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The Pantages Theatre

Jun 10th, 2009 | By | Category: Movie Locations

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As promised earlier in the week, I thought I would dedicate today’s post to the historic Pantages Theatre in Hollywood where I saw Dirty Dancing – The Classic Story On Stage  last Tuesday night .   And let me tell you, the Pantages Theatre is a site to see, in and of itself!  The Art Deco landmark was built in 1930 by vaudeville theatre mogul Alexander Pantages for a whopping $1.25 million – and we’re talking 1930’s money!!!!  It was designed by architect B. Marcus Priteca, who conceived most of the theatres in the Pantages chain.  But, in an ironic twist of events, when the theatre first opened to the public on June 4, 1930, it was not opened as a Pantages, but instead under the Fox Theatre name.  In 1929, while the Pantages was being built, Alexander was knee-deep in a scandal involving another of his many theatres.   It seems Alexander, who was in his sixties at the time, was accused and found guilty of raping one of his sixteen year old female ushers at his theatre in Downtown Los Angeles.    After being sent to jail, he was forced to open his new Hollywood theatre under a different name.  In 1931, Pantages appealed the case and was awarded a new trial.  His defense in the second trial maintained that rival theatre company RKO along with Joseph Kennedy (yes, that Joseph Kennedy) had framed him in order to purchase his theatre chain at a low price.  Since the broom closet where the rape had supposedly occured was too small a space for two people to fit in, the jury acquitted him and Alexander was released from prison.  But Pantages never regained his luxor in Hollywood.  Alexander Pantages passed away only two months after his release from prison, broke and broken. 

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The Pantages has gone through a succession of owners during its almost eighty year history. In 1949, Howard Hughes purchased the theatre and renamed it RKO Pantages.  His offices were located above the theatre on the building’s second floor.  During the RKO years, from 1949 to 1959 , the Pantages hosted ten Academy Awards ceremonies. It was also home to the Emmy Awards through 1977.  In 1967, the Pantages was taken over by Pacific Theatres, who in 1977 joined forces with the Nederlander Theatre Organization to refurbish the property and turn it into a live theatre venue.  In October of 2000, Disney opened its hit show The Lion King  at the Pantages, which ran for over two years and almost 900 performances.  Just prior to The Lion King’s  opening, the Pantages underwent a painstaking $10 million renovation process, bringing the theatre back to her original splendor.  Since that time, the theatre has been home to over 45 live stage productions including Mama Mia, Annie, Rent, Cats, and How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.

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The Pantages is an absolutely beautiful theatre and a stunning example of Art Deco architecture. 

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  From its sweeping staircases . . .

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. . . to its sparkling Art Deco chandeliers, I was absolutely mesmerized by the architectural detail throughout.  The Pantages is truly a wonder and I HIGHLY recommend stalking it, if you get the chance!   

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The Pantages is no stranger to the silver screen, either.  It was featured in The Bodyguard, as the site of the Academy Awards ceremony where Whitney Houston was a presenter;

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the exterior of it shows up very briefly in The Black Dhalia, as Josh Hartnett makes his way into the Frolic Room which is located right next door;

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and in L.A. Confidential, as Kevin Spacey does the very same thing;

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and its stage was featured in Michael Jackson’s music video for the song “You Are Not Alone”.  The Pantages also showed up in Season Two of Ugly Betty (it’s the “New York” theatre where Henry takes Betty to see the musical Wicked), Paparazzi (it’s the site of Cole’s movie premiere at the very end), Ed Wood, The Jazz Singer, Money Talks, and Batman Forever.

Until next time, Happy Stalking!  :)

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Stalk It: The Pantages Theatre is located at 6233 Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood.  You can visit their website hereDirty Dancing: The Classic Story On Stage  is currently running at the Pantages now through June 28th.  Upcoming shows include Legally Blonde: The Musical  and How The Grinch Stole Christmas.

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2 comments

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  1. Joe says:

    The Pantages/Frolic Room combo can also be seen in Gone in Sixty Seconds as well as an episode or two of Southland.

  2. Eileen says:

    and now in the Artist i believe


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