Managed by Pantages’ own sons Rodney and Lloyd Pantages, the movie palace opened on June 4, 1930 with great fanfare, a celebrity crowd, and searchlights sweeping the skies. Writing in the Theatre Historical Society of America’s 1973 Annual, former vaudeville pianist Terry Helgesen described an opening night audience of “practically every movie star in Hollywood,” one after another stepping from limousines onto a red velvet carpet sidewalk.
After several touch-ups over the years, the Hollywood Boulevard showplace was renovated at the turn of the 21st century to recapture its 1930 look and luxury. When the theatre reopened in September 2000, virtually every visible square inch of the venue had been restored through the tireless work of some 300 artisans who devoted hours upon hours of painstaking work to prepare this landmark for the new century.
At a cost of $1.25 million, the new Pantages Theatre was clearly state of the art when it opened in 1930. The hydraulic lift that raised and lowered the orchestra pit and musicians was so powerful, it could do the same with an average bungalow. The stage, at 10.000 square feet could practically accommodate a baseball game. And the lights that illuminated the stage were said to be enough to illuminate “the entire length of Hollywood Boulevard.”
In 1949, Howard Hughes acquired the Pantages Theatre, changing its name to the RKO Pantages and setting up offices on the building’s second floor. Today, our staff work in those same offices, including the area which served as Hughes’ private apartment and screening room.
Known as “The Biggest Night in Hollywood”, The Academy Awards ceremonies took place at the Pantages each year between 1950-1959. When you visit us, you’ll be walking in the footsteps of countless Hollywood legends!
Yul Brynner was honored with his Academy Award for “The King and I” on the Pantages stage in 1957. On September 13, 1983, during a wildly successful revival of the famed Broadway classic, Brynner would step on to that very same stage and give his 4,000th live performance as the King of Siam – one of many legendary Broadway evenings that occurred here.
In 1963, the wildly-anticipated Hollywood Premiere of the epic motion picture, “Cleopatra.” At a ticket price of $250 per person, that benefit evening raised nearly $400,000 to help fund construction of the Los Angeles’ planned performing arts complex, The Music Center, which would successfully open its doors the following year.
In 1977, the Nederlander Organization joined forces with Pacific Theatres to convert the famed movie palace into a new showplace for live entertainment. The Pantages had its “Broadway debut” when the hit musical “Bubbling Brown Sugar” re-opened the venue in February 1977.
When the Nederlander Organization heard that the Walt Disney Company was seeking a home for its Los Angeles production of “The Lion King,” Chairman James M. Nederlander locked up a Pantages booking by agreeing to a substantial renovation. It was time, thought Mr. Nederlander, to get the theater looking more like it did in 1930. His bold (and costly) decision has changed the face of Broadway in Los Angeles!
As part of the renovation, every seat in the Pantages was removed to make way for new wall-to-wall carpeting and 2,703 plush new theater seats. Just as when the theatre was constructed in 1930, primary attention was given to the comfort of our guests.
To prepare the Pantages for the local premiere of “Disney’s The Lion King,” a 40x40 foot pit was cut in the stage to accommodate the state-of-the-art computerized hydraulics required by the elaborate musical. The many dressing rooms that used to exist under the stage had to be relocated to a new two-story subterranean area below the building.
In a brief ten month period, the massive Pantages Theatre renovation returned this grand palace to its original grandeur. During 162,960 worker hours, crews utilized 84,027 square feet of gold, silver, copper and bronze colored leaf; 7,260 square yards of new carpeting; 2,000 square feet of marble; 1,843 gallons of paint; and 1,224 new light bulbs. And much more!
In 2001, the Pantages Theatre received a Preservation Award from the Los Angeles Conservancy. We were honored to be recognized for, among other things, helping to rejuvenate Hollywood Boulevard and demonstrating the economic viability of restoring and reusing Los Angeles’ historic movie palaces.