Backstage at the El Capitan Theatre

In yesterday’s post I detailed the history we learned about the El Capitan Theatre on our Los Angeles Historic Theatre Foundation tour last weekend. After the organ concert and history presentation, we were broken into groups and sent dashing through the narrow halls backstage to try to see everything before the theater opened for business that morning. Our group got to climb the steps and stand on the stage for a few moments while others split off to tour the balcony.

We were lead off the house left side of the stage and shown the stage manager’s base of operations.

The first and nicest of the many dressing rooms we saw is known as the “star” dressing room. At this point we weren’t really sure if we were allowed to go into the rooms we were being lead to, and our guide seemed more interested in moving us from place to place than showing us stuff, so I didn’t get any really good shots.

From there it was down the first of many narrow staircases, this one leading to the Green Room.


As I mentioned yesterday, the exciting thing about this tour for a Disney fan like me was that we were allowed to take pictures backstage—a definite no-no at the parks. Which means you get to endure such scintillating shots as this…

Not green.

And we're off!

This would make a great robot character in Star Tours!

The next stop was the “Mickey lift,” used to vault performers onto the stage quickly just like its cousins in the two Fantasmic! shows at the parks. It looks… deadly!

Another rare peek—the stage show performers' dressing room!

Costumes for the show that accompanies "Beauty & the Beast 3-D"

Chorus dressing room

Stage left houses a seemingly infinite staircase leading to three levels of dressing rooms, bathrooms, and the organ loft.

One of four organ pipe chambers

A bathroom in every hall...

Oh wait, make that TWO bathrooms in every hall—this place has some serious resale value!

Well hello there, creepy Jack Sparrow. The john's thattaway...

At the very top of the stairs is the organ loft, which the forward-thinking architects included even though the theater was not intended to show movies. It never actually housed organ pipes until the 1998 renovation, serving instead as a scenic shop for making props and sets. The giant thing in this photo is a Spencer blower for powering the pipes. Some old movie houses used to need two of these babies!

They never told us how many pipes the organ has, but we did learn that the largest is 32 feet long.

Vertiginous view of the stage from the organ loft

After descending the staircase sideways to accommodate the next groups, we went out through an alley and back into the theater before heading upstairs to the balcony.

Disney did a great job replicating a Hollywood alley. All that's missing is the smell!


The original curtain featured a pair of peacocks and was covered in silver leaf


I don’t remember what we talked about in the balcony cuz I was busy taking a bunch of blurry pictures I’m not going to show you. Well, OK, here’s one…

Patrick’s more of a detail man…

The upstairs lobby didn’t have display cases originally, but it is fun to look through all the photos of the various premieres and some historic shots.

From there it was all the way down to the basement lounge, which is the only room in the theater untouched by any of the extreme makeovers through the years. Disney had the paneling and light fixtures restored. The display case at the back of the room is an addition. Last time we were there it held Miss Piggy’s costumes from the Muppet movie, and the rest of the room prominently featured sets from the film. Now it’s been completely transformed for Story Time with Belle in the Beast’s Library Under the El Capitan on Hollywood Boulevard in Los Angeles, California, U.S.A.

There was talk of us each receiving a reproduction of the program of the first play shown at the theater, but the guy who was supposed to bring them forgot.

We wandered through the Soda Fountain on our way out.

Barrel o' Belles!

If you’re interested in similar tours of historic LA theaters, keep an eye on the following sites:

This post is part of the DisMarks Disney Blog Carnival. Check it out!

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9 Responses
  • Eric Scales
    February 10, 2012

    Love the old bathroom.

    • lurkyloo
      February 10, 2012

      I wish I’d taken pictures of more of the bathrooms!

  • Claire H.
    January 31, 2012

    “Story Time with Belle in the Beast’s Library Under the El Capitan on Hollywood Boulevard in Los Angeles, California, U.S.A.”

    HAAA!!!! You slay me!

    • lurkyloo
      January 31, 2012

      Tee-hee! 😉

  • Hope
    January 31, 2012

    Thanks for the links! The dressing rooms were neat to see (sucks if you’re in the chorus though). I like what they did for the Beauty and the Beast re-release. I wish they left it dressed up like that year round. It looks pretty sad down there when they don’t have things on display.

    • lurkyloo
      January 31, 2012

      LOL! Yeah. Have you ever wanted to have a birthday party there? I kinda do, even though I know it would be cheesy. Oh, and I just remembered I meant to shoot the HIGH-lariously decrepit birthday cake they have on display out front and forgot — dang!

      • Hope
        January 31, 2012

        Yes!! I actually have wanted to throw a birthday party there – paper table cloths with disney licensed characters and all! lol I wonder if the parties include the movie and the show or if it’s just for use of the room downstairs. If it includes access to the whole theater then it would be cool!

        Maybe you can get the picture of the cake next time you’re there. Are you planning on seeing Lady and the Tramp there in a few days? Maybe you could do it then and add it to the report. I hope the actual cake looks better than that! 😉

        • lurkyloo
          January 31, 2012

          Good thinkin’! We’ll grab it at Lady & the Tramp.

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