El Capitan Theatre


6838 Hollywood Blvd.

Los Angeles, CA 90028   | map |

(233) 467-7674  

Website: disney.go.com | showtimes   Visit the site for a nice history of the theatre and Disney's restoration project. The site also has information on current and coming attractions, directions and parking information and ticketing.

Filming Inquiries: Talk to Rebecca Reynoso at Cap Equity Locations, (323) 375-4192. Check out their website's El Capitan page for 213 photos of the building.

Opened: May 3, 1926 as a legit theatre built by developer Charles E. Toberman (1880-1981), who also was involved in the Chinese and the Egyptian theatres.  The initial attraction was "The Charlot Revue."



A story about the opening located by Ken McIntyre
on Photos of Los Angeles. It's the front page of the
 local weekly Saturday Night for April 17, 1926. 
full size view

Architects: Morgan, Walls & Clements did the exterior and building, G. Albert Lansburgh did the theatre.  Lansburgh had earlier done the 1911 Orpheum (now the Palace), the RKO Hillstreet (1922) and the 1926 Orpheum. He would again team up with Morgan, Walls & Clements on the Wiltern Theatre

Lansburgh's other work locally included the Shrine Auditorium.  Morgan, Walls & Clements did lots of other local theatre projects including the Belasco (1926) and the Mayan (1927).

The El Capitan was featured in a ten page article in the February, 1927 issue of Architect and Engineer.

Seating: 1,550 originally. At the time of the 1964 refurbishment the capacity was listed as 1,498. The capacity after the Disney/Pacific Theatres restoration ended up at 998. The rear of the main floor has lost a few rows due to the new projection booth and walling off the back corners of the seating area.

Booking and managing the playhouse was more than Toberman or his original lessee, Edward D. Smith bargained for. After several productions, operation was turned over to Henry Duffy, who ran a string of west coast legit playhouses.



A 1934 ad Ken McIntyre found for an appearance
of Will Rogers in "Ah, Wilderness" at the El Capitan.
 Also note "The Drunkard" at the Theatre Mart,
still in its first year. It would run 35 more.

 full size view

Duffy gave up in 1937 and the theatre went
dark except for occasional rentals.


An ad for a WPA production c.1938 of
"The Mikado -
in Swing." Ken McIntyre found it
for his Photos of Los Angeles Facebook page.
 full size view




The cover of the program for "Springtime for Henry"
 with Edward Everett Horton and Marjorie Lord, available
as a print from TheaterPrint. They date it as December
1941 but the assumption is that it was earlier.
larger view

After an impressive career as a playhouse, the El Capitan became a first-run film venue. The last show prior to the El Capitan's "moderne" remodel was the world premiere engagement of "Citizen Kane" in May, 1941.



An ad for "Citizen Kane" at the El Capitan located
by Ken McIntyre for Photos of Los Angeles.
 full size view

After the re-do, the theatre reopened March 18, 1942 as the Paramount under the direction of Fanchon and Marco with the interior plasterwork covered with wavy corrugated panels. There was rattan furniture, fake palm trees and a coconut milk bar in the lobby. The architects for the 1942 remodel were William L. and Hal Pereira.

The 1942 remodeling into the Paramount rated a full page article in the  April 25, 1942 issue titled "Completed.." The article notes: 

"Just in time for the auspicious opening of Paramount's "Reap the Wild Wind," that company's first-run 'showcase' in Hollywood was launched on March 19th. Formerly the El Capitan, a legitimate house, the new Hollywood Paramount was remodeled at a cost of $178,000 and it now seats 1,520 persons.

...the redesign of the front of the theatre is completely spectacular through the application of neon grill fluted fins above a graceful marquee. Unusual attraction boards were provided and the entrance lobby is surrounded by glass cases employing a new method of display. The boxoffice and marble lobby are festooned with growing plants."

As the Paramount, the theatre frequently played day and date with the Paramount downtown (the former Metropolitan), also operated by Fanchon and Marco.

VistaVision at the El Capitan: There are stories that the El Capitan (then the Paramount) got an installation of horizontal projectors for Paramount's VistaVision process in the mid 50s. It's unknown what features were run. See our Warner Beverly Hills page for a discussion of the process and the Movie Links page on this site for more film process resources.

Roadshows at the El Capitan:   The Paramount got the roadshow run of "Gigi" (MGM) which opened July 10, 1958 in 35mm with 4 channel mag sound. The theatre was equipped for 70mm presentations in 1964 and got to play a few roadshows in 70 including "The Fall of the Roman Empire" (opening June, 1964), "In Harm's Way" (April 1965), "Dr. Zhivago" (opening December 1965) and "Dr. Doolittle" (opening December 1967). 

 70mm non-roadshow runs:  There was lots of 70mm product in later non-roadshow engagements including "The Dirty Dozen" (1967),  "Where Eagles Dare" (1969), "MacKenna's Gold" (1969),  "Close Encounters" (moveover from the Dome, 1977), "Sleeping Beauty" (reissue, 2002), "Tron" (reissue, 2004). Information on 70mm runs comes from the site From Script to DVD which has a nice page on the theatre as well as a year-by-year chronicle of 70mm engagements in Los Angeles.

Other names, other operators: Other circuits running the house prior to Pacific Theatres acquiring it included Statewide Theatres in the mid-60s (calling it the Paramount), Loew's (calling it Loew's starting in mid-1967) and General Cinema (calling it the Cinema on Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood Cinema or just "Cinema," 1972 - 1974) and then Century Theatres from mid-1974 into 1976 (back to the Paramount name).

In the fall of 1976 the theatre was taken over by Seattle-based Sterling Recreation Organization who continued using the Paramount name.  Fred Stein's Statewide Theatres had done a major refurbishment in 1964. The January 18, 1965  issue of Boxoffice magazine had a big story with photos about what they did to upgrade the circuit's then flagship house.  SRO gave it another re-do when they took over.

The Toberman estate owned the building until 1984 when they sold it to Tom Harnsberger and Nick Olaets, who embarked on a renovation of the retail and office areas.  Pacific Theatres took over operation of the theatre in 1985 when SRO pulled out of the L.A. market. They closed the theatre in 1989.

Status: Disney and Pacific Theatres did a lush restoration guided by Joe Musil and reopened the house, as the El Capitan, in 1991. The theatre now plays first run Disney product -- frequently with added stage shows and exhibits related to the film.




The Pomona-based firm Restoration Studio from did all
 sorts of reconstruction work during the 1991 restoration.
Here Juan Sequeira is creating molds for reconstruction
of missing exterior cast-stone details.
full size view | on their Facebook page



Sequeira and his staff working on restoring the
 decorative details on the ticket lobby ceiling.
full size view | on their Facebook page



A look at the lobby ceiling restoration.  Juan Sequeira and
J. Ronald Reed got a National Trust award for their work.
The other El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood:  This building should not be confused what is now called the Avalon on Vine Street.  That theatre (also known as the Hollywood Playhouse and the Hollywood Palace) had a run as the El Capitan in the 40's and 50's when this  Hollywood Blvd. venue was called the Paramount.

The El Capitan in the Movies:




We get a quick look at the Paramount/El Capitan marquee at
the beginning of Robert Aldrich's "The Legend of Lylah Clare"
(MGM, 1968).  He, of course, includes this shot as a plug for his
earlier film "The Dirty Dozen," released in June, 1967 and still
 playing when "Lylah" was shot. In "Lylah" the main interest
 is the Chinese, where they come back for a big premiere.

Thanks to Kurt Wahlner for the photo. Kurt's
 main interest is also the Chinese as you can see
 by visiting his Grauman's Chinese website.




We get the bottom half of the vertical of "Loew's" (as the
 El Capitan was known then) in this hazy night view as Jack
 Lemmon heads east on Hollywood Blvd. in John Avildson
 and Steve Shagan's "Save The Tiger" (Paramount, 1973).

larger view


We get a shot looking out from behind the boxoffice
of the El Capitan in Barry Levinson's "Jimmy Hollywood"
(Paramount, 1994). Joe Pesci and Christian Slater are exploring
the stars on the sidewalk. The film finishes up with lots of
shots inside the abandoned Egyptian Theatre
larger view

The exterior of the theatre gets many shots as the Muppet Theatre in "The Muppets" (Disney, 2011). Initially we get an abandoned run-down version. At the end we get a big scene filling Hollywood Blvd. The marquee is lit up with "Muppet Theatre" instead of "El Capitan" atop the readerboard.  Interiors are a studio set for the auditorium and the Los Angeles Theatre for a lobby scene with Kermit on the grand staircase.

The El Capitan on Video:

Don't miss Matt Spero's "Joe Musil Tour of the El Capitan Pt.1." Part one is a 12 minute interview with the designer (and a tour of the theatre)  from 1991 -- shortly before the opening after the restoration.  "Part 2" continues the tour for another 11 minutes including a look at curtains and more. Mr. Musil died in 2010.

More information:

See the Cinema Treasures page for lots of discussion about the theatre plus 40 photos. Many photos of the exterior, interior and the booth are on Cinema Tour.

See the Cinema Sightlines page on the El Capitan for a history of the renovation and many great photos by T J Edwards.  Also see Garan Grey's 2009 review of the theatre. Wikipedia also has lots more photos of the El Capitan.

 

The boxoffice in 2007.

photo: Bill Counter
2012 view  |



Another boxoffice view.

photo: Cap Equity Locations - 2010


Cap Equity Locations brokers deals between property
owners and companies looking for locations for filming
or special events. See their page on the El Capitan Theatre
for 213 fine photos of all areas of the building.



A look at the entrance doors.

photo: Bill Counter - 2012






more el capitan pages:
street view timeline  | 
lobby areas  |
 |  auditorium  |
  stage  |



 


Looking down at the building from the
Hollywood and Highland Center.

photo: Bill Counter - 2007


 The El Capitan marquee in 2007.

photo: Bill Counter

[ click on any of these images to enlarge ]

Looking toward the stage from the balcony.

photo: Bill Counter - 2012

See the auditorium page for many
more views of the interior.




A street view looking east along Hollywood Blvd.

photo: Google Maps - 2009


Note the Kodak Theatre (now the Dolby) on the left.
 The 
Chinese
(and the Chinese 6) is just behind us. Click on the
 image to enlarge or head to Google for an interactive view.




A vintage postcard view looking east -- click to enlarge.

That's the Barker Bros. / El Capitan building with the roof tower.
It's from the collection of the now vanished website Yesterday LA.




The ticket lobby ceiling.

photo: Bill Counter - 2007
a 2012 view  |



 A detail of the center medallion
of the ticket lobby's ceiling.


photo: Bill Counter - 2012



The east side of the building - stagehouse is at the left
.

photo: Bill Counter - 2007



The El Capitan roof sign.

photo: Bill Counter - 2007



Looking west along Hollywood Blvd.

photo: Bill Counter - 2007



Looking up at the El Capitan vertical.

photo: Bill Counter - 2012



A night entrance view
.

photo: Bill Counter - 2010



The office building entrance -- just
east of the theatre's entrance.

photo: Cap Equity Locations - 2010




The El Capitan at night.

photo: Bill Counter- 2010



Another detail of the terracotta at the entrance.

photo: Bill Counter - 2012



A detail of a bit of the ornate
plasterwork above the boxoffice.


photo: Bill Counter - 2012



Looking west behind the boxoffice.

photo: Cap Equity Locations - 2010


The island boxoffice location isn't original. In 1927 there
were ticket windows over on the west side of the ticket lobby.



A view of one of the faces on the of the entrance
arch with the ceiling of the ticket lobby beyond.


photo: Bill Counter - 21012