El Capitan Theatre

6838 Hollywood Boulevard,
Los Angeles, CA 90028

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DOCTOR DOLITTLE exclusive at the PARAMOUNT (now the EL Capitan)

Viewing: Photo | Street View

The El Capitan Theatre was built as a legitimate theatre by local Hollywood property tycoon Charles Edward Toberman, and is situated across Hollywood Boulevard from the famed Grauman’s Chinese Theatre. It opened on May 3, 1926 with the stage show “Charlotte’s Revue of 1926” staring Gertrude Lawrence, Beatrice Lilley and Jack Buchanan. The magnificent office building which fronts the theatre on Hollywood Boulevard was designed in a Spanish Baroque style by architects Octavius Morgan, J.A. Walls & Stiles O. Clements, and features Churriqueresque details and has characters from literature and drama carved into its upper storeys, including Shakespeare characters. This part of the building originally contained Barker Brothers furniture department store on the first and second floors with offices above, and was topped by a huge metal sky sign giving the name of the theatre.

The interior of the theatre is in an opulent East Indian Revival style, the work of architect G. Albert Lansburgh. Seating was provided for 1,435 in orchestra and balcony levels, with a stage box on each side of the 49 feet wide proscenium. The stage is 81 feet wide and 33 feet deep and there were seven dressing rooms and a full sized orchestra pit. The El Capitan Theatre operated very successfully as a live theatre from its opening until 1937, and attracted stars such as Will Rogers, Clark Gable, Fanny Brice, Buster Keaton, Jackie Cooper, Henry Fonda Rita Hayworth and Joan Fontaine to appear on its stage in dramatic plays and comedies.

In 1937 it was equipped to screen movies, and on May 9, 1941 it presented the world premiere of Orson Well’s “Citizen Kane”, with Welles personally taking over the running of the theatre for this presentation, due to it being blocked from being screened in other major theatres by William Randoph Hearst. The El Capitan Theatre was then renamed Hollywood Paramount Theatre, and came under the direction of Fanchon & Marco. In 1942, the theatre had a complete make-over, and a new interior was constructed over the original decorations, hiding them completely. Architects William & H.L. Periera were responsible for the design of this modernisation which consisted of corrugated sheeting that resembled a huge sea-shell. A large modern marquee was also installed over the entrance, above which part of the fa├žade was covered in corrugated cladding, and a false ceiling was installed in the outer lobby and inner foyer areas. The ‘new’ Hollywood Paramount Theatre was opened with Cecil B. DeMille’s “Reap the Wild Wind”, and it remained a ‘premier’ house for many years. In 1967 it was operated by Loews, and Pacific Theatres took over in 1974, by which time the Paramount Theatre was a general release house, and it was closed in 1989.

There were plans to twin the theatre with two 500-seat auditoriums in an Art Deco style, as it was thought that the original Lansburgh interior decorations had been 80% destroyed by the 1942 remodeling, but as work began on the conversion, workmen and the theatre owners were amazed at what lay beneath the false walls and ceilings. It was decided to drop the twin cinema scheme, and go for a ‘museum standard’ restoration scheme costing $6 million, financed by the Walt Disney Organisation and Pacific Theatres. Theatre artistic designer Joseph Musil was engaged to restore and replace the splendid architectural details of the theatre which had been hidden and damaged for almost 60 years.

Renamed El Capitan Theatre, it reopened on June 18, 1991 with a world premiere of Disney’s “The Rocketeer”, plus a stage show. The seating capacity has now been reduced to 998. In 1999, the magnificent Wurlitzer ‘Crawford Special’ 4 manual 37 rank theatre organ, which was originally installed in the much missed Fox Theatre, San Francisco, was found a new home in the El Capitan Theatre, and is now played at program breaks regularly on weekends. The organ was dedicated at an opening ceremony on April 29, 2000 by house organist Dennis James accompanying a restored print of the 1924 silent version of “Peter Pan”. As the flagship theatre of the Disney Studios empire, it is part of the Pacific Theatres circuit of which Disney owns a large stake.

Every major animated release from Walt Disney Pictures Animation premieres here complete with a live stage show and more. The theatre was the first in the United States to announce an online movie ticketing and printing system.

The El Capitan Theatre is Designated a Historic-Cultural Monument.

Contributed by Ken Roe

Recent comments (view all 296 comments)

Giles on October 12, 2015 at 5:25 am

I see that ‘The Black Cauldron’ is being shown Oct 15-18! wow – could a bluray materialize in 2016 – anyone planning on seeing this? I’d assume this is a DCP.

segask on October 19, 2015 at 12:14 am

they are having the Star Wars marathon here on Dec 17. It should really be at the Chinese across the street.

Has Disney been allowing their IMAX releases to open at the Chinese along with the regular format here at the El Cap?

Danny Baldwin
Danny Baldwin on October 20, 2015 at 8:21 pm

It depends. “Ant Man” opened just at the Chinese.

“Star Wars: The Force Awakens” is opening at the Chinese as well.

RJwestla on December 20, 2015 at 6:36 pm

Saw “Force” here yesterday. The co branded Christie\Dolby vision laser projector looked good. The blacks were true deep black. They did run a trailer for the Dolby vision system, but not for Atmos. As for the sound, it was lacking the oomph on the low end. To me, it came across somewhat flat. Still looks like Regency’s Village theatre is the go to for Dolby Atmos.

DonSolosan on December 22, 2015 at 6:59 am

RJ, you saw Force twice in the same day?

RJwestla on January 19, 2016 at 12:18 am

@Don, sorry for my late reply here. The answer is no. I saw TFA at the El Cap on that Saturday and went to the Village theater the next day. I still stand by my comment that the Village has the best THX and Dolby Atmos installation anywhere. All they need now is to get the Christie Dolby vision projector there.

MarkDHite on April 11, 2017 at 2:35 am

Fun to visit this movie that was beautifully restored by Disney. But very (very!) disappointed to find that the organ is only played on the weekend. Maybe everyone knows this but me, but it’s not mentioned anywhere on the website or ticket schedule.

bigjoe59 on August 14, 2017 at 10:50 pm


since it open here will someone please tell how Disney is going to do a live action Lion King considering there are no human characters?

fred1 on August 15, 2017 at 12:59 pm

Big Joe Had you heard of the Broadway show.

bigjoe59 on August 15, 2017 at 8:44 pm


in response to fred1’s reply- I live in NYC so yes i have seen the Bway show 7 times in fact but and there’s always a but. in the show the actors aren’t playing humans they’re playing animals. so the technique Julie Taymor devised for the actors to play animals would not work in a film. so i ask my question again- since there are human characters in the show how will they do a live action film?

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