El Portal Theatre

5269 Lankershim Boulevard,
Los Angeles, CA 91601

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rivest266 on March 14, 2021 at 4:51 pm

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

monika on September 7, 2009 at 1:52 am

The zip code for this theatre is 91601.

Mike (saps)
Mike (saps) on May 3, 2009 at 11:30 pm

A good portion of the crime thriller “Hard” (1998) seemed to be set in this theater; the killer used it as his lair and had victims on the stage, in the dressing rooms, etc. The place was nearly gutted at the time, with scaffolding inside. They didn’t show the outside, but they showed the proscenium, exits, asbestos curtain, and other interior details. Near the end of the movie, with the police closing in, one of the cops radios in that they’re at the El Portal on Lankershim, so of course I came to CT and looked it up. Voila!

The R-rated movie, which is about a closeted cop on the trail of this killer, is graphic in its sex and violence, and is currently running on the cable channel Here and is available on Netflix. Buyer beware.

vokoban on July 10, 2008 at 2:50 pm

Apparently someone listened to this person’s complaint or a deal fell through….
LA Times (July 24, 1977)

This is a part of a letter to councilman Joel Wachs.
Although I am a resident of Canoga Park, I have many friends in North Hollywood and therefore spend a good deal of my time and leisure there. Certain tragic circumstances have come to my notice in that the old El Portal Theater is being sold and is to be razed shortly and the Guild Theater is to be sold to become a porno house. It would appear that the filth peddlers, being forced out of Hollywood proper, are spreading their disease to the suburbs. Since the only other theater in North Hollywood (the old Lankershim Theater)is also porno, perhaps the City Council should consider making this a “red light district” and bring to the residents the crime, pimping and prostitution that go hand in hand. It seems to me that the theater owners are determined to sell to any get-rich-quick artist who doesn’t give a damn for the residents.

R.A. Simon
Canoga Park

vokoban on July 10, 2008 at 2:35 pm

Here’s a movie listing from Aug. 3, 1927:

Wed., Thurs.-John Gilbert in “12 Miles Out"
Fri., Sat.–"Chang”

kencmcintyre on July 8, 2006 at 4:16 pm

Here is another photo from USC, showing the El Portal in 1937:

Life's Too Short
Life's Too Short on June 12, 2006 at 12:43 pm

It’s kind of a bummer the way they altered it. But it looks like the building is getting good use, and many decorative elements remain. All in all not a bad situation.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on January 9, 2006 at 5:36 am

Here is a photo of Lankershim Boulevard in 1926, with the El Portal nearing completion. (From the USC Archives.)

William on April 13, 2005 at 12:01 pm

You can also see a shot of the marquee in a current State Farms commercial running now.

William on February 28, 2005 at 2:34 pm

It was just some CGI work done on the theatre for the ad client.

teecee on February 28, 2005 at 1:22 pm

Did anyone notice the name of the theater in the Mercedes add shown during the Oscars last night? It said El Portal, but it didn’t look like this theater (it had a vertical marquee). Perhaps just a fictional theater.

Senorsock on February 14, 2005 at 6:46 pm

The El Portal must have been quite a house in the old days. It features a very large stage and what I think used to be their orchestra pit, now covered. The auditorium is a bit disappointing. Like the Egyptian theater, they basically remodeled by tearing out the interior and building two new theaters inside. Like the Egyptian, the main stage has a much steeper rake than the old seats. This allows them to build a smaller theater underneath the seats for the main stage.
If one looks around, one can still see where the original entrances to the auditorium were. This has now been sacrificed to accomodate a bar and lobby area as well as steps to the upper level of seats. Nothing remains of the original ceiling, torn down to accomodate the catwalk and the high rake of seats.
Can’t be sure, but I think Brian might be right and there may at one time have been a small balcony. Be sure to check out the forward exit doors which still have the crumbling plasterwork that looks like it may have been original.

Englewood on January 10, 2005 at 2:19 pm

It might be noted that, the day before El Portal’s grand re-opening, after months (years?) of delayed renovation, the Northridge earthquake hit. It was almost like going back to square one.

JimRankin on May 25, 2004 at 9:14 am

This theatre is one of some 200 that could be described as “Skouras-ized For Showmanship” which is the title of the ANNUAL of 1987 of the Theatre Historical Soc. of America. In the late 1930s through the 1950s, there occurred on the west coast of the United States a phenomenon known as the ‘Skouras style’ in recognition of the oversight of the Skouras brothers in their management of several cinema chains. They employed a designer by the name of Carl G. Moeller to render their cinemas/theatres in a new style best described as ‘Art Moderne meets Streamlined.’ The then new availability of aluminum sheeting at low cost was the principal material difference to this style allowing for sweeping, 3-dimensional shapes of scrolls to adorn walls and facades in an expression that would have been much more expensive and not at all the same in plaster. With the use of hand tinted and etched aluminum forms, the designers could make ornaments in mass production that allowed much greater economies of scale. The ANNUAL also show in its 44 pages how some 20 theatres were good examples of this combining of aluminum forms with sweeping draperies heavily hung with large tassels, and with box offices and facades richly treated with neon within the aluminum forms. Few of these examples survive today, but it was a glorious era while it lasted, and this collection of crisp b/w photos is a fitting epitaph by the late Preston Kaufmann.
To obtain any available Back Issue of either “Marquee” or of its ANNUALS, simply go to the web site of the THEATRE HISTORICAL SOCIETY OF AMERICA at:
and notice on their first page the link “PUBLICATIONS: Back Issues List” and click on that and you will be taken to their listing where they also give ordering details. The “Marquee” magazine is 8-1/2x11 inches tall (‘portrait’) format, and the ANNUALS are also soft cover in the same size, but in the long (‘landscape’) format, and are anywhere from 26 to 44 pages. Should they indicate that a publication is Out Of Print, then it may still be possible to view it via Inter-Library Loan where you go to the librarian at any public or school library and ask them to locate which library has the item by using the Union List of Serials, and your library can then ask the other library to lend it to them for you to read or photocopy. [Photocopies of most THSA publications are available from University Microforms International (UMI), but their prices are exorbitant.]

Note: Most any photo in any of their publications may be had in large size by purchase; see their ARCHIVE link. You should realize that there was no color still photography in the 1920s, so few theatres were seen in color at that time except by means of hand tinted renderings or post cards, thus all the antique photos from the Society will be in black and white, but it is quite possible that the Society has later color images available; it is best to inquire of them.

Should you not be able to contact them via their web site, you may also contact their Executive Director via E-mail at:
Or you may reach them via phone or snail mail at:
Theatre Historical Soc. of America
152 N. York, 2nd Floor York Theatre Bldg.
Elmhurst, ILL. 60126-2806 (they are about 15 miles west of Chicago)

Phone: 630-782-1800 or via FAX at: 630-782-1802 (Monday through Friday, 9AM—4PM, CT)