Wednesday, April 29, 2009
A Historical Note on the Pantages Theater
“If DeMille’s movies are art, then my building is the canvas.”
- Michael Pantages
By 1930 the first “talkies” (movies with audio-dialogue) had became a mainstay in the United States. These talkies offered a new form of affordable entertainment for the middle-class. Not all cities and towns had a Major League Baseball team, but they all had town halls to show movies for a nickel. As more of the populace began to frequent these halls, the upper class began to stay home. Not wanting to be associated with riff-raff and other unfavorable people, the rich decided to frequent the strongholds of bourgeoisie life – theaters for the lively arts. In Los Angeles, the Carthay, Ebell and Wilshire Theater claimed most of these patrons. Michael Pantages, part-owner of the Ebell saw attendance sky-rocket and wondered what kind of profit he could make by screening talkies at the Ebell. He did, starting with the Douglas Fairbanks classic, “From Here to the Jungle.” The upper-class loved it; the idea of screening movies in large ornate theaters, away from plebeians was a hit. Pantages took his idea north to Hollywood and built the Pantages Theater, the first of many ornate movie theaters to hit Hollywood Boulevard. The rich came down from the Hollywood Hills and Hancock Park to see this shrine to Hollywood. Charging $1 a ticket, Pantages turned a tidy profit, and lead to modern cinematic castles that turn up at malls across America.