The ODD History Of The TWO El Capitan Theaters in Hollywood….
The El Capitan Theater…a very familiar name to movie and TV fans, but did you know there were two El Capitan Theaters in Los Angeles? There were, and the only thing they had in common was their famous name.
In this photo, you see the home of ‘Jimmy Kimmel Live’ next to the original El Capitan and the show comes from what was once the Hollywood Masonic Temple. This is now called The El Capitan Entertainment Center at 6838 Hollywood Blvd. This movie theater is the site of the original El Capitan which opened in 1926 and this has never been a radio or television studio. Both are now owned by Disney.
You probably know the “other” El Capitan better as The Hollywood Palace at 1735 Vine Street. It’s now called The Avalon Theater, but when it was built in 1927 it was the Hollywood Playhouse.
The original El Capitan location on Hollywood Blvd., started as a legitimate theater and presented live plays, with over 120 productions including such legends as Clark Gable and Joan Fontaine. By the late 1930s, business was faltering. When Orson Welles was unable to locate a theatre owner willing to risk screening Citizen Kane, he turned to El Capitan, and in 1941, Citizen Kane had its world premiere there.
It closed for renovation and re opened on March 18, 1942 as the Hollywood Paramount Theatre. Its inaugural film presentation was Cecil B. DeMille’s Technicolor feature ‘Reap the Wild Wind’, starring Ray Milland, John Wayne, Paulette Goddard and Raymond Massey.
Meanwhile at 1735 Vine Street, that property was renamed The El Capitan Theatre in 1943, and was used for a long-running live burlesque variety show called Ken Murray’s Blackouts. CBS Radio also did shows from here including ‘My Favorite Husband’ starring Lucille Ball.
In the 1950s, still under the name of El Capitan, the theatre became a television studio, and it was from a set on its stage that Richard Nixon delivered his famous “Checkers speech” on September 23, 1952. This event is often mistakenly said to have taken place at the El Capitan Theatre on Hollywood Boulevard.
The Vine Street El Captain Theater was also home to some episodes of NBC’s ‘Colgate Comedy Hour’, and ‘This is Your Life’. In 1963, ABC bought the theater and named it The Jerry Lewis Theater after the show it was to be home to, but the Lewis show died after just 13 weeks. Within a few months, ABC had created ‘The Hollywood Palace’ show and renamed the theater yet again.
There are many similar situations in New York and the one that comes to mind is The Ziegfeld Theater, but that’s another story for another day. Enjoy and share this!