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Of historic significance, the Texas Theater was the site for the premiere of the first Academy Award for Best Picture recipient, “Wings.” The film was shot in and around San Antonio, primarily at Kelly Field AFB.
Actually the Majestic Stage was adjacent to the Emipre. The two now share back stage areas as a result of the renovation. What is left of the Texas Theater is caddy-corner from the Majestic and Empire. Its facade incorporated into a spec office building built in the eighties that is now serves as the headquarters for AT&T.
The Majestic Metro (formerly the Ritz Theater)
Designed by: William Ward Watkin
These theaters have been closed and have long since been gutted for other uses and to make way for additions to the mall.
The structure and marquee still stand. Only minor changes were made to the exterior such as the addition of aluminum store front windows under the marquee and along the west side of the theater, relocation of the entry to the west side of the structure and the name on the marquee was changed to read “Hollywood Video.” Although efforts were made to retain the integrity of the original exterior the interior space was gutted. The floor was leveled to the street, concession areas and lobbies were removed and a cheap lay-in ceiling was installed in what was the main house of the theater. The stage and penthouse were also gutted, but have been converted into a unique, loft restaurant space. Many expected better redevelopment plans for the building given a similar renovation of a theater located nearby. The Alabama Theater’s re-use as a book store retained much of the existing structure’s art deco interior and exterior features.
SBC does not own nor did they develop the office complex that included the demolition of the Texas Theater. SBC leases space in the thirteen story building that sits on the Texas Theater site for its corporate headquarters. The original developer, RepublicBank of Texas, hired the firm of Ford, Powell & Carson (ironically known in part for lead principal, O'Niel Ford’s preservation work) to design this Riverwalk facing, three building complex, then known as RepublicBank Plaza.
The San Antonio Conservation Society did try and save the theater and went to great lengths to do so. They even promoted a scheme by noted architect Michael Graves (now known more for his cheap clocks, teapots and egg timers at Target than for his architecture). In the end the Texas real estate, petrochemical and banking industry soon went belly up and like the plans for the final building, a 30 story 600,000 sf tower, RepublicBank disappeared almost overnight.
To this day, some 22 years later, the site for the 30 story tower still sits vacant and the site, now simply known as ‘The Plaza’ sits as painful a reminder of lost memories and the many unfulfilled dreams of Texas' oil boom days of the 1980’s.
I think it is safe to say that the north central and northwest suburban areas of the San Antonio metropolitan area is going to be saturated by new screens. The south and east sides (mostly Latino and black populated) of this city of 1.2 million (US Census 2004) have been historically under served. Perhaps this explains why one of a handful of operational drive-ins, the Mission is still a profitable venture. There is no better alternative to see first run theaters on that side of the city.
This theater is now, in association with the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and the The Smithsonian Institution, will be a part of The Alameda National Center For Latino Arts & Culture which will showcase educational programs, films, performing arts in the theater as well as exhibits in an adjacent museum, Museo Americano. The project is scheduled to be completed in late 2005.
The following information about the theater’s interior architecture and murals is taken from www.smithsonian.org:
“The Alameda was one the first organization to sign an implementation agreement with the Affiliate Museums. To date, this multi-faceted affiliation has included an international conference coordinated as a collaborative effort between the Alameda and the Smithsonian’s Office of Community Affairs (now, the Smithsonian’s Center for Latino Initiatives). A recently completed study of the paintings in the historic Alameda Theater by the Smithsonian Center for Materials Research and Education suggests the artworks are an international treasure, possibly the largest existing example of a brief trend in theatre design that flourished in the ‘40s and '50s, during the last hurrah of the great movie palaces. The Smithsonian study will be presented this fall at the conference of the International Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works at the new Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain, a prestigious gathering of art conservators from around the world. The affiliation is also involving the long-term loan of artifacts and works of art for the museum’s inaugural exhibitions.”
You can find pictures of the interior of the theater at the theater web site www.majesticempire.com or www.lascasasfoundation.org
Web site with more pictures www.majesticempire.com
This movie house was converted into a spec office building in the late 80’s. Although the building has been converted and large windows penetrate the old theater walls, the marquee and Broadway sign remain without the neon lighting.