Hollyweird: El Capitan Theatre

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The Independent Culture

For sale: the El Capitan Theatre, a unique piece of Hollywood history and a bargain at just $31m. The sale of this splendiferous gilded theatre is a rare chance for one wealthy individual to own a slice of Hollywood history.

Located on Hollywood Boulevard, alongside the historic Hollywood Walk of Fame, the El Capitan was built in 1926 by Charles Toberman, the real-estate developer many called the "Father of Hollywood" (he put up 36 stylish buildings in the heart of Hollywood). On its debut on 3 May 1926, when it launched as "Hollywood's First Home of Spoken Drama", stars of stage and screen attended its first show, "Charlot's Revue", starring Jack Buchanan, Gertrude Lawrence and Beatrice Lillie.

The value of the cinema and playhouse (opposite the Kodak theatre, where the Oscars are presented) can only be boosted by the fact that it was where Citizen Kane had its world premiere. From 1926 to 1936, more than 120 live shows were produced there, including No, No, Nanette, Anything Goes and Ah, Wilderness. Its stage was graced with such stars as Will Rogers, Clark Gable and Joan Fontaine.

Tom Bower, the realtor selling the six-storey theatre, office building and retail store, unimaginatively described the opportunity to buy the El Capitan as a chance to take advantage of "a stable occupancy history and an opportunity for an investor to capitalise on long-term rent and absorption of Hollywood". But he has a point. Entrepreneurs take note: as well as being a piece of Hollywood history, the El Capitan is a profitable business and reportedly the highest-grossing single-screen theatre in America, with more than 1,000 seats, state-of-the-art digital projection and sound, a refurbished 1928 Wurlitzer pipe organ and a screen that rises to reveal a 50ft stage for live shows. Not too shabby for $31m.

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