Waco Hippodrome Theater
724 Austin Avenue,
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The Hippodrome was built in 1913 as a vaudeville theater by a group of Waco businessmen organized by Thomas P. Finnegan.
Opening night, February 7, 1914, featured a live seal act, a five piece orchestra and a magic act. Tickets were ten cents for adults, five cents for children, and box seats were a quarter. The theater was operated by Mr. H.P. Hulsey & known affectionately known by Wacoans as “Hulsey’s Hipp”.
As the era of vaudeville came to an end, the Hippodrome became a Paramount-Publix silent movie theater. As an affiliate of Paramount, the theater operated as the Hippodrome until a fire occurred in 1928 in the projection booth, which destroyed much of the front of the building.
The consequent renovation resulted in the Spanish Colonial Revival style that visitors now see. The popular theater reopened in 1929 under new management with a new name, the Waco Theater.
The facility remained in use, undergoing three additional renovations in 1936, 1961, and 1971. In the late ‘70’s, as an increasing number of customers turned to newer movie theaters in suburban areas, the theater closed. The Hippodrome remained unused until 1980, when the Junior League of Waco took on the project of restoring the Waco Theater in response to the need for a performing arts center.
Between 1981 and 1986, community volunteers, the Junior League of Waco, and the Cooper Foundation contributed $2.4 million dollars and countless hours of dedication to undertake the restoration.
On Feb. 28, 1987, the Waco Hippodrome Theater reopened and is now listed on the National Registry of Historic Places. The facility is operated by the Waco Performing Arts Alliance, a community-based non-profit organization which manages the facility for the benefit of the people of Waco and Central Texas. The Hippodrome is a Broadway touring presenter and also showcases nationally known children’s shows through its New Horizons Family Series. The theater is also available for use by the community for various rental venues as well.
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