El Portal Theatre

5269 Lankershim Boulevard,
Los Angeles, CA 91601

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El Portal Theatre exterior

Viewing: Photo | Street View

The El Portal Theatre was opened by West Coast Theatres on October 5, 1926 with Ralph Graves in “Blarney”. Supporting the MGM produced feature film were a live preformance by Chinese actors and actresses and a Chinese jazz orchestra.

It was possibly the final theatre to be designed by prolific theatre architect Lewis A. Smith, who died in the year that it opened. Seating was provided for 1,346 on a single floor and the decorative style was Spanish Renaissance Revival. Movies, supported by a vaudeville show ran here for several years, until the arrival of talkies.

The El Portal Theatre became a major second release theatre on the Fox West Coast Theatres circuit in the area. Later in the time of their operation, it was given the ‘Skouras’ treatment and the auditorium’s original decorations were totally oblitorated with drapes and curtain material. It was later taken over by National General and then Mann Theatres. It ran as an independent for a short time screening Spanish language movies.

The single screen El Portal Theatre was badly damaged in the 1994 Northridge earthquake, when the entire ceiling fell in and side walls cracked. However, it was purchased by the Actors Alley stage company in 1996, and they set about securing the building and creating working theatre spaces within the existing walls. Little remains of the former interior, as this had mostly been destroyed. The facade, marquee and paybox have been retained. It reopened as the El Portal Center for the Arts on January 12, 2000, with a 360 seat Main stage theatre and a 95 seat Forum theatre, presenting modern popular plays. A 42 seat Studio theatre was added recently.

The building is designated a Historic Cultural Landmark.

Contributed by William Gabel, Ken Roe

Recent comments (view all 35 comments)

Lost Memory
Lost Memory on January 1, 2009 at 10:19 am

This is a December 2008 photo.

Mike (saps)
Mike (saps) on May 3, 2009 at 8:30 pm

A good portion of the crime thriller “Hard” (1998) seemed to be set in this theater; the killer used it as his lair and had victims on the stage, in the dressing rooms, etc. The place was nearly gutted at the time, with scaffolding inside. They didn’t show the outside, but they showed the proscenium, exits, asbestos curtain, and other interior details. Near the end of the movie, with the police closing in, one of the cops radios in that they’re at the El Portal on Lankershim, so of course I came to CT and looked it up. Voila!

The R-rated movie, which is about a closeted cop on the trail of this killer, is graphic in its sex and violence, and is currently running on the cable channel Here and is available on Netflix. Buyer beware.

monika
monika on September 6, 2009 at 10:52 pm

The zip code for this theatre is 91601.

david787
david787 on July 3, 2010 at 9:59 pm

I grew up in North Hollywood during the 50’s. The El Portal was my neighborhood theater. I used to love going there on Saturdays. I miss those days so much. Next to it, on the corner was a diner called Albert Sheetz but it closed. On the other side was a department store called Rathbuns. My parents knew the owners. Nearby was the place where my mom and I used to catch the “red car” into downtown LA. It was really an adventure for me

mujerado
mujerado on January 18, 2011 at 12:36 am

I remember the El Portal from the 50’s and 60’s. It was my Mom’s favorite theatre. Among many others, we kids saw a rerelease of Disney’s Fantasia and we all went to a rerelease of Bambi on my birthday. North Hollywood was a favorite place to go. There was an old wood-floor Woolworth’s right across the street where I’d always order a grilled cheese sandwich and a chocolate malt.

MagicLantern
MagicLantern on March 4, 2011 at 12:55 am

Saturday, March 19 – 1st Los Angeles Spaghetti Western Festival, screening “Dead Men Don’t Count,” “Gatling Gun” and “A Fistful of Dollars” at the El Portal.

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