Opened on June 4, 1930, this was the last theatre constructed for the great entertainment czar Alexander Pantages.
It was designed by architect B. Marcus Priteca in an intricate Art Deco style.
The Pantages Theatre Circuit was started for vaudeville, with "flickers" (movies) as just one spot on the bill when the technology became available. During the Great Depression theaterowners found they could economize by operating mainly as a movie houses, with a little live entertainment was presented at the beginning of the bill. With the coming of talking pictures, even the little live entertainment was curtailed.
Pantages sold the theatre in 1932 to Fox West Coast Theaters, and in 1949 Howard Hughes acquired it for his RKO Theatre Circuit. He moved his personal offices to the building's second floor and from 1949 through 1959 it hosted the Academy Award Ceremonies.
Pacific Theatres took over management in 1965 and finally closed the Pantages as a movie theater in January, 1977. It was re-opened the following month with as a performance venue with Bubbling Brown Sugar, the first of the many road show productions that have since become its regular fare.
Now operated by an arm of the Nederlander Organization, the Pantages is one of Los Angeles' leading venues for live theater (the five highest-grossing weeks in L.A.'s theatrical history were all shows at the Pantages). The theatre has recently presented large-scale Broadway musicals such as Disney's The Lion King, which ran at the theatre for over two years, and hosted the long-running Los Angeles production of the Broadway musical Wicked.
Situated on a prime location, the area's building and a rejuvenation boom has spread to Bob Hope Square with the addition of a new W Hotel and retail stores, tied closely to the Hollywood/Vine station. The theater underwent a $10-million restoration and upgrade in 2000. The original plans for the Pantages were for a 12-story building: 2 floors dedicated to theater and 10 floors of office space. Completion of the 10 upper floors was halted due to the 1929 stock market crash during construction. In December 2007, plans were revealed to complete the original design and floors, much due to the rejuvenation of the Hollywood area and the demand for office space.
The theatre has also occasionally hosted popular music concerts, including those of the bands Dream Theater, Foo Fighters and Mark Knopfler [Dire Straits] and Talking Heads' 1984 concert film "Stop Making Sense" was shot there. In 1997, 4 years before her English crossover, Colombian singer-songwriter Shakira performed her first show in the United States at the Pantages. In 2006, Mexican pop-group RBD recorded their CD/DVD "Live in Hollywood" at the Pantages.
The Pantages Theatre is also a popular location for the filming of movies, TV shows, and music videos. The concert scenes in the 1980 film "The Jazz Singer" is just one example. Rickie Lee Jones's 1979 self-titled debut LP has a reference to "the Pantages" in her song Chuck E.'s "In Love".
Bubbling Brown Sugar (1977)
Little Women (2006)
- Page 230, beginning of Chapter 45:
The Pantages Theatre
"The new Pantages Theatre, where I was to spend almost six months, had just opened the month before, on June 4, 1930,
and was a beautiful house with a seating of 2,800. It had an elevating orchestra pit which could be brought up to stage
level if needed. Backstage accommodations were bright, roomy and comfortable, with the seldom-found luxury of showers.
The building was just off the famous intersection of Hollywood Boulavard and Vine Street, hub of activity
for the old Hollywood with its glamorous appeal, and the theatre was managed by Rodney and Lloyd,
the two sons of Alexander Pantages. How odd that I made my first professional appearance in Los Angeles
at the old Pantages downtown with the Hirsch-Arnold Ballet, and now my dancing career was destined
to end in the new house under the supervision of the family of that name.
Ironically, I was back in the line, as in my first engagements with Fanchon and Marco.
For its premiere week the theatre presented the "Rose Garden Idea" and a Marion Davies Movie. In July 1978,
the Pantages was declared a Historic-Cultural Monument by the Los Angeles Cultural Heritage Board.
Now what does that make me, I wonder?"
- Reva Howitt Clar, who tells the fascinating story of traveling with a vaudeville troupe in the 1920s, died in March 1997. -