The El Capitan Theatre is a fully restored movie palace at 6838 Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood, CA. It is owned by Pacific Theatres and operated by The Walt Disney Company. It serves as the venue for many of Walt Disney Pictures' movie premieres. The television program Jimmy Kimmel Live!, which airs on ABC, originates from a TV studio next door to the El Capitan.
In January 2011, the El Capitan Theatre stood-in for the exterior of The Muppet Theatre during filming for The Muppets. Hollywood Boulevard was closed for two nights on January 18th and 19th to film the final musical number of the film. The shoot involved Mary (Amy Adams) and Gary (Jason Segel) dancing on the street in front of the theater, with several rows of backup dancers and dozens of extras filling the busy street. An on-set photo of the background Muppet characters included Thog, Sweetums, Sam Eagle and Link Hogthrob, among many others. The marquee read "One Night Only - The Muppet Telethon - Live at the Newly-renovated Muppet Theater Hollywood." The theater marquee stood in for the Muppet Theater marquee. In post-production, the "El Capitan" name was digitally removed and replaced with "Muppet."
During filming, an ad for Gnomeo & Juliet (which had yet to be released in theaters at that time) was up on top of a building near the El Capitan. On film, it was digitally replaced with an ad for Pixar's Cars 2. A large "identity disk" promoting Disney's Tron: Legacy was above the theater marquee during filming and was also digitally removed in post-production.
The shoot also involved a helicopter shot from above Hollywood Boulevard. Visual effects producer Janet Muswell Hamilton spoke about how the shot all came together:
“During the day, the helicopter did some test runs. Then I sat with the director and the helicopter pilot, looked at the tests, and decided what we liked. After discussing the angles we wanted and how to achieve them, we knew what would happen that night. We used about 300 extras to fill up the immediate area outside of El Capitan Theatre, which was actually the Muppet Theater in the film. It was pretty late at night and the street was shut down. When the helicopter came in, we knew exactly what he was going to shoot. [Challenges included] Removing the cleat lights and putting them back in. Plus, we had to change the whole front of the theatre and remove our base camp, which was behind the Theatre -- you could see it as the helicopter blew in. We even changed the posters that lined the street to "Cars 2" because it was being released on DVD when the movie was coming out. That shot took a lot longer than we expected, but it was really fun getting all those people in there and making it look so effortless.”
On July 24, 2011, the film crew returned to Hollywood Boulevard to film some re-shoots in front of the El Capitan Theatre.
On November 12, 2011, the world premiere of The Muppets was held at the El Capitan. A slew of Muppets, the film's cast and crew, as well as other celebrities were in attendance.
The Muppets ran at the theatre from November 23rd to January 8th. Before each performance, Kermit and Miss Piggy (large stage puppets recycled from Disney's Honorary VoluntEars Cavalcade) appeared live in a holiday sing-along sponsored by Kodak. All guests received a free Jinglebell bracelet to help them join in the songs.
From November 23 - January 5, 2012, the El Capitan hosted Disney's Most Sensational Muppet Party! at Disney's Soda Fountain and Studio Store (located next door to the theater). The event included the debut of the Muppets Rainbow Connection sundae: "luscious vanilla ice cream surrounded by strawberry syrup, caramel, and a marshmallow rainbow."
During the run of The Muppets at the theatre, an exhibit of Miss Piggy's costumes were displayed. Dubbed "Miss Piggy's Couture Collection", the lower lounge of the theatre featured many of her costumes, including her designer Zac Posen gown and her peep-toed Christian Louboutin pumps. Recreations of Kermit's office and Miss Piggy's Dressing Room were also included, featuring many props from the film.
Muppets Most Wanted
After principal filming for the sequel Muppets Most Wanted finished in London, the crew returned to the El Capitan in May 2013 to shoot the opening scene, which picks up after the previous film's final sequence. As with the previous film, some of the stuff outside was replaced digitally. The "El Capitan" name on the marque was replaced with "Muppet" again. Also, an ad for Pixar's "Monsters University", was replaced with an ad for Disney California Adventure's then-new "Cars Land" themed area.
Muppets Most Wanted also had its world premiere at the El Capitan on March 11, 2014. The film played at the theatre from March 21st to April 17th.
As with the last movie, each screening was preceded by a live sing-along performance with Kermit and Piggy (returning stage puppets from Disney's Honorary VoluntEars Cavalcade). Songs featured in the sing-along included "The Muppet Show Theme," "Hey a Movie!," "Together Again," "Rainbow Connection" and "Mah Na Mah Na".
The El Capitan again hosted an exhibit of props and costumes from Muppets Most Wanted.
- The Muppet webseries Statler and Waldorf: From the Balcony on Movies.com took place in the El Capitan. The opening of each episode started with a quick first-person perspective traveling through the Theatre. Pepe the King Prawn and Lester Possum appeared in various episodes of the show where they interviewed actual people walking the street near the El Capitan Theatre.
- In 2005 the Muppet's official website featured a parody of the El Capitan as a location, titled the El Muppetan.
- Disney Insider, "Going Places No Muppet Has Gone Before", Disney.go.com. April 9, 2012.