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Opening Night at Pantages Theatre

The Pantages Theatre formally opened on June 4, 1930 with the premiere of MGM’s The Florodora Girl starring Marion Davies.

Opening night at the Pantages Theatre, view from Argyle Avenue (California State Library)

Hundreds of fans lined traffic-jammed Hollywood Boulevard, all hoping to catch a glimpse of their favorite stars: Charlie Chaplin, Joan Crawford, Gloria Swanson in white velvet, Maureen O’Sullivan, Billie Burke and Florenz Ziegfeld, Phyllis Haver in pink lace, Delores del Rio, Marie Prevost, Bessie Love, and more.

Marion Davies and Charlie Chaplin (far right) were two of the dozens of stars at the premiere (Getty Images)

Eddie Cantor served as master of ceremonies and presented Davies—dressed in a powder blue chiffon gown with bow-knot of ermine—with a gold pass to the movie palace.

Fanchon and Marco’s ”Rose Garden” revue opened the show. During intermission, a gong sounded to let everyone know it was time to head back to their seats for the start of the film.

Pantages Theatre's ticket lobby with The Florodora Girl advertisements (California State Library)

Pantages, built by theatrical magnate Alexander Pantages for his sons, was the second-largest theater in the city at 3,000 seats, and the most majestic in the state, with marble and metallic accents throughout. The auditorium has two ceilings: One depicts the sky over which clouds continually shift.

The only person not in attendance opening night was Pantages himself. The Greek-born vaudeville impresario was in jail serving a 50-year sentence for the 1929 rape of 17-year-old dancer Eunice Pringle. In a second trial in 1931, Pantages was acquitted yet financially ruined. The following year, he sold off his theater chain.


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