Halls of History — Alexander Pantages and the Pantages Theatres
For a change of pace from San Diego, I go to Palm Springs or Los Angeles.
On a recent trip to Los Angeles, I visited Hollywood, full of movie, television, and music history.
One of the historic places in Hollywood is the Pantages Theatre, located at 6233 Hollywood Boulevard:
The Pantages Theatre in Hollywood was designed by noted theatre architect B. Marcus Priteca, who designed 150 theatres during his lifetime. Twenty-two of the theatres were named Pantages, including a Pantages Theatre here in San Diego at 501 B street, opened in 1924 and demolished in 1964:
Pantages was Alexander Pantages (1867–1936), an early vaudeville and motion picture producer. At the height of his career, in 1929, he owned or operated 84 theatres throughout Canada and the western United States.
Known as a tireless but ruthless operator, his empire started crumbling in 1929 when he was accused of raping a native 17 year-old dancer named Eunice Alice Pringle. He was convicted at trial in 1929 and sentenced to 50 years in prison. On appeal, he was granted a new trial, winning acquittal at that one. However, the negative publicity and the expense in hiring the country’s best lawyers led to him selling his theatre chain to RKO, and he ceased to be of consequence in vaudeville or theatre after that.
Rumors surrounding the second trial indicated that Joseph P. Kennedy (yes, that Joseph P. Kennedy!), who owned most of RKO, tried to purchase the Pantages chain in 1928. When Pantages refused to sell, Kennedy hired Pringle to frame Pantages. The rumor was revived in 1997 in Ronald Kessler’s biography of Joseph Kennedy, “The Sins of the Father: Joseph P. Kennedy and the Dynasty He Founded.”
Pantages Hollywood opened on June 4, 1930, the last of the theaters built for Pantages. It was sold to Fox West Coast Theaters in 1932, and in 1949, Howard Hughes acquired it for his RKO Theatre Circuit.
From 1949 through 1959, the theatre hosted the annual Academy Award Ceremonies. From 1965 to 1977, it was operated by Pacific Theatres. It closed in January 1977 and re-opened the following month as a live theatre venue and currently is one of the leading venues in Los Angeles for live theater. In fact, the five highest-grossing weeks in the long and distinguished theatrical history of Los Angeles were all shows at the Pantages.
The Pantages Theatre is also a popular location for concerts (Shakira’s very first show in the United States was at the Pantages), movies (concert scenes in “The Jazz Singer”), television, and music videos (Foo Fighters, Dire Straits, Talking Heads).
The theatre underwent a $10-million restoration and upgrade in 2000. Although the original plans for the Pantages were for a 12-story building, 2 floors dedicated to theater and 10 floors of office space, the 1929 stock market crash canceled those plans. In December 2007, plans were revealed to complete the original design and floors because of the revitalization of Hollywood itself and the high demand for office space in the area.
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Posted on August 3, 2013, in Halls of History, Historical Landmarks, History, Out & About, Photos and tagged academy award ceremonies, alexander pantages, b. marcus priteca, dire straits, eunice alice pringle, foo fighters, fox west coast theaters, howard hughes, joseph p. kennedy, pantages theatre hollywood, pantages theatre san diego, rko, ronald kessler, shakira, talking heads, the jazz singer. Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.