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Located in the heart of Hollywood, the El Capitan Theatre opened in 1926 and was dubbed "Hollywood's First Home of Spoken Drama." The developer behind the creation of the theatre, Charles E. Toberman, was also involved with projects such as the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, the Egyptian Theatre, and Grauman's Chinese Theatre. First the theatre hosted only live performances, but then it began premiering movies such as Orson Welles' "Citizen Kane" (1941). The El Capitan suffered during the Great Depression and briefly closed before being purchased by Paramount Pictures and undergoing extensive renovation. The El Capitan became the Hollywood Paramount in 1941 and remained known as that until it was purchased by the Walt Disney Company in 1989 and restored to its original 1926 look and name. The El Capitan Theatre continues to be operated by the Walt Disney Company and has shown many Disney films since the 1991 premiere of "The Rocketeer."

  • The El Capitan Theatre located on Hollywood Blvd.
  • The Auditorium in the El Capitan Theatre, Now Operated by the Walt Disney Company
  • The El Capitan Theatre, 1926
  • The El Capitan Theatre Being Built
  • The Auditorium of the El Capitan Theatre, 1926

The El Capitan Theatre was one of the three theatres built by real estate developer Charles Toberman and showman Sid Grauman, who also built the Chinese and Egyptian theatres on Hollywood Boulevard. The Spanish Colonial style exterior was designed by Stiles O. Clements and G. Albert Landsburgh created the East Indian inspired interior. Originally, the theatre shared space with Barker Brothers furniture department store. On May 3, 1926, "Hollywood's First Home of Spoken Drama" was opened with numerous stars in attendance. The first play put on at the El Capitan was "Charlot's Revue," which had just left Broadway.

The 1,500 seat El Capitan showcased stage performances by Clark Gable, Fanny Brice, Joan Fontaine, Buster Keaton, Rita Hayworth, and Henry Fonda. After serving as a playhouse for 11 years, the El Capitan became a movie theatre in 1937. Actor, producer, and director Orson Welles was searching for a theatre to premiere his controversial film Citizen Kane and rented out the El Capitan Theatre for its May 8, 1941 premiere. Shortly after the premiere, the El Capitan closed for renovation and re-opened two months later as the more modern film house the "Hollywood Paramount," opening with Cecil B. DeMille's picture, Reap the Wild Wind. As a result of this renovation, all of the original decorations were covered over and would not be restored until almost 50 years later. In the late 1960s Paramount sold the theatre to Loews Theatres, then in 1974 Pacific Theatres took control.

In 1989, the Walt Disney Company purchased the Hollywood Paramount and worked in conjunction with Pacific Theatres to launch a two-year renovation and restoration of the El Capitan Theatre. Well-known theatre designer Joseph Musil joined forces with conservators and the Department of the Interior in re-establishing the 1926 look and feel of the El Capitan. On June 19, 1991, 65 years after its original dedication, the El Capitan Theatre once again opened the doors at its original location, showing Disney's The Rocketeer. Though the El Capitan Theatre has evolved from its creation of delivering the "Spoken Drama," the 1,000 seat auditorium continues to draw theatergoers of all ages. 

History of the Theatre. The El Capitan Theatre Hollywood. Accessed August 26, 2018. 

Roe, Ken. El Capitan Theatre. Cinema Treasures. Accessed August 26, 2018.

Image Sources(Click to expand)

Savvy California

El Capitan Theatre

Hollywood Historic Photos

Water and Power Associates

Water and Power Associates