Over the weekend Patrick and I finally had the pleasure of seeing Hamilton, which also meant we got to go to the iconic Pantages Theatre in Hollywood.
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 last year it was the original sign. When the sign came down rumors swirled that it was going to be replaced by garish LED, 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 you. There are layers upon layers of angular shapes and swirling curly-Qs 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 USC.
Just two years later Pantages sold this gem to the infamous 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.
Some of my personal faves have filmed both inside and outside, including Ed Wood, in which the exterior 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.
As for the musical itself, I quite enjoyed it! Something you may not know about me, and Patrick for that matter, is that once upon a time we were theater kids. We spent much of our high school years involved in our school’s theater program, and during summers a semi-professional theater company moved into our school’s auditorium, and we worked within it as well. So I have a soft spot for seeing plays and musicals and have been known to bust out the show tunes from time to time. However, when it comes to show tunes, I refuse to listen to the soundtracks from musicals unless I’ve seen the show, so while everyone was rockin’ out to “My Shot” a few years back, I just smiled and nodded. We missed the first two tours of Hamilton when it came to LA, and we snatched up tickets for the third tour over a year in advance. Then COVID hit, and the show was delayed. We pushed our tickets back hoping that by November 2021 things would be more under control. And seriously if it wasn’t for the anti-vaxxers we probably would be more in the clear by now. I was still on the fence about going, but when Broadway announced they would be requiring proof of vaccination and masks I felt a little more at ease. However I’ll admit it was longer sitting in one place than I want to do again in the very near future.
Visit the Pantages at 6233 Hollywood Boulevard in Los Angeles. Check out what shows are coming and purchase tickets through Broadway in Hollywood.