El Portal Theatre
5269 Lankershim Boulevard,
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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 Arthur Smith. 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.
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