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El Capitan Theatre Celebrates 85 Years
October, 2011 - Issue #84
This year marks the 85th-anniversary of Hollywood's famed El Capitan Theatre. Opened in 1926, it was part of the trio of themed entertainment palaces that graced Hollywood Boulevard, including the Chinese and Egyptian theaters.

It has the distinction of hosting the world premiere of what critics consider to be the greatest movie ever made - Orson Welles' Oscar-winning "Citizen Kane." Today, the legendary movie palace is a Disney showcase and national historic site, and home to decades of memories.

But did Drew care about any of that as we sat ensconced in the comfy floor-level seats and watched the organist tap out a medley of Disney show tunes?
Nope. My 7-year-old son was rockin' the 3D glasses and anxiously waiting for the curtain to go up on "Cars 2."

We were at the El Capitan to celebrate both his birthday and his much-procrastinated completion of the supplemental school assignments April had given him over the summer.

He finished the day before the deadline, so I had to hold up my end bargain - seeing "Cars 2." Given that he took so long to finish his work, I wasn't sure it was still playing anywhere. But since it's a Disney feature, it was still showing at the El Capitan.

The theater sits just across the street from Hollywood and Highland, putting it at the epicenter of a renewed Hollywood.

We parked in the shopping center's cavernous underground structure. The theater offers validation, so it was only $2. I don't know anywhere in L.A. you can park for that cheap.

We hustled through the throngs of street performers and camera-wielding, butt-bag-wearing tourists and picked up our tickets from the will call window. Our show was a Sunday matinee, and the crowds were surprisingly light. We had no trouble finding good floor-level seats.
While I admired the regal architectural details of the soaring ceilings, Drew asked how much longer it would be before the movie started. Finally, the organist's platform lowered into the floor, his disappearance signaling show time.

I wish I could rave about "Cars 2," but frankly, it lacked the charm and originality of the first installment. However, "La Luna," the animated short preceding the main show, was classic Pixar - clever, entertaining and heart-warming.

While the movie sputtered along, the World Grand Prix attraction set up behind the theater fired on all cylinders. It was a miniature "Cars" theme park with games and rides. We dashed over while the credits were still rolling and had our run of the place. We spent the most time at the Rockin' Race Rally.

Other kids quickly snapped together race cars at the two massive tables overflowing with Legos and ran up to the steps to the mini race track to watch their creations in action. Drew took his time, pawing through the piles, looking for just the right pieces. When completed, his car featured multiple weapons systems and the crew members were both outfitted with matching shark-head helmets.

In battle, his car would have dominated. But on the track it disintegrated at speed with Lego spears flying down the track. That added to Drew's excitement and will no doubt be a treasured memory from our afternoon spent at a historic theater.

Let's just hope it's not his Rosebud.
Eric Harnish lives in Castaic and remembers when Hollywood was not a family destination.

It's Show Time!
El Capitan Theatre

800-DISNEY6
elcapitan.go.com

Coming Attractions
"The Lion King 3D"
September 16 to October 6

"Real Steel"
October 7 to 20

"The Nightmare Before Christmas 4D"
October 21 to November 3

"The Muppets"
November 23 to January 5
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