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.

 

Enjoy these rarely known facts about our Historic Venue

  • Managed by Pantages’ own sons Rodney and Lloyd Pantages, the movie palace opened on June 4, 1930 with great fanfare, a celebrity crowd, and searchlights sweeping the skies. Writing in the Theatre Historical Society of America’s 1973 Annual, former vaudeville pianist Terry Helgesen described an opening night audience of “practically every movie star in Hollywood,” one after another stepping from limousines onto a red velvet carpet sidewalk.
  • 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, virtually every visible square inch of the venue had been restored through the tireless work of some 300 artisans who devoted hours upon hours of painstaking work to prepare this landmark for the new century.
  • ‚ÄčAt a cost of $1.25 million, the new Pantages Theatre was clearly state of the art when it opened in 1930. The hydraulic lift that raised and lowered the orchestra pit and musicians was so powerful, it could do the same with an average bungalow. The stage, at 10.000 square feet could practically accommodate a baseball game. And the lights that illuminated the stage were said to be enough to illuminate “the entire length of Hollywood Boulevard.”
  • In 1949, Howard Hughes acquired the Pantages Theatre, changing its name to the RKO Pantages and setting up offices on the building’s second floor. Today, our staff work in those same offices, including the area which served as Hughes’ private apartment and screening room.
  • Known as “The Biggest Night in Hollywood”, The Academy Awards ceremonies took place at the Pantages each year between 1950-1959. When you visit us, you’ll be walking in the footsteps of countless Hollywood legends!
  • Yul Brynner was honored with his Academy Award for “The King and I” on the Pantages stage in 1957. On September 13, 1983, during a wildly successful revival of the famed Broadway classic, Brynner would step on to that very same stage and give his 4,000th live performance as the King of Siam – one of many legendary Broadway evenings that occurred here.
  • In 1963, the wildly-anticipated Hollywood Premiere of the epic motion picture, “Cleopatra.” At a ticket price of $250 per person, that benefit evening raised nearly $400,000 to help fund construction of the Los Angeles’ planned performing arts complex, The Music Center, which would successfully open its doors the following year.
  • In 1977, the Nederlander Organization joined forces with Pacific Theatres to convert the famed movie palace into a new showplace for live entertainment. The Pantages had its “Broadway debut” when the hit musical “Bubbling Brown Sugar” re-opened the venue 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 Mr. Nederlander, to get the theater looking more like it did in 1930. His bold (and costly) decision has changed the face of Broadway in Los Angeles!
  • As part of the renovation, every seat in the Pantages was removed to make way for new wall-to-wall carpeting and 2,703 plush new theater seats. Just as when the theatre was constructed in 1930, primary attention was given to the comfort of our guests.
  • To prepare the Pantages for the local premiere of “Disney’s The Lion King,” a 40x40 foot pit was cut in the stage to accommodate the state-of-the-art computerized hydraulics required by the elaborate musical. The many dressing rooms that used to exist under the stage had to be relocated to a new two-story subterranean area below the building.
  • In a brief ten month period, the massive Pantages Theatre renovation returned this grand palace to its original grandeur. During 162,960 worker hours, crews utilized 84,027 square feet of gold, silver, copper and bronze colored leaf; 7,260 square yards of new carpeting; 2,000 square feet of marble; 1,843 gallons of paint; and 1,224 new light bulbs. And much more!
  • In 2001, the Pantages Theatre received a Preservation Award from the Los Angeles Conservancy. We were honored to be recognized for, among other things, helping to rejuvenate Hollywood Boulevard and demonstrating the economic viability of restoring and reusing Los Angeles’ historic movie palaces.