When Hollywood Boulevard was still a quiet mix of homes and agricultural businesses, real estate developer Charles Toberman, often called the "Father of Hollywood," envisioned a thriving theatre district there. During his lifetime, he erected 36 stylish buildings in the heart of Hollywood, including the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel and three themed theatres, which he developed with Sid Grauman -- the Egyptian, the Chinese, and the El Capitan.
The El Capitan Theatre debuted on May 3, 1926, as "Hollywood's First Home of Spoken Drama." That evening, limousines pulled up before the theatre's elaborate cast-concrete Spanish Colonial exterior (designed by architectural firm Morgan, Walls, and Clements) and deposited Hollywood royalty, who were attending the play "Charlot's Revue," starring Jack Buchanan, Gertrude Lawrence, and Beatrice Lillie.
Inside, the audience enjoyed one of the most colorful and lavish interiors they had ever seen, featuring an elaborate $1.2-million East Indian design, created by San Francisco architect G. Albert Lansburgh.
Between 1926 and 1936, more than 120 live plays were produced at the El Capitan Theatre, including "No, No, Nanette," "Anything Goes," and "Ah, Wilderness," and its stage was graced by such legendary stars as Will Rogers, Clark Gable, and Joan Fontaine. In 1941, Orson Welles' Academy Award?winning "Citizen Kane" made its world premiere at the El Capitan Theatre. After the successful screening of "Citizen Kane," the El Capitan Theatre closed for remodeling. A year later, it was reborn as the Hollywood Paramount, a sleek, new "art moderne" movie house.
In 1989, The Walt Disney Company joined forces with Pacific Theatres to begin a two-year archeological dig, which led to a museum-quality restoration of the legendary palace. Under the supervision of the National Park Service's Department of the Interior, and with guidance from conservator Martin Weil, architect Ed Fields, and renowned theatre designer Joseph J. Musil, the certified national historic site was restored to its former grandeur and reopened to the public in June, 1991, with the world premiere of Walt Disney Pictures' "The Rocketeer."
The El Capitan Theatre was an early participant in Hollywood's recent revitalization efforts. In 2001, the Hollywood & Highland entertainment complex which houses the permanent home of the Oscars at The Kodak Theatre opened directly across the street. As an exclusive first run theatre for Walt Disney Pictures, The El Capitan Theatre hosts live stage shows, world premieres, and other special events that have helped restore showmanship to Hollywood Boulevard.