Hollywood Pantages Theatre
The Hollywood Pantages Theatre is no doubt one of the most extravagant theatres in the world. An art deco masterpiece located in the heart of Hollywood, it was a popular venue for many dazzling stage performances and movie premieres. It’s a thriving representation of Hollywood’s golden age, tracing its roots back to the glorious vaudeville days.
It turns out the Pantages Theatre is just as unique to the dead as it is for the living. Over the decades, show personnel and guests have reported apparitions that roam the theatre’s majestic rooms and passageways. Some of its iconic guests and owners clearly never left.
The Pantages Theatre’s Striking Beginning
The Pantages Theatre was the last theatre built by the vaudeville impresario Alexander Pantages and was designed to accommodate vaudeville performances and film events. It opened its doors on June 4, 1930, with significant fanfare and celebrity guests.
At the time of its opening, the state-of-the-art theatre featured 2,812 seats, opulent staircases, starburst ceiling patterns, massive chandeliers, all for a cost of $1.25 million.
It has a spacious, lavishly decorated lobby with a twenty-foot-wide staircase on each end. These staircases are adorned with life-sized Egyptian and Assyro-Babylonian style statues, representing the hard workers of the film industry.
It’s also home to an orchestra pit, vast stage area, balconies, and backstage dressing rooms. Other employees working behind the scenes are stationed in the upper floor offices and conference rooms.
The Pantages Theatre is truly the epitome of magnificence. But even the grandest landmarks run across misfortunes. Its operations were hit hard by the Great Depression. Live stage acts proved to be so expensive, so the management was forced to economize by converting it to an all-movie place, with occasional musical acts and sponsored events.
The Theatre Springs Back to Life After the Great Depression
In 1949, the Pantages Theatre was acquired by business magnate Howard Hughes. It was renamed RKO Pantages and was considered the crown jewel of his film production company and movie theatre chain, RKO Pictures.
The RKO Pantages Theatre saw its heydays from 1950 to 1959, when it was chosen as the venue for the annual Academy Awards. This went on for a decade until the event needed a much larger location.
In 1967, the Pantages Theatre was bought by Pacific Theatres, a company known for its massive inventory of drive-ins in California. Upon acquisition, they started major renovation and restoration work to rehabilitate the old building. They also reverted it to its old stage theatre setup.
But successfully restoring it to its old splendor didn’t happen overnight. Pacific Theatres restored the structure to its original seating capacity of almost 2,700 and worked with the Nederlander Organization for a grand return as a stage theatre.
In February 1977, it reopened with the live run of the hit Broadway Show “Bubbling Brown Sugar.” It was followed by several live performances, from “Beatlemania” and “La Cage Aux Folles” to “King and I” and “Sugar Babies.” In addition, the Pantages Theatre became a newly restored favorite venue for special charitable events.
As Pacific Theatres’ partnership with the Nederlander Corporation progressed, so did the restoration and renovation efforts. In 2000, they fully renovated the interiors. It was a 10 million dollar project that finally bore fruit with the arrival of The Lion King. The stage play, alongside film and merchandise items, proved to be so popular and profitable, it helped the theatre rise from the ashes.
Ghosts of the Past Remain
More restorations were made in the years that followed. The missing chandeliers were replaced, the lobby, floors, walls, and ceiling were brought back to their classic grandeur. The art deco artesian masterpieces were cleaned and repaired, and the stage was turned into a first-rate set for top Broadway shows. More office spaces were also completed, based on Pantages’ original plans.
The Pantages Theatre is now all redeemed, standing up to its long-established grandeur. Changes after changes, all for the better. But is it possible that these changes disturbed the spirits around? A provocation that prompted haunting? It seems like the guests forever attached to the theatre continue to stand guard, show after show, and even behind the scenes.
The Pantages Theatre’s Forever Guests
Those who have suddenly lost their lives in the most unexpected circumstances continue to stay in places they love the most. As spirits, they spend their “afterlife” here on Earth, watching over the building they love the most.
The Ghosts of the Pantages Theatre are still trying to live their dreams, as if they are alive, by roaming the passageways of the place they once visited or once called their own.
While lots of early motion picture historical accounts don’t even mention his name, it’s clear that Alexander Pantages is a force to reckon with in the vaudeville and motion picture industry. Initially, he just managed other people’s theatres but soon invested in a large chain of theatres across the United States and Canada.
His life is not all money and passion for the arts. Pantages was accused of raping an aspiring vaudeville dancer – a crime he didn’t commit. The expensive legal battle left him in financial ruin, leading him to sell the theatre to RKO on a much lower sum.
Alexander Pantages is the father of Pantages Theatre and always will be. He still keeps a watchful eye on the main floor like he used to do when he was still alive. His spirit is said to walk up the aisle during stage performances, too. When the attendants open the door for him, he just disappears.
A chilling account from the 1990s speaks of a wardrobe lady who was escorted out by an unknown person. She was said to be the last to leave the theatre, and since the lights were already turned off, she was having a hard time finding her way out.
All of a sudden, someone took her gently by the elbow and guided her to the exit. Once outside, she turned to thank the person who helped her but saw no one. She said she heard no footsteps, and it was too short of a time for a person to run off.
People believe that it’s a ghostly encounter with Alexander Pantages himself, a gentleman from even beyond the grave.
Howard Hughes was one of the notable people who drove the theatre to success, but just like Alexander Pantages, his life is not all praises and admiration. Despite his financial success, Hughes was widely regarded as an eccentric man and his days in the theatre witnessed his progressing mental decline.
Howard Hughes loved the Pantages Theatre, and death didn’t stop him from running it. Legend says a break-in by vandals in 1990 prompted the hauntings on the second-floor conference room, where Hughes once held office.
Since then, employees have reported cold spots or unexplained breezes, as well as apparitions in this area. Rattling desk drawers and cigarette smoke smell are also common occurrences.
In 1992, a Nederlander Corporation executive assistant reported a tall male figure walking down the hall into an old office. Then, she heard door handles being rattled and drawers being opened and closed. She also felt an unseen presence and a cool passing wind in an area with no wind source available.
Apart from spending time in his old office, it appears that watching rehearsals is an afterlife hobby. One time, during a stage rehearsal, performers saw a mysterious man watching them while sitting in the back row of the balcony. He disappeared even before security got to question him.
An Unknown Male Supervisor
Two workers quit during a restoration project back in 2000 after experiencing an eerie encounter with an unknown male supervisor. An electrician was doing some wiring inspection when a mysterious person glanced over his shoulder.
A painter who was restoring the higher parts of the theatre auditorium reported that he saw a man climb down from the balcony to the scaffolding. He was wearing a hat and was walking around, inspecting the site.
He stopped where the painter was working, and just like what happened to the electrician, the man leaned over to check his work. Confused, the painter turned to ask him who he was, but the ghostly inspector disappeared.
Who can it be? Some theorize that it can be Alexander Pantages, Howard Huges, or someone else who supervised the theatre back in the day.
A Female Aspiring Singer and Performer
In 1932, a patron and aspiring performer was said to have died in the mezzanine. Since then, her singing voice has been heard throughout the theatre.
People say that she still sings until today when the microphone is left on. In some instances, a mysterious voice is being picked up by the audio system during shows. It seems like she’s a fan of Andrew Lloyd Webber since she usually sings tunes from the “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” and “The Phantom of the Opera.”
There is no official report of death inside the Pantages Theatre, though, so there is a lot of mystery surrounding these purported incidents involving a female ghost singer. Some say she died of an unknown disease; some say that she committed suicide.
The Spirits of the Pantages Theatre Never Leave for Reason
There’s no firm evidence in the form of videos or photographs, but we’re sure that the ghosts at the Pantages Theatre are some of the most passionate spirits ever. The show personnel, performers, directors, and other employees are all witnesses to how the spectral residents go about their usual routine, like how they would do when they were still alive. They’re still here for a reason – all for the magic, music, arts, and film!