east of the famous corner of Hollywood & Vine, you'll find the historic
Pantages Theatre. Built in 1930 (shortly after the birth of "talkies")
for the then-princely sum of $1.25 million, the Pantages (then part of
the Fox movie theatre chain) was one of the most beautiful theatres in
town. It hosted the star-studded premieres of such films as "Pride
of the Yankees," "Cleopatra" and Judy Garland's
"A Star is Born."
The annual Academy Award ceremonies were held at the Pantages throughout the 1950's; which included the first time the Oscar ceremonies were ever televised (in 1953).
And the Emmy Awards were held here each year until 1977, when they moved to Pasadena.
The Pantages re-opened as a legitimate (live) theater in 1977, offering Broadway-style musicals on its large stage. The first live musical to play the Pantages was "Bubbling Brown Sugar," and more recent shows included "The Will Rogers Follies" (starring actor Keith Carradine), "Joseph & the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" (starring Michael Damian), and the Broadway revivals of "Camelot" (with Robert Goulet), "Guys & Dolls," and "The Sound of Music" (with Marie Osmond).
In 1992, the Pantages made an appearance in the hit movie "The Bodyguard" with Kevin Costner and Whitney Houston. The Academy Award scenes (in which Whitney is the target of an assassin) were shot inside the Pantages.
In October of 1995, the late George Burns taped a TV special commemorating his 100th birthday here at the Pantages; among the invited guests were Tim Allen, Billy Crystal, Paul Reiser, Brooke Shields, Ann-Margret and Whitney Houston.
The Pantages seats 2,691 in very comfortable
seats. The theatre's elaborate Art Deco lobby is still stunning today,
with soaring ceilings and plush carpeting. (You can see it for yourself
in Michael Jackson's video, "You Are Not Alone.")
In March of 1999, the theatre hosted the Blockbuster Entertainment Awards; the show opened with a performance by Mariah Carey, and attracted stars such as Julia Roberts, Garth Brooks, Will Smith, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Billy Zane, Robert Duvall, Jennifer Tilly, Janet Jackson, Linda Hamilton, Fran Drescher, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Howard Stern, Vanessa Williams, Neve Campbell, Minnie Driver, Laura San Giacomo, "Titanic" director James Cameron, and performances from groups like Savage Garden and Boyz II Men.
The Walt Disney Company has long had a presence on Hollywood Boulevard with its El Capitan movie theatre, but from October 2000 to January 2003, it had a live stage presence as well: Disney opened its smash hit Broadway musical version of "The Lion King" at the Pantages. On the first day the box office opened, Disney reportedly sold $3.7 million in tickets to "The Lion King," and that's not counting the $17 million previously moved through advance sales. In total, the show played to 2,311,397 guests and brought in over $142 million.
But the best news is that in order to get the theatre ready for the big Disney show, the Pantages invested almost $10 million in a massive facelift of the landmark theatre, restoring it to its original glory. The Pantages was always something to behold, but its dazzling, ornate interior, gleaming with new gold leaf, is now simply spectacular. It's almost worth the price of tickets to a show just to see the theatre itself. But with shows like "The Lion King" running, you now get two treats for the price of one.
The Pantages went on to another smash Broadway musical: Mel Brooks' "The Producers". It opened on May 2, 2003, and starred Jason Alexander (of "Seinfeld") & Martin Short, as the con-men who try to make money by staging a show that's guaranteed to bomb: "Springtime for Hitler." Of course "The Producers" did the exact opposite - the show took home more Tony Awards than any show in history (12), including Best Musical, Best Score and Best Book.
More recent shows at the Pantages included "Mama Mia" (based on the songs of Abba), "Miss Saigon", "Movin' Out" (based on the songs of Billy Joel), "Peter Pan" (starring Cathy Rigby), "Les Miserables", "Oklahoma!", "Evita" and "The King and I" starring Stephanie Powers.
Right now (as of 2008), the Pantages is home to the hit Broadway musical "Wicked" (a prequel, of sorts, to "The Wizard of Oz"), which will run there until January of 2009.
The February 2007 opening of
"Wicked" brought out stars like
("Alias"), Sean Astin
("Lord of the Rings"), Patricia Heaton
("Everybody Loves Raymond"),
Tony Shalhoub ("Monk"),
Shannon Elizabeth ("American
Pie"), Angela Bassett ("What's
Love Got To Do With It ?"), Victor Garber
("Alias") and Joely Fisher
In 2010-2011, the Pantages hosted a series of hit Broadway musicals, including "Chicago", "Phantom of the Opera", "West Side Story", "Hair", "Traces", "Spring Awakening", "Rock of Ages", "Avenue Q", "Beauty & the Beast", "Rain", "Burn the Floor" and "Shrek: the Musical".
The Pantages is a gorgeous theatre, but since it
started out as a movie theatre, it does have its limitations when it comes
to live performances. The lobby, for instance, is small by Broadway standards,
and becomes uncomfortably crowded during intermission
And in a return to original form, the Pantages hosted the world premiere of the Star Wars film, "Rogue One", in December of 2016.
Getting there: The Pantages is located on the north side of Hollywood Blvd., just east of the northeast corner of Hollywood & Vine. From Grauman's Chinese Theatre, just head east.
[For more information on this
subject, you can access the Pantages' own website at: http://www.nederlander.com/pantages.html.]
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