Felix In Hollywood

A Blog for the Smart Set

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

One Snazzy Joint!

The Pantages Theatre, from the drawing board of Architect B. Marcus Priteca, came to life on June 4, 1930, under the leadership of Alexander Pantages, and cost $1.25 million to build (excluding theatrical and projection equipment). Opened as part of the Fox theater chain, the Pantages Theatre was one of the first movie houses to be built after the advent of talking pictures and once boasted the most elaborate sound system in the world.

In 1949, Howard Hughes, through RKO Pictures, acquired the theater as part of his national chain of movie houses. It was renamed the RKO Pantages Theatre and seating capacity was increased to just over 2,800 patrons. From 1950-1959, the RKO Pantages Theatre received its highest profile assignment as it was used as the location for the Academy Awards ceremony.

Pacific Theatres, known at the time for its large inventory of California drive-ins, purchased the Pantages Theatre from RKO in December of 1967 (after leasing it for two years beginning in 1965) and operated the aging movie palace until it closed in January 1977.

Unable to fill its seats with motion pictures, Pacific teamed up with the Nederlander Organization and the theatre was restored to nearly its original seating capacity (almost 2700) for a new live theater run of "Man from La Mancha". Since 1977, the Pantages Theatre has been home to live theater. In fact, projection equipment is not currently installed and an apartment and offices on the second floor of the Pantages Theatre occupy those areas today.

The Nederlander Organization beautifully restored the theater in the late-1990's spending a reported $12 million to bring back all of its palatial opulence. The Pantages Theatre reopened, better than ever, in September 2000 for the west coast premiere of Disney's live production of "The Lion King" and remains a gem-like source of pride for the neighborhood.  It is truly one of the most beautiful buildings I've ever been in.

A few years back, I sat through a miserable production of  "The Producers" for the sole reason that a friend of a friend was working on the show and gave us a backstage tour afterward.  Now that was a show.


normadesmond said...

just glorious.

went to a very babylonian theatre in milwaukee months ago. all i could think about was what it was like when it was new and what was being played there. it is wonderful that some of these palaces will live on, since so many are gone.

Rob said...

Too awesome that you got a tour of the backstage area (I love that kind of stuff)! Not that I believe in ghosts (though they scare me!) but it's not too hard to imagine presences in places like that-excitement,nerves,adrenaline, maybe even crushing disappointment, all those echo-ey vibes...
Norma, was it possibly the Landmark Theater in MKE (I live in WI)? I've traveled there to see a few movies (most recently 21 Grams)and it really is the perfect environment to see films. The place always smells like popcorn!

normadesmond said...

it probably was rob.....there were elephants as well as an organist. saw alice in wonderland. i imagine if one concentrates, popcorn isn't the only smell to be found.

Mike, Studio city said...

I would go to movies there in the 70's, it was such a treat. So nice to be able to go there now and see live productions.