Metro: Red Line to Hollywood & Vine
Parking: There are multiple pay lots near the theatre, Parking Map
Nearby: The Redbury Hotel, W Hollywood Hotel
The Pantages Theatre was built in 1930 by Greek immigrant and movie theatre magnate Alexander Pantages on Hollywood Boulevard near the corner of Hollywood & Vine in Los Angeles. It was the last and most elaborate theatre to bear his name. Seattle architect B. Marcus Priteca designed the Art Deco building, which has a somewhat stern façade, giving way to an ornate box office area and a decadently opulent interior. The theatre construction cost $1.25 million in 1929-30, which would be the equivalent of $10 million today.
The vaulted lobby is flanked on either side by a grand staircase, each guarded by various gilded statues. At the top of the western stairway a seated figure holds a movie camera and on the opposite side a toy airplane. Bass reliefs of silver-draped golden ladies look down from high alcoves along the lobby walls.
Inside the theatre, a 54-foot proscenium is surrounded by 2,691 seats under an elaborate geometric star-domed ceiling. The space was originally designed for over 3,000 seats, but they decided to allow more leg room and settled for 2,812. Over 1000 of those seats were curtained off in 1960 for the screening of Spartacus. The Pantages was completely renovated in 2000, revealing some of the original fixtures that had been covered in earlier remodels and restoring some of the original elements that had been damaged or removed.
Pantages Theatre History
Alexander Pantages opened the Pantages Theatre on June 4, 1930 under the management of Fox West Coast Theatres. During its early years, the Pantages alternated showing movies with live vaudeville performances. By 1932, Alexander Pantages sold the theatre to Fox. From that point, the theatre showed primarily movies, with only the occasional live performance, with the exception of 1940, when the Los Angeles Philharmonic performed their entire season there.
Fox sold the Pantages in 1949 to Howard Hughes, who operated it under the RKO brand and relocated his offices upstairs. During the decade of his tenure, the theatre hosted the annual Academy Awards. The Oscars had to move in 1960, when the theatre was reconfigured, curtaining off over 1000 seats as a requirement for the screening of the movie Spartacus. Pacific Theatres took over and continued to run the Pantages as a movie theater into the 1970s.
The last movie screening at the Pantages Theatre was in January 1977. In June of that year, the theatre was converted by the Nederlander Organization for live stage performances. It is still operated by the Nederlander Organization under the name Broadway LA and continues to host top-of-the-line theatrical productions. Most productions are touring Broadway musicals and other spectacles that run from a few days to a couple months.
Attending a Show at the Pantages Theatre
The Pantages Theatre is about 1/3 larger than the largest Broadway theatre, the Gershwin, which has only 1,900 seats, so seeing a Broadway show at the Pantages is not quite as intimate as seeing it on Broadway, especially if you're in the cheap seats, but it's definitely opulent.
Another difference you'll find between Broadway shows at the Pantages and in New York is that LA audiences tend to be more unrestrained, especially for shows like Wicked, which appeal to a young crowd. People scream when their favorite characters appear and shout out at the performers in ways I've never heard at a show on Broadway. If you're one of those people, please stop doing that! The actors can hear you.
If you have good hearing and want to keep it, or you're attending a show with children, bring ear plugs. I find that the noise level of musicals at the Pantages is often quite painful, although it doesn't bother my rock n' roller friends who have lost some of their hearing. My 4-year-old nephew kept his hands over his ears for most of How the Grinch Stole Christmas! The Musical. I can usually hear every word and every note with 32-decibel ear plugs snugly in place.
You can occasionally find discounted tickets for shows at the Pantages Theatre at goldstar.com (read Review of Goldstar.com).
Fun Facts About the Pantages Theatre
- The LA Philharmonic played at the Pantages for their 1940 season.
- Howard Hughes lived upstairs for part of the time that he owned the Pantages in the 1960s.
- According to manager Martin Wiviott, the Pantages is haunted by a couple ladies in the basement and a gentleman who likes to sit in the 5th row.
- The Pantages was designed to have 10 stories of offices, but after the 1929 stock market crash, they stopped at 2. The current owners are considering completing the rest of the 10 stories.
- There's a rumor that Barbra Streisand bought a couple of the original Pantages chandeliers from a warehouse that was going out of business, but it's equally possible they could have met some other fate. The current replicas were reproduced from photos.
More Resources About the Pantages Theatre
Find out what's playing at the Pantages Theatre and buy tickets at www.broadwayla.org
Look for discount tickets for the Pantages at Goldstar.com
Video Interview with Martin Wiviott, General Manager of the Pantages
A fun video slideshow of the Pantages from the LA Historic Theatre Foundation
More History and Photos of the Pantages Theatre
The Pantages Theatre profile on Cinema Treasures