About the Theatre
View from Balcony Center
View from Balcony Right
Wall of Fame
History of the Theatre
See movies like they were meant to be seen!
In the 1920s, real estate developer Charles Toberman and Sid Grauman built the Egyptian, Chinese and El Capitan theatres. Los Angeles based Stiles O. Clements designed the elaborate cast-concrete Spanish Colonial style exterior; San Francisco architect G. Albert Lansburgh, known for his design of over 50 West Coast theatres and luxury cinema houses, designed the lavish East Indian inspired interior. Stars of the stage attended the opening of the El Capitan Theatre, the largest legitimate theatre in Hollywood, which debuted on May 3, 1926. They filled the 1,550 seat theatre, dubbed "Hollywood's First Home of Spoken Drama", for the premiere of the fresh-from-Broadway play CHARLOT'S REVUE, starring Jack Buchanan, Gertrude Lawrence, and Beatrice Lillie.
In 1941, the El Capitan Theatre was converted from a playhouse to a movie theatre. Searching for a theatre in Hollywood to premiere his controversial film, CITIZEN KANE, Orson Welles rented the El Capitan. On May 8, 1941, Welles' first feature film, CITIZEN KANE, premiered at the El Capitan Theatre. Shortly thereafter, the theatre closed for a two month renovation and modernization. The theatre reopened in March 1942 as the Hollywood Paramount, a new, streamlined "art moderne" first run movie house. Meanwhile, the El Capitan name and the entire El Capitan staff moved to the nearby Hollywood Playhouse.
In 1989, the Walt Disney Company joined forces with Pacific Theatres and launched a two-year, museum quality restoration of The El Capitan, led by renowned theatre designer Joseph J. Musil. Musil with the supervision of the National Park Service's Department of the Interior, and guidance from conservator Martin Weil and architect Ed Fields, achieved the goal recreating the original 1926 look and feel -- including original design elements such as the ornate plasterwork found hidden behind walls and the opera boxes in the main auditorium. The theatre reopened its doors to the public on June 19, 1991 for the world premiere of Walt Disney Pictures' THE ROCKETEER. THE ROCKETEER became the first of many Walt Disney Pictures feature films to premiere at the El Capitan Theatre.
About the Organ
The spectacular 4/37 Wurlitzer has four keyboards and 37 ranks of pipes, each of which represent different musical instruments. It was the last of five magnificent "Fox Specials" built in the 1920's, and is considered the top of the line in theater organs and was designed with all the "bells and whistles" for movie palaces. It was meticulously restored over a one-year period and installed by G.M. Buck Pipe Organs, Inc. of Grand Rapids, Michigan. Theatre organ experts Gordon Kibbee and Bill Schutz served as consultants on the project and wrote all the specifications.
Over 2500 pipes have been installed in four chambers - two in each side of the theatre. The largest pipe is over 32 feet long! The El Capitan's "Mighty Wurlitzer" was originally installed in 1929 at the World Famous San Francisco Fox Theatre and subsequently purchased by Frank Lanterman in 1963 for his home in La Canada. Since its installation, this marvelous instrument, the "Mightiest of Mighty Wurlitzers" which was dormant for so long, has come to life again, performing to a new audience of hundreds of thousands of people at Hollywood's Classic Movie Palace, The El Capitan Theatre.
Assisted Listening Devices
A limited number of Listening Devices (which amplify the sound of the movie), Closed Captioning Devices and Descriptive Narrative Devices are available at no cost at the theatre and require a driver's license or credit card as security. Guests requiring this service should see the theatre manager 30 minutes prior to show time. Groups with members requiring assisted listening devices, please contact our Customer Service office at (818) 845-3110.
The El Capitan Theatre offers accessible seating (as well as Companion Seating) on our Orchestra Level. There is no elevator at the El Capitan Theatre for Balcony Level Seating; this is only accessible via stairs. If you need accessible seating, please purchase Orchestra Level seats and see a theatre manager when you arrive at the theatre.
Restrooms are located on the lower and balcony levels of the theatre. Two accessible restrooms are located on the main floor (street level).
Although animals are not permitted in the theatre, an exception is made for service animals. Please inform a cast member if any accommodations are required at time of ticket purchase. Guests who use service animals must retain control of their animals at all times and should keep them on a leash or harness while visiting.