El Capitan gives power to the people in 'Little Mermaid' costumes

El Capitan gives power to the people in 'Little Mermaid' costumes
Costumed audience members are called to the stage at the El Capitan during a "Throwback Thursday" screening of "Little Mermaid" on June 30, 2014. (Francine Orr/ Los Angeles Times) (Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)

Jasmin Banuelos wasn't even alive when "The Little Mermaid" hit theaters in 1989.

But the 19-year-old, named after Princess Jasmine from "Aladdin," said Disney is "in her blood." Like her mom, who grew up with Disney movies, Banuelos loves the classics. She just never had the opportunity to see them on the big screen.


Enter El Capitan Theatre's Throwback Thursday screenings, a Disney initiative that began two years ago based on feedback from moviegoers.

"People would always say, 'I saw this movie here,' or 'It would be great to see my favorite Disney movie here,' " said Lylle Breier, senior vice president of worldwide special events at Disney. "So we decided, why don't we let our guests pick what we show?"

The El Capitan asks audiences to vote on what movie to show for the next TBT, as Throwback Thursday is known to fans, when they leave the theater and go to its Facebook page. The first film selected for TBT in 2012 was "Who Framed Roger Rabbit."

"It was so fun and great we decided to do these more and more," she said. "They completely sell out. We just want TBT to be a special, wonderful, nostalgic event."

The screenings have become so popular that last week, for the theater's ninth TBT screening, El Capitan did back-to-back showings.

"I've always wanted to see 'The Little Mermaid' on-screen, but I never got the chance, so I figured this would be a great — and my only — opportunity," said Banuelos, who wore Ariel earrings, a starfish hair clip and a poodle skirt with a Flounder patch.

In El Capitan's lobby, guests posed next to an original poster of "The Little Mermaid" and a small model of Ursula made by Walt Disney Imagineering. As guests flooded into the theater, a pianist played Disney tunes.

A mix of adults, millennials and kids said they came to experience Disney magic, be it for the first or 15th time. Many dressed up like Ariel or Prince Eric or wore vintage "Little Mermaid" T-shirts. One person rocked an Ursula look.

Elizabeth Sutherland, 29, and husband Matthew, 27, brought their 8-month-old daughter, Riley.

"I grew up loving 'The Little Mermaid,' and now that I have a daughter, I want to share it with her," Elizabeth said as Riley, wearing a turquoise tutu, bounced up and down on her father's lap.

James Wood, senior manager of theater operations at El Capitan, told the audience before the screening that Throwback Thursday is "the absolute favorite thing we do." He gave out prizes to raffle winners and led the "costume parade" as dressed-up fans showcased their "Mermaid" looks onstage.

In a video introduction, Jodi Benson, the voice of Ariel, told audience members to warm up their vocal cords and get ready to sing along. When "The Little Mermaid" finally began to play, the audience cheered and sang with every song.

Outside the theater, Denise Ramirez, 30, dressed in a red wig, green dress and shell necklace, stood in line for the second screening. The paralegal said she came to TBT because Disney is her "guilty pleasure."

"When I saw 'The Little Mermaid,' it was the first time I fell in love with Disney," Ramirez said. "My parents threw me a themed party. I still have the platters, utensils and napkins from it."


As someone close to her father, Ramirez said, she had related to Ariel's teenage angst and relationship with her dad in the film.

"There was no way I could miss this," she said.

Twitter: @saba_h


Next film: "Hercules"

When: 7 p.m. Aug. 21

Where: El Capitan Theatre, 6838 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles

Tickets: $10 to $20 (includes popcorn and drink)

Information: (800) 347-6396, (click on "coming soon")