El Capitan Theatre

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El Capitan Theatre
El Capitan Theatre 2009 Academy Awards.JPG
El Capitan Theatre, 2009
Location 6838 Hollywood Boulevard, Hollywood, Los Angeles, California
Coordinates 34°06′04″N 118°20′23″W / 34.101111°N 118.339722°W / 34.101111; -118.339722Coordinates: 34°06′04″N 118°20′23″W / 34.101111°N 118.339722°W / 34.101111; -118.339722
Built 1926
Architect G. Albert Lansburgh
Stiles O. Clements
Governing body The Walt Disney Company
Designated 1990[1]
Reference No. 495
El Capitan Theatre is located in Los Angeles Metropolitan Area
El Capitan Theatre
Location of El Capitan Theatre in Los Angeles

El Capitan Theatre is a fully restored movie palace at 6838 Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood. The theater and adjacent building is owned and operated by The Walt Disney Company and as such, serves as the venue for many of the The Walt Disney Studios' film premieres.


1926 opening and early years[edit]

In the early 1920s, real estate developer Charles E. Toberman (the "Father of Hollywood") envisioned a thriving Hollywood theatre district.[2] With Sid Grauman, he opened the Egyptian (1922), El Capitan ("The Captain") (1926), and Chinese Theatre (1927).

El Capitan, dubbed "Hollywood's First Home of Spoken Drama," opened as a legitimate theatre on May 3, 1926 with Charlot's Revue starring Gertrude Lawrence and Jack Buchanan.[2] The design featured a Spanish Colonial Revival style exterior designed by Stiles O. Clements of the architectural firm of Morgan, Walls & Clements, and a lavish East Indian interior by G. Albert Lansburgh.

For a decade it presented live plays, with over 120 productions including such legends as Clark Gable and Joan Fontaine.[2] By the late 1930s, El Capitan felt the economic effects of the Depression, showcasing fewer and fewer productions. This period saw a cycle of experimentation with entertainment. In an effort to boost attendance at the theatre, its management attempted to lure revues, road shows and benefits. Despite these efforts, business was faltering. When Orson Welles was unable to locate a theatre owner willing to risk screening Citizen Kane, he turned to El Capitan, and in 1941, Citizen Kane had its world premiere there. The theater then closed for one year.

1942 renovation and renaming the Hollywood Paramount[edit]

The building was remodeled in the modern style, and reopened on March 18, 1942 as the Hollywood Paramount Theatre. Its inaugural film presentation was Cecil B. DeMille's Technicolor feature Reap the Wild Wind, starring Ray Milland, John Wayne, Paulette Goddard and Raymond Massey.

The theater remained the West Coast flagship for Paramount Pictures until the studio was forced by the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in the antitrust case U.S. vs. Paramount Pictures, et al. to divest itself of its theater holdings. After this, the Hollywood Paramount was operated by United Paramount Theatres for some years, then by a series of other companies, culminating with ownership by the Pacific Theatres Circuit in the 1980s.

1991 reopening with name El Capitan[edit]

Confetti rains at the climax of a show.

By the late 1980s, movie studios were once again being allowed to own theaters and in 1989 the Walt Disney Company entered into a lease agreement with the Pacific Circuit for the Paramount and the smaller Crest Theatre in Westwood.[3] These theaters became Disney's flagship houses. They spent $14 million on a complete renovation of the Paramount, restoring much of the building's original decor as well as the theater's original name. El Capitan reopened in 1991 with the premiere of The Rocketeer. In recent years, many of Walt Disney Pictures' feature films have premiered here as well as the debut of Walt Disney Animation Studios' first made-for-TV special Prep & Landing, and most movies are accompanied by live stage shows. Jimmy Kimmel Live!, which airs on Disney-owned ABC, originates from a TV studio next door to the El Capitan.

The refurbished theater features a giant Wurlitzer Theatre organ originally installed in San Francisco's Fox Theatre in 1929.[4] Below the theater is a small exhibit space, often used to display props from the films, such as costumes or set pieces. Next door is the adjacent Disney's Soda Fountain and Studio Store, where patrons can purchase ice cream themed to the film currently playing in the cinema next door. A wide variety of Disney and movie merchandise is available there. At some point Disney also acquired the former Masonic Temple building next door, where they had been housing add-on attractions for big Disney films such as Toy Story.

Mistaken venue for Nixon's "Checkers Speech"[edit]

A common misconception is that the iconic "Checkers Speech" television address by the 1952 Republican (U.S.) vice presidential nominee, Richard Nixon, took place at the current location of El Capitan Theatre. In fact, the address occurred at another Hollywood location, then likewise called "El Capitan Theatre," located nearby at 1735 Vine Street. That location is currently known as "Avalon Hollywood." The address took place at the time the current El Capitan Theatre was known as the Hollywood Paramount.

In popular culture[edit]

  • In The Muppets (2011), the exterior of the El Capitan Theatre stood in for the legendary Muppets Theatre that the Muppet characters rehabilitate in the film. This theatre reprises this role briefly at the beginning of the sequel Muppets Most Wanted (2014).

See also[edit]

Media related to El Capitan Theater at Wikimedia Commons


  1. ^ Los Angeles Department of City Planning (February 28, 2009). Historic - Cultural Monuments (HCM) Listing: City Declared Monuments. City of Los Angeles. Retrieved 2000-03-02. 
  2. ^ a b c Lord, Rosemary (2002). Los Angeles: Then and Now. San Diego, CA: Thunder Bay Press. pp. 90–91. ISBN 1-57145-794-1. 
  3. ^ http://www.cobbles.com/simpp_archive/studio-theaters_today.htm
  4. ^ "El Capitan Theatre". Los Angeles Theatre Organ Society. Retrieved October 8, 2011. 

External links[edit]