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FAMILY OUTING : Nostalgia, Movie Magic at El Capitan

TIMES STAFF WRITER

You can take the kids out to a movie or you can take them to a movie and a history lesson.

This is because the El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood is a beautifully restored historical film house that also happens to show a lot of family films.

According to Milt Moritz, the theater’s vice president of advertising and public relations, the El Capitan opened in 1927 as a legitimate, or stage, theater.

“In 1941, Paramount Pictures bought it and renamed it the Paramount Theater,” Moritz said.

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It continued operating as the Paramount even though ownership changed at least once before Pacific bought it from SRO Theaters in 1985. In 1990, the Paramount was closed for restoration that was funded through a joint partnership between Pacific Theaters and Buena Vista Distribution, which is the distribution arm for Walt Disney Productions.

Moritz, who was involved in the project from its beginning, said a lot of research went into restoring the theater to what it once was, only better.

The murals in the lobby, the intricate ceiling, the opera boxes and the outdoor box office are largely what they used to be. Modern adjustments included earthquake safety improvements, access for people with disabilities, better restrooms, a massive new curtain system and a larger screen.

“We brought the proscenium farther out because we wanted more of a stage area and we wanted a bigger proscenium to accommodate the larger screen,” Moritz said. (The proscenium is the frame around the stage.)

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How big is that screen?

“Big,” answered Moritz. “It’s big. You can see it beautifully from the highest point in the balcony.”

He did provide actual stats on the thing: It’s 44 feet wide and 22 feet deep.

The restoration was completed in 1991, and on June 22 of that year, the El Capitan reopened with Disney’s “The Rocketeer.”

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A display in the outside foyer also tells the story of the theater with photos from its older days. And the films are often rated G or PG. Playing now: “Iron Will,” a Walt Disney film, rated PG.

“We don’t have many R-rated films, but we’ve had some,” Moritz said.

The best thing to do is either call the theater or check the listings. Then you can have a debate over whether the front row of the balcony or downstairs in the center provides a more intense movie experience.

The Details

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What: Going to the movies at the restored El Capitan Theatre.

Where: 6838 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood.

When: Box office opens at 11 a.m.

How much: $7.50 for adults, $4.50 for those 60 and older, children 4 to 11, and for the first two shows, which are bargain matinees.

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Information: (213) 467-7674.


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