El Capitan – The Venue of Choice for Full Bore Film Enjoyment

When a film breaks box office records, two things are certain: it is appealing to a broader demographic than just kids and it is showing at more than one theatre. 

At this point, “The Lion King” is on track to break a handful of records. But the most delightful place to see it is at the El Capitan on Hollywood Boulevard. In fact, this holds true for almost any film showing there.

Across the street from where the Academy Awards are handed out (and down the street from one of the last original Hollywood hangouts Musso & Frank’s), the El Capitan is an 1,100 seat jewel of a theatre. 

Renovated by The Walt Disney Company in 1989, the venue started as venue for live theatre. It was converted for film for the world premiere of Orson Welles’ “Citizen Kane.” The theatre then was renovated, reopening in March 1942 as the Hollywood Paramount, a streamlined “art moderne” first run movie house. The Walt Disney Company spent two years working with experts in the renovation, restoring it to its original 1926 splendor.

The company since has utilized the theatre as its theatrical focal point for each of its major film releases. Years ago the company staged a kids fashion show as part of the “101 Dalmatians” run (my wife made our 2 year old daughter a lovely red satin lined cape with a Dalmatian-like pelt, the latter was equally befuddled and delighted with the attention). A few years later she was beguiled by the interactive activities based on “Treasure Island.” 

More recently the family partook of “The Lion King” on opening day, and the El Capitan pulled out all the stops. 

Organist Rob Richards did so literally, playing the mammoth organ as part of the pre-show Entertainment. Attired in his jacket of cheetah pelt, he roared through much of the Disney songbook. 

As he wound down in anticipation of the curtain going up, I was curious about the seemingly out-of-context Be Our Guest in the midst of all “The Lion King” songs. I smiled knowingly at that seemingly anachronistic song selection about 45 minutes into the film. 

The other pre-show attraction is the on-stage photo opportunity in front of the Pride Rock mock up. 

Available before and after the film are additional photo opportunities in front of an ‘immersive’ backdrop downstairs and a mural in the lobby. 

The theatre also offers an array of options to further enhance the experience, ranging from a birthday celebration in your seat, ticket upsells with commemorative popcorn buckets. 

The film experience is excellent at El Capitan. The sight lines are clear from most every seat, and Dolby VisionTM LaserProjection provides a bright, sharp image from the screen. 

The audio is crisp, due to the Dolby Atmos® Sound Technology. The low rumbling sounds of the stampede scene in “The Lion King” are harrowing. The midrange is clear, such that dialogue is well-delivered (especially Seth Rogen’s comedic turn as Pumbaa).

To truly celebrate the splendor of a Hollywood blockbuster, El Capitan can’t be beat. 

Tickets available here.


Brad Auerbach has been a journalist and editor covering the media, entertainment, travel and technology scene for many years. He has written for Forbes, Time Out London, SPIN, Village Voice, LA Weekly and early in his career won a New York State College Journalism Award.