Hollywood Pantages Theatre's Luminous, Brilliant Past is as Vibrant as its Future

Hollywood Pantages Theatre History

Grand Opening: June 4, 1930

In the heart of Hollywood, on Hollywood Boulevard, right down the block from Vine Street, stands the Hollywood Pantages Theatre. It's a fitting location: The Pantages has become one of the greatest landmarks of Hollywood, signifying both the glorious past and adventuresome future of the world's entertainment capital.

The Hollywood Pantages has a history as grand and diverse as the stage and screen fare which audiences have flocked to enjoy there for half a century. These days it's one of Los Angeles' leading homes of legitimate theatre (the five highest-grossing weeks in L.A.'s theatrical history were all shows at the Pantages) and a favorite "location" for tv shows, movies and music videos. In the past, it has been a movie house, with live vaudeville acts between features as well as the site of many gala premieres and "spectaculars." For ten years the Hollywood Pantages Theatre was the home of the glittering Academy Awards Presentations.

The Hollywood Pantages was primarily a movie house for several decades. In 1949 came Howard Hughes, acquiring the theatre through RKO, changing its name to the RKO Pantages and setting up offices there. (His upstairs apartment and screening room are today theatre offices, and Hughes’ ghost is among several rumored to frequent the building once the audience leaves.)

Starting in 1953, television cameras brought the Oscars – and Hollywood Pantages Theatre – to America’s living rooms. Its hosts included such notables as Fred Astaire, Danny Kaye, Bob Hope and Jerry Lewis. Frank Sinatra was honored as Best Supporting Actor in 1954, receiving one of eight Oscars awarded that year to “From Here to Eternity”. Grace Kelly took home her award as Best Actress for “The Country Girl” in 1955, just a year before she left Hollywood to become Her Serene Highness, Princess Grace of Monaco.

Pacific Theatres bought the Hollywood Pantages from RKO in December 1967, leading to a refurbishment and reopening of the theatre sections closed down during the Hughes reign. The much-anticipated Music Center raised nearly $400,000 there in 1963 at a $250 per seat premiere of “Cleopatra”.

In 1977, the Nederlander Organization came in as Pacific’s partner and gave the Hollywood Pantages another overhaul before re-opening it as a legitimate theatre with “Bubbling Brown Sugar” in February 1977. When The Nederlander Organization heard that the Walt Disney Company was seeking a home for its Los Angeles production of “The Lion King”, Chairman James M. Nederlander locked up a Pantages booking by agreeing to a substantial renovation. It was time, thought Nederlander, to get the theatre looking more like it did in 1930. The theatre was restored to its original luster in time for the highly-anticipated L.A. Premiere of Disney’s THE LION KING.

While the use of the Hollywood Pantages Theatre may have changed over the years, the theatre does not appear all that different today. After several touch-ups over the years, the Hollywood Boulevard showplace was renovated at the turn of the 21st century to recapture its 1930 look and luxury. When the theatre reopened in September 2000, some 300 people had repainted nearly every inch of the theatre, restored its outer lobby and missing chandeliers, refurbished its walls and prepared it for the new century.