El Portal Theatre

5269 Lankershim Boulevard,
Los Angeles, CA 91601

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El Portal Theatre (Official)

Additional Info

Previously operated by: Fox West Coast Theatres, Mann Theatres, Metropolitan Theatres, National General Theatres

Architects: Lewis Arthur Smith

Functions: Live Theater

Styles: Spanish Renaissance

Phone Numbers: Box Office: 818.508.4200

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News About This Theater

El Portal Theatre exterior

The El Portal Theatre was opened by West Coast Theatres on October 5, 1926 with Ralph Graves in “Blarney”. Supporting the MGM produced feature film were a live performance by Chinese actors and actresses and a Chinese jazz orchestra.

It was the final theatre to be designed by prolific theatre architect Lewis Arthur Smith. Seating was provided for 1,346 on a single floor and the decorative style was Spanish Renaissance Revival. Movies, supported by a vaudeville show ran here for several years, until the arrival of talkies.

The El Portal Theatre became a major second release theatre on the Fox West Coast Theatres circuit in the area. In 1950 it was given the ‘Skouras’ treatment and the auditorium’s original decorations were totally obliterated with drapes and curtain material. It was reopened on December 22, 1950. Later taken over by National General and then Mann Theatres. It was taken over by Metropolitan Theatres chain on May 7, 1978 screening Spanish language movies.

The single screen El Portal Theatre was badly damaged in the 1994 Northridge earthquake, when the entire ceiling fell in and side walls cracked. However, it was purchased by the Actors Alley stage company in 1996, and they set about securing the building and creating working theatre spaces within the existing walls. Little remains of the former interior, as this had mostly been destroyed. The facade, marquee and paybox have been retained. It reopened as the El Portal Center for the Arts on January 12, 2000, with a 360 seat Main stage theatre and a 95 seat Forum theatre, presenting modern popular plays. A 42 seat Studio theatre was added recently.

The building is designated a Historic Cultural Landmark.

Contributed by William Gabel, Ken Roe

Recent comments (view all 32 comments)

david787 on July 4, 2010 at 12:59 am

I grew up in North Hollywood during the 50’s. The El Portal was my neighborhood theater. I used to love going there on Saturdays. I miss those days so much. Next to it, on the corner was a diner called Albert Sheetz but it closed. On the other side was a department store called Rathbuns. My parents knew the owners. Nearby was the place where my mom and I used to catch the “red car” into downtown LA. It was really an adventure for me

mujerado on January 18, 2011 at 3:36 am

I remember the El Portal from the 50’s and 60’s. It was my Mom’s favorite theatre. Among many others, we kids saw a rerelease of Disney’s Fantasia and we all went to a rerelease of Bambi on my birthday. North Hollywood was a favorite place to go. There was an old wood-floor Woolworth’s right across the street where I’d always order a grilled cheese sandwich and a chocolate malt.

MagicLantern on March 4, 2011 at 3:55 am

Saturday, March 19 – 1st Los Angeles Spaghetti Western Festival, screening “Dead Men Don’t Count,” “Gatling Gun” and “A Fistful of Dollars” at the El Portal.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on October 28, 2014 at 5:47 pm

Here are two interior photos of El Portal Theatre from the Los Angeles Public Library’s Security Pacific National Bank Collection:



Neither is dated, but from the nearly-pristine condition of the theater I’d say they were probably taken around the time it opened.

jeffreyedling on May 3, 2018 at 7:01 am

The El Portal Theatre in Los Angeles, California was recently featured in Episode 20, Season 2 of the Lethal Weapon TV show. The episode was entitled “Jesse’s Girl.” Roger Murtaugh’s daughter Riana was watching a movie with her new boyfriend inside the theater. They also showed the marquee outside. According to the theater’s website, they no longer show movies there. It’s all live shows now.

rivest266 on March 14, 2021 at 4:51 pm

Reopened by Metropolitan theatres on May 7th, 1978 showing Mexican movies. Grand opening ad posted.

Mike (saps)
Mike (saps) on October 11, 2023 at 10:38 pm

This theater’s exterior is featured in a new TV commercial for the deodorant Secret.

m00se1111 on March 13, 2024 at 9:52 am

The El Portal was used (smaller and larger spaces) in the MTV “dating” show Parental Control. When the 2nd prospective date took the girl tap dancing.

This ‘classic’ runs on the MTV Dating channel on the Pluto streaming app.

50sSNIPES on July 16, 2024 at 10:07 pm

The theater’s exterior and marquee is also featured on a Nissan commercial recently.

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