower than the SkyTracker lights, but move in a similar pattern and bring an attractive "premiere night" feeling to the theater. Go here for our 4K video of the new Chinese Theater lighting.

However, moving further away from the Chinese Theatre the lower output of the LED light source really becomes a problem, and the lights are barely visible.

The view from the end of Hollywood Blvd is really lacking any impact at all from the new searchlights. It should also be noted that we were using every trick in the book of low light photography in all of these pictures to capture the lights at their best and to capture as accurately as possible what the naked eye can see.

The return of the searchlights is a welcome change, but we can't help but wish that much more powerful lights had been used. It has been more than 30 years since the original lights debuted in 1989, and despite all the advances in lighting technology since, the 2021 edition pales in comparison to the original and leaves us wanting more.

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DisneyGentlemanV2.0May 26, 2021

Soon to be followed by toilets that flush...

LilofanApr 01, 2021

Anything is better than the big blue hat that blocked the Great Movie Ride during its time there.

LilofanApr 01, 2021

Sids was so cool. Famous people signing expensive paintings and such all for sale. When I checked it out I never really saw anyone buying anything.

TrainChasersApr 01, 2021

I agree. With citizens of Hollywood, Hollywood public works, Mulch, and a daily parade the park really felt alive. Stores like Sids and the Writers Stop weren’t the “standard” Disney gift shop and had unique items and a unique feel to them.

aladdin2007Apr 01, 2021

This just reminded me to pull out the soundtrack and listen to it again, I really miss MGM as it originally was. I know there was not much in terms of attraction offerings in the early days but the ambience was well thought out and down to detail. Such as Sid's at the front. Its all gone now for whatever bare senseless bone they want to throw in somewhere with no rhyme or reason. ugg.

marni1971Apr 01, 2021

Absolutely. First saw it when it was a month old. The comets during Sorcerers Apprentice are still a clear memory today - guests had never been so close to pyro launchers. If I recall it was the first show to use rooftop launchers.

RobbiemApr 01, 2021

Still my favourite fireworks show. I can hear the intro music now and the voice of Mr Vincent Price 😀

artdecoMar 29, 2021

I do miss the days when the Magic was NEVER spoiled with construction or maintenance. It was part of the mythology and mystery - those things happened at night. I would leave in the 70's and 80's and the closest thing to maintenance I saw were the gas-powered vacuums coming down Main Street behind us. Even *they* filled me with curiosity and wonder. "What must it be like to be here overnight and see this beautiful place being made perfect again for tomorrow?"

BrenthodgeMar 28, 2021

Remember the days when pieces of buildings were designed to retract because they blocked a little bit of the view of the last few minutes of a 10 minute fireworks show? Now we park aircraft landing barges in the center of the park all day that block the view for 90% of the operating day just do we can have that fireworks show? Wow. How did we get so far removed from understanding “show quality” applies to the ENTIRE operating day, not just the last 10-20 minutes?!?

CoffeeroastersMar 26, 2021

Just glad it is back to where it was. That in itself is an accomplishment. The search lights are meh........

marni1971Mar 26, 2021

The front right, left side one did for Sorcery in the Sky fireworks to clear the view of a giant Mickey inflatable for the the finale. edit; @SplashZander you can see it’s “missing” here; if in position it would have blocked Mickey somewhat:

SplashZanderMar 26, 2021

Why did the spires even retract in the first place?

marni1971Mar 26, 2021

Oh I wish 😂😂