Skip to main content Skip to footer site map

BWW Feature: My Magical Retro Movie Experience at the El Capitan Theatre


Shari takes you along to the West Side Story Opening Night Fan Event at the iconic movie theater!

As a kid growing up in Los Angeles, the greatest movie town in the country (if not the world), I remember how special it was to attend Saturday movie matinees with my cousins in the late 50s and early 60s as it was one of the few times we were allowed to go anywhere without an adult along to supervise us. Of course, now I realize as much as it was a totally fun way for us, the same was true for our parents, offering them a break from us for a few hours! Those big, movie theaters in the West Los Angeles area included the Stadium, Picfair, and Lido on Pico Blvd., and sometimes the Meralta in Culver City or the Paradise in Westchester. A few are still in existence, having been renovated for other use, while others are just places which exist in my memory each time I drive by their former locations.

BWW Feature: My Magical Retro Movie Experience at the El Capitan Theatre

But it was not until I attended the special Dapper Opening Night Fan Event on Thursday, December 9th just prior to the December 10th opening of WEST SIDE STORY at the El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood that those childhood memories were rekindled, thanks to the magical retro world created not only within the theater but the neighborhood itself. Just being at Hollywood and Highland created a mystical world of entertainment on its own, with not only the twinkling lights of the El Capitan assaulting your senses, but also the famous hand and footprints in the cement in front of the (formerly known as) Grauman's Chinese Theatre across the street, which also got me remembering C.C. Brown's hot fudge sundaes next door. I still remember trying to get every single drop of hot fudge out of the pourer before allowing the waitress to take it from me!

Then there are the Hollywood Walk of Fame pink stars in the sidewalk, each with a name of well-known icons from all areas of entertainment for you to recall as you tread over them. Memories galore! And last but not least in the Hollywood/Highland complex across the street is the Dolby Theatre, which hosts the Academy Awards each year as well as live theatre events and television tapings. No doubt every tourist who visits Los Angeles makes this corner a necessary stop on their vacation here.

BWW Feature: My Magical Retro Movie Experience at the El Capitan Theatre

But back to the retro childhood movie theater experience within the El Capitan. Tickets are still picked up in the original one-person box office in front of the theater, just as we did as kids buying our tickets for as little as a dime. I remember how a quarter could buy my ticket, popcorn, candy, and even a soda when I was kid. And of course, now it's necessary to show proof of vaccination and a photo ID for entrance, as well as allowing your belongings and yourself to be screened before you get inside, nothing that was ever needed for me as a kid. True, times have changed and that lost innocence is something to be celebrated by those of us who can remember much safer and simpler times.

For WEST SIDE STORY on Fan Night, we were treated to buckets of popcorn and allowed to add our own liquid butter, which could be well mixed thanks to the top on each bucket. But rather than a soda, complimentary themed mocktails named for the Jets and Sharks were offered to each patron. Costumes from the movie (for Maria, Tony, Anita and Bernardo) are on display along with movie stills in which in appears. And of course, there are photo ops indoors and outside of the movie logo, which anyone seeing this incredible movie will surely take and immediately post on social media. Yes, of course I did!

BWW Feature: My Magical Retro Movie Experience at the El Capitan Theatre

But it was once we sat down that the true retro movie experience began, thanks to the Wurlitzer Pipe Organ played live by masterful musician Rob Richards which filled the theater with tunes from past movies including The Godfather, Sound of Music, Mary Poppins and spooky tunes from other Disney movies, and lastly "Tonight" from WEST SIDE STORY before both musician and pipe organ descended into the stage floor. The music alone had me remembering listening to (usually pre-recorded) music as we waited for the pre-show festivities to begin prior to each Saturday's kid matinee feature(s).

As we entered the theater, we were each handed a raffle ticket and reminded to "please don't lose them" and be ready for the prize drawing. How could I forget those magical raffle drawings when I was a kid, longing for my number to be called (which it was just once) no matter what my prize might be, from a Sugar Daddy sucker to Red Hots or Milk Duds? Certainly, the excitement of staring at our raffle tickets as numbers were called put me right back into the past experience of doing so, although now reading glasses are necessary. And how exciting it was for those who ran down the aisle with their winning ticket to claim their prize!

BWW Feature: My Magical Retro Movie Experience at the El Capitan Theatre

Then it was time for the movie! As a child (and even a teenager), I remember watching the large velvet curtains protecting each screen as they parted just as the movie was about to begin. Even the sound of the curtains opening across the rod above was a special sound associated with a movie opening back then. But the El Capitan ups that ante with not one but three curtains, each filled with twinkling lights, all of which disappear into the ceiling in succession as applause fills the auditorium!

Each of these moments had me ready with not only excitement but much anticipation, just knowing a magical movie was about to fill my senses. And certainly, this more modern take on perhaps one of the most iconic movie musicals of all time, directed by Academy Award® winner Steven Spielberg, from a screenplay by Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award® winner Tony Kushner, with incredible music and lyrics by Leonard Bernstein and Steven Sondheim, incredible choreography, cinematography and costumes, will go down winning many well-deserved accolades and awards.

For parents ready to introduce their young children to the movies, this is the one to see at the El Capitan Theatre. And for those of us wishing to recall pleasant memories from our own childhoods, this is the place for you to see Twentieth Century Studios WEST SIDE STORY, which recounts the classic tale of fierce rivalries and young love in 1957 New York City starring Ansel Elgort (Tony); Ariana DeBose (Anita); David Alvarez (Bernardo); Mike Faist (Riff); Brian d'Arcy James (Officer Krupke); Corey Stoll (Lieutenant Schrank); Josh Andrés Rivera (Chino); with Rita Moreno (as Valentina, who owns the corner store in which Tony works); and introducing Rachel Zegler (Maria.) Moreno - one of only three artists to be honored with Academy®, Emmy®, Grammy®, Tony® and Peabody Awards - also serves as one of the film's executive producers and sings "Somewhere" in the movie. It is rated PG-13 for some strong violence, strong language, thematic content, suggestive material and brief smoking.

El Capitan daily showtimes from December 10th through December 12th are 11:30AM, 3:15PM, 7:00PM and 10:45PM. Daily showtimes December 13th through January 2nd, 2022 are 12:00PM, 3:45PM, and 7:30PM. Showtimes and dates are subject to change. Tickets are now on sale at and at All seats for this engagement are reserved: $28 VIP (includes Hat, Tote, 64oz popcorn) $17 Adult, $14 Child (3-11)/Senior (60+).

The El Capitan Theatre has taken enhanced health and safety measures to its guests and cast members. All guests must follow posted instructions while visiting the El Capitan Theatre. For health and safety information including theatre policies and procedures visit

Photos courtesy of The El Capitan Theatre

Related Articles View More Costa Mesa Stories

Buy at the Theatre Shop

T-Shirts, Mugs, Phone Cases & More

From This Author Shari Barrett