They Say the Neon Lights are Bright on Broadway

Friday, October 8, 2010

Chandelier in the Pantages Theatre
I am so excited to be going to see The Phantom of the Opera at the Pantages Theatre this weekend.  Which got me thinking about all the beautiful theatres we have in Los Angeles, and my favorites of course.  The Pantages is definitely up there, as is the Westwood Crest Theatre in Westwood.  I also love the Egyptian, the Palladium, and the El Rey TheatreEl Capitan is beautiful too, but the seats are tiny!  The Music Box theatre is also quite wonderful, especially if you go for a private event and get to experience their rooftop lounge (which I was very lucky to do so last year).  Although theatre history here in Los Angeles may not quite extend to that of a city such as New York, I think it's definitely worth the drive and the time to go and experience these historic landmarks, especially to get that 'Old Hollywood' feeling.  Most have that art deco feel, which is so opulent and luxurious, but some also carry their own unique take on a theme, like the Egyptian.  Many theaters were built for the sole reason of a new movie premiere, while others were just a sign of the times.  I'm listing some trivia here for each of my favorite theatres.
  • The Westwood Crest Theatre, opened in 1940 and was designed by Arthur W. Hawes.  The theater first opened as a live theatre and is also known as the Magestic Crest Theatre.  Currently it operates as a movie theatre and before the movie begins, a falling star shoots across the ceiling, bursting onto the screen as the curtains open (it's worth going to see any movie here just for that falling star).
  • The Pantages Theatre, opened in 1930 and was designed by B. Marcus Priteca.  Originally the theatre showed movies as well as live Vaudeville acts.  In 1949 Howard Hughes acquired the theatre and had his personal offices on the second floor.
  • The Egyptian Theatre, opened in 1922 and was designed by architects Meyer and Holler.  Originally the theatre was supposed to have a Spanish theme, but at some point this was changed to Egyptian because of all the hype in the world over King Tutankhamun's tomb (you can still see this Spanish influence in the roof pans, which have a tiled effect).  The theatre was the location of the first ever Hollywood movie premiere.
  • The El Rey Theatre, opened in 1936 and was designed by Clifford A. Balch. Originally it was opened as a movie house, but it currently serves as a music venue, although it can be booked for private events (I would love to have an event here!).  In the 1980's and 90's it operated as a nightclub called 'Wall Street'. I wonder if the Douglas/Sheen movie Wall Street (Twentieth Century Fox, 1987) had anything to do with that?  In any case, I saw the sequel last weekend, and in my opinion it's worth a look.
  • The Hollywood Palladium Theatre, opened in 1940 and was designed by Gordon Kaufmann.  Kaufmann also designed the Santa Anita Racetrack and the Los Angeles Times building.  The Palladium opened in the Fall of 1940 with a dinner and live music by Frank Sinatra and the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra (admission was $1 and dinner was $3).  Over the years it has hosted charity balls, auto shows, political events and radio broadcasts.  It currently operates as a concert venue.
  • The El Capitan Theatre, opened in 1926 and was designed by the firm Morgan, Walls and Clements.  For the first decade of operations the theatre was a venue for live productions.  In 1941 Orson Welles' Citizen Kane (RKO Radio Pictures, 1941) was premiered after Welles couldn't find a theatre that would be willing to show the film.
  • The Music Box Theatre, opened in 1926 and was designed by the firm Morgan, Walls and Clements.  It has also been known as the Fox, the Henry Fonda Theatre, and the Pix.  It originally opened for revues in the style of Ziegfield, but when this didn't work out it was the stage for many live productions, including the play Chicago featuring Clark Gable in 1927 (perhaps the picture below from the LIFE Photo Archive was taken sometime that year).
Photograph: AMER(USA) Hollywood; LIFE Photo Archive

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