The theater at 6656 Hollywood Boulevard has seen its fair share of entertainment history. The 1940s building got its start showing news reels from the front lines of World War II. From there, it was the first theater to show the 1968 hit Bonnie and Clyde, it ran the infamous and groundbreaking film Deep Throat, and it has appeared throughout cinematic history in films like Lethal Weapon, Exit Through the Gift Shop, and even has a cameo in Quentin Tarantino’s upcoming feature, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. Soon after the theater was bought by billionaire Alki David, it began offering high-quality CBD products, joining the vanguard of Californian businesses involved in the burgeoning legal weed market. On Thursday, the space at 6656 Hollywood Blvd. seemed to take another historic leap, debuting the first ever hologram karaoke club.
In an American Idol-style competition, both amateur and professional singers from across the City of Angels crooned, belted, and wailed as a hologram version of themselves appeared on stage in front of a packed room. At stake was a cash prize of $1,000, awarded to the vocalist who won the most applause and adoration from the crowd.
While the audience seemed eager to support the diverse musical styles on display that night, cheering and singing along with the songs they recognized, they were not shy about voicing their opinions about the less impressive performances. In fact, booing was encouraged.
“Don’t be afraid to boo,” David informed the attendees over the speakers, playing his best Simon Cowell. (This same brash style earned David some mentions in the tabloids for a tense exchange with celebrity Scott Disick at private event at the theater earlier in the month).
In the hands of David, founder and head of the online TV streaming site FilmOn, the space at 6656 Hollywood has undergone a series of changes, first as a hologram theater before its current iteration. David, often described as an eccentric billionaire, was an early investor in holograms, purchasing the technology behind large-scale spectacles like the hologram performance of rapper Tupac Shakur alongside Snoop Dog at Coachella in 2012.
Now, after further development of the technology, David sees a rich opportunity to share it with the public through his company Hologram USA. While the theater has long offered guests the chance to see performances by the likes of Billie Holiday and Jackie Wilson in hologram form, the idea of offering the same star treatment to amateur or aspiring singers has been in the works for some time. But even as the theater begins offering more karaoke nights, it will continue to play its classic celebrity shows.
Even when some of the notes were flat, the mood in the venue certainly wasn’t. Unlike typical karaoke you’d find at a bar in Korea Town or Silver Lake, the entire club seemed invested in each singer—even those they didn’t know. They rallied behind unassuming underdogs, they rooted for crowd favorites, they gave ovations to unexpected high notes. The performers seemed to surprise even themselves with their performances.
“It felt like me,” Kayln Litwin said after a spot-on rendition of Whitney Houston’s “You Give Good Love.”
“I fed off of the crowd’s energy,” she said. (Footage on YouTube confirms: Damn, Kayln can sing).
While a diverse array of genres were featured throughout the night, from jazz to rock, RnB emerged as the favorite. Another singer, Artemis Arthur, sang a nearly pitch-perfect cover of Adele’s “Send My Love (To Your New Lover).” When asked about her singing background, she replied, “I perform in the subway.”
For the crowd’s part, they fed off the vibe of the club itself. Outfitted with chic white and black leather furniture (enormous love chairs and foyer sofas), a DJ booth, a bar, and go-go dancers, the theater also provided guests with products infused with cannabidiol (CBD), a relaxing cannabis byproduct. This particular CBD comes from David’s own company, SwissX, and is mixed with other health foods like bee pollen.
Another standout performance came from Megan McDonald, singer from the band Queen Frequency and the Twats. As Megan materialized on the stage, the plucky harp intro of Florence + The Machine’s “Dog Days Are Over” quieted the room. She started somewhat uncertainly, taking the first few measures to find her musical footing, but when the syncopated hand claps came in, the crowd offered their support by clapping along. This seemed to calm any nerves, and the brunette in silver metallic pumps began to belt along with Florence, maintaining a powerful chest voice even as the song soared higher into the scale.
“It was good—it was exciting,” Megan said as she exited the green screen booth in the back of the theater.
The Hologram USA Theater will be hosting similar events tonight and Sunday, giving everyone who missed the first round another opportunity to appear onstage.