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El Capitan Theatre

El Capitan Theatre

First Opened: 3rd May 1926 (93 years ago)

Former Names: Hollywood Paramount, Loew’s, the Cinema on Hollywood Boulevard, the Hollywood Cinema

Website: www.elcapitantheatre.com Open website in new window

Telephone: (818) 845-3110 Call (818) 845-3110

Address: 6838 Hollywood Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90028 Show address in Google Maps (new window)

 Featured Photos

 Overview

The El Capitan opened in mid-1926, dubbed “Hollywood’s First Home of Spoken Drama”, and was the brainchild of producer and entertainer Charles Toberman. Toberman envisaged Hollywood as a new theatrical and entertainment district for Los Angeles and played an integral part in key developments including the Roosevelt Hotel, Grauman’s Egyptian and Chinese theatres, and the Masonic Temple (now the El Capitan Entertainment Center hosting “Jimmy Kimmel Live!”).

The design of the El Capitan was a collaboration between noted architects Stiles O. Clements (exterior) and G. Albert Lansburgh (interior). They would later team-up again on The Wiltern; previously Clements had designed the Belasco and Mayan theatres; Lansburgh the Palace, the Orpheum, and Shrine Auditorium.

The exterior is of Spanish Colonial style with offices above street level, the large-windowed space beside the theatre lobby being retail, specifically a Baker Bros. department store. Lansburgh’s lavish interior was inspired by East Indian themes.

Although initially successful, Toberman found running the theatre hard work and turned it over to theatre manager and producer Henry Duffy within a few years. Duffy ran legitimate productions for over a decade with stars including Clark Gable, Buster Keaton, Mary Pickford, Joan Fontaine, and Will Rogers.

In May 1941 the El Capitan hosted the world premiere of Citizen Kane (1941) Link opens in new window. After the short run the theatre closed for conversion into a movie theatre, reopening in March 1942 as the “Hollywood Paramount”, under the management of brother and sister team Fanchon & Marco. The streamlined “art moderne” renovation saw ornate plasterwork covered-up with undulating corrugated sheet metal.

In the mid-1960s management switched hands to Statewide Theatres who carried-out a major refurbishment in 1964. Loew’s took over in mid-1967 followed by General Cinema in 1972, then Century Theatres in mid-1974, and Sterling Recreation Organization in late 1976. Various minor modernizations, further altering the historic fabric of the building, took place over the years of successive management. In 1985 Pacific Theatres took over, with the theatre closing in 1989.

In 1989 the Walt Disney Company joined forces with Pacific Theatres to restore the theatre to its original configuration, in a project led by renowned theatre designer Joseph J. Musil. Corrugated sheet metal was peeled-back to reveal the original 1920’s architecture, and missing features – such as the auditorium boxes and parts of the lobbies – were painstakingly recreated from historic photographs. The iconic “El Capitan” lettering atop the building’s mast was also restored. The theatre was declared a Historic Cultural Monument by the City of Los Angeles in 1990, and reopened in June 1991.

Today the El Capitan showcases first-run Disney movies, screenings of Disney classics, and hosts innumerable movie premieres. The continued tradition of pre-show entertainment and organ performances helps preserve the early 20th Century movie experience for generations to come.

The theatre houses a 4-manual, 37-rank Wurlitzer pipe organ, the last of five magnificent “Fox Specials” built in the 1920’s, designed with all the “bells and whistles” for deluxe movie palaces. It was originally installed in the San Francisco Fox Theatre in 1929. The four organ chambers (two per side) house over 2,500 individual pipes, the largest of which is over 32 feet long. The organ was meticulously restored over a one-year period and installed by G.M. Buck Pipe Organs, Inc. of Grand Rapids, Michigan.

 Movie, TV & Music Video Appearances

Movies

Television

Documentary

 Listed/Landmark Building Status

 How do I visit the El Capitan Theatre?

As of mid-2018 the theatre runs 45-minute tours daily, usually at 8:30am, for $12 per person, subject to availability and/or change without notice. The tour includes the auditorium, backstage, dressing rooms, lower lounge, lobbies and the organ – all subject to availability and current theatre operations.

“Express” tours ($9 and lasting 15 minutes) are generally available throughout the day, dependent on current programming, and cover Front-of-House and lobby areas.

Tickets for all tours are available for purchase in-person at the theatre Box Office; advance reservations are not required. For further information check out the El Capitan Theatre Tour Flyer Link opens in new window or refer to the El Capitan Theatre ticketing website Link opens in new window. For more information or questions call 1-800-DISNEY6 or visit the theatre Box Office.

Note: movie screenings at the El Capitan often feature specially tailored pre-shows, often featuring the Wurlitzer organ and various entertainment features inside the auditorium, so differing requirements of these programs may restrict tour access to certain areas.

Upcoming Special Events
Theatre Tour

Theatre Tour (Daily, usually 8:30am)

Discover the history and magic of Disney’s premiere movie theatre with a behind-the-scenes tour!

45-minute docent guided tour, $12 per person inlcudes: El Capitan Theatre and Hollywood history; behind-the-scenes “fun facts” and special event highlights; Wall of Fame and lobbies; Lower Lounge and exclusive displays; Theatre Auditorium; Backstage areas, including Sherman Brothers Star Dressing Room; photo opportunity with the mighty Wurlitzer Organ.

Tour tickets are available at the theatre, and walk-ups are welcome. Advance reservations by calling 1-800-347-6396 but are not required.

Note that each tour is unique. Tour locations may vary based on the theatre production schedule and showtimes. Tours are subject to availability and may change without prior notice.

Click here to go to the event website. Link opens in new window

 Further Reading

Online

Books

 Technical Information

General Information
Seating Capacity 998 (originally 1,550; reported as 1,520 in 1942; then 1,498 in 1964)
Stage Dimensions
Proscenium Width 49ft
Stage Depth 33ft
Stage Width 81ft
Historic Photos & Documents

Historic files shown here may be subject to copyright; review our “Fair Use” statement here.

 Photos of the El Capitan Theatre

Auditorium

The auditorium dressing, lighting color scheme, and pre-show are designed for each movie playing at the theatre. “Classic” or “Throwback” screenings do not always include a pre-show or special auditorium dressing, but do often feature a Q&A session and/or short film about the movie being screened.

The frontmost drape is a guillotine-style curtain but also features 10 independent point lifts which allow the drape to be gracefully scalloped in a vast array of raising/lowering combinations.


Backstage

The stage houses a “Mickey Lift”, a stage trapdoor mechanism designed and used exclusively by Disney.


Exterior and Public Areas

The basement Function Room is often used for prop and costume displays relating to the movie currently playing at the theatre. The space was originally the Ladies Lounge.




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