The Pantages Theatre welcomed Los Angeles citizens on June 4, 1930, becoming the last movie palace built in Hollywood. Designed by B. Marcus Priteca and owned by Alexander Pantages, it served dual purposes, as it was also set up for live vaudeville performances in addition motion pictures.
The exterior features a massive blade style neon sign above its marquee and up until March of 2020 it was the original sign. When the sign came down rumors swirled that it was going to be replaced by a garish LED sign, however the theatre saw the light (pun fully intended) and replaced it with fresh neon.
Sleek Art Deco details are scattered on the outside, but once you step inside, the Art Deco design overwhelms. There are layers upon layers of angular shapes and swirling curlicues nearly everywhere you look.
Chandeliers hang from an arched lobby, life size gold statues flank staircases that pay homage to the film and aviation industries, and reliefs on the walls depict various industries known in California, from entertainment to agriculture to oil, as well as the University of Southern California.
Just two years later Pantages sold this gem to American manufacturer, aviator and millionaire, Howard Hughes, who owned RKO Pictures. Hughes set up his private offices as well as a screening room on the upper floors and rumors say his ghost still walks the floors.
During Hughes’ reign, the Pantages hosted the Academy Awards ceremony from 1950 to 1960. Then in 1965 (or 1967 according to another source) Pacific Theatres purchased the Pantages. By 1970 the Pantages became strictly a live performance venue, and in 1977 Pacific partnered with Nederlander Organization, a theatre company originally out Detroit and now based in New York.
The Pantages received an extensive rehab in 2000, restoring the Art Deco palace to its former glory and becoming the home for Broadway in Hollywood, with musical tours coming and going.
An icon of Hollywood, the Pantages has been used time and time again in films. Most often it “plays itself” but every now and again it is a stand in for another location, such as the interior of Ritz Gotham in Batman Forever for Edward Nygma’s (Jim Carrey) grand party. While very dimly lit, some of Art Deco details are noticeable, and the gold life-size statues by the staircases are visible, although oddly draped in gold fabric.
The Hollywood Pantages Theatre
Some of my personal faves have filmed both inside and outside, including Ed Wood, in which the exterior is used for the premiere of Plan 9 From Outer Space. In LA Confidential the lower half of the blade neon and part of the marquee are visible, just as Jack Vincennes (Kevin Spacey) emerges from the next-door Frolic Room.
The Pantages was fittingly used in the Howard Hughes biopic, The Aviator, for yet another film premiere. And the Pantages briefly appears in Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood as Rick (Leonardo DiCaprio) and Cliff (Brad Pitt) drive by.
Visit the Pantages at 6233 Hollywood Boulevard in Los Angeles. For more information or to check out what shows are coming to the theater, go to www.broadwayinhollywood.com.