Laurel Theater

2310 San Pedro Avenue,
San Antonio, TX 78212

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majorjerryusmc
majorjerryusmc on May 17, 2018 at 7:20 am

I worked as an usher at the Laurel 1949-50. Doug Naylor and Bob O'Donnell were the managers at that time. I met my wife at the Laurel. She was a cashier. We have been married for 64 years and we have alwys thought the Laurel was part of our lives.On a serious note the there was fire in the projection booth shortly after the theater opened (1939 I think). It was during the showing of Pride of the Yankees which was the Lou Gehrig story. Film was highly flammable and something went wrong. Anyway, I remember watching “The Great Caruso” many times. Also, I recall when the Marx Brothers “A Night at the Opera” played to SRO night after night. Admission was 75 cents and popcorn cost around 25 cents. We had a kiddie matinee on Saturdays and it was a fairly rough crowd. Kept the balcony open which was probably a mistake. Lot’s of other memories like going to Sommers Drug Store on the corner having a soda or ice cream. They actually had a soda fountain which has disappeard in the USA. We have a photo showing my wife and I dancing with the Laurel superimposed in the background. We are dancing in the middle of San Pedro avenue. Lots of other memories. A comment that I read mentioned Tom Sumner as a manager. He actually was the owner of the Laurel, Woodlawn and Josephine Theaters. I think he bought the Laurel and Woodlawn from Interstate Theaters who owned the Laurel when I was there.

Joe_R
Joe_R on October 29, 2017 at 2:52 pm

It was a wonderful experience working there as an usher in 1950 and 1951. Mr Tom Sumners was the manager.

The hard work was carrying 100 Lb sacks of popcorn from the storage room to the concession stand, but it gave a chance to smile at the pretty girl there.

Sometimes we carried the film canisters to the projection booth from the delivery truck outside. I was always awestruck by the brightness and loud crackling sound of the arc in the projectors.

The main job was showing people to good seats, doing it quietly and holding the flashlight down low so as not to disturb other people.

I got “promoted to assistant treasurer” which meant that I totaled up the day’s cash and wrote it in the book at the end of the day. Mr Sumners then put the cash in the safe to go to the bank.

My pay was 50 cents per hour.

We met lots of different types of people, coming and going, and we saw many great movies. We saw them dozens of times each, so we got to know them well. I especially remember “Showboat” and “The Tales of Hoffman”, superb dramas and wonderful, powerful music.

I was in the lobby when two Catholic priests had a discussion with Mr Sumners about “Showboat”, remarking that Ava Gardner’s blouse was too low in front.

One time there was a delay in the film truck arriving with the first movie for a double feature, so I had to go up on stage and make a brief announcement to the audience — that the second movie would come in front of the first movie, and the first movie would come after the second movie. Perhaps I got that right, but I was nervous in my first time speaking to a large audience.

What a superb experience for a young kid, growing up.

Jim Miller
Jim Miller on December 20, 2015 at 5:55 pm

The Laurel, then known as the “New Laurel” was the first theatre in San Antonio to install Dolby stereo! The first movie to play in Dolby stereo was 1975’s “The Killer Elite” with James Caan.

Dan
Dan on May 28, 2015 at 8:26 am

Great stuff Sam.

Samalama
Samalama on April 14, 2015 at 5:05 pm

I worked there in ‘66 – ‘68 as an usher. Alvin Kruger was the manager. Powers owned it along with the Woodlawn and Texas Theaters. Candy girls were Judy & Debbie Hedtke, Beverly Gail Kruger, her sister Becky (Alvin’s daughters), Jenny Quan and Janet Dreslin. Ushers were Wayne Sholtz (who married Beverly), Charles Barley, Steve Keller (joined the Coast Guard and maybe went to 'Nam.) Keith Hoechten. There were others I can’t remember.

I saw Gone With The Wind (over 35 times), In The Heat of the Night with Sidney Portier & Rod Steiger (Academy Award Best Picture ‘68 & inspiration for the TV series); Wait Until Dark with Audrey Hepburn.; The Fox (G rated about lesbians) with Sandy Dennis and Barefoot in the Park among others.

There were windows in the lobby through which you could watch but not hear the movie. Inside the north (left) door to the main room there was a doorbell we would press if the film ran out or was out of focus. It rang a bell in the projection room.

A projectionist was O. B. Thomas who always told us jokes. Projectionists were union and kept to themselves. The projection room had steel guillotine plates over each opening for fire suppression from the old days of celluloid film.

Movies came by courier in heavy film cans the size of a suitcase. The projectionist would unwind them, splice them together into one continuous loop about 4 feet in diameter. The movie would play from that loop situated on a large turntable. The projector used a carbon arc with rods like an arc welder has. Rods were motor fed but projectionist had to constantly tweak the gap.

Across the street and north was the Budha Lounge, a gathering place for gay men. Sometimes, we had to go there to get change for the cashier. It was scary at age 16 to go in there so we usually took someone with us. The bartender would call you “sweetheart”, etc.

Laurel had a ticket sales window on the right as you entered (south west corner). The ushers' changing room was upstairs east of the projection room. We wore uniforms which they provided and kept cleaned. Mr. Kruger’s office was north of the projection room.

I think we closed the balcony sometimes when it wasn’t busy. We sometimes went into the attic to change light bulbs. The screen was perforated with large speakers behind it. The southeast corner had a compressor room for the air conditioners which was multi-level and noisy but a good place to take a break.

We got all of our pop corn from the basement of the Texas Theater. We would drive there periodically and stuff a car with hefty bags of popped corn which we would re-heat and sell. Butter was extra.

There was a marquee over the front facing San Pedro. We changed the plastic letters on it when necessary using a very tall step ladder and a spotter, late at night after everyone left.

Most of the crew were in school. We were close and often spent free time together when we had it. Steve Keller was assistant manager and our natural leader. Kruger was our surrogate Dad. We used to go to Edge Falls or someone’s house to relax together.

I went by it years ago and was sad to see that it had been razed. There was parking south of the building but also one block north— both on the east side of San Pedro. We had to patrol the parking lots as well.

Laurel Theater was my second home, my second family and I’ll cherish the memories no matter what. Sam, 2015

Jim
Jim on March 8, 2012 at 10:58 pm

I worked at the Theatre for about 3 years; usher for 1 and Asst Mgr for 2. If you search other sites you can find Pictures. I was there from 1961 to 1964. Manager was Mr. Kruger. When I was Assistant Mgr. I made sure we had the prettiest Candy Girls (Concession Stand) in town… LOL

I can remember many movies, but the best I actually loved was West Side Story. Can you believe it…. a Musical ! LOL After seeing it many times, I finally really got to enjoy. Oh, I always wore Cowboy boots, not that you would remember, lol.

When I first hired in the Manager was Mr. Blankenship. A Mr. Powers was the BIG boss over the San Antonio chain. Office was over the big theatre downtown close to the SA river.

I graduated from Lee in 62 and also went to SAC before joining the AF in 64

Sad to say, it was torn down in 80’s.

Jim

Mike Rogers
Mike Rogers on April 8, 2011 at 12:32 pm

Beat City,Great story,You had it made,reminds me of a story of a friend who’s dad was a projectioinst in Tampa,During the summer my friend,Michael, would watch double features everynight on the roof of the one of the many Drive-ins in Tampa,hope your grades didn’t suffer,you lucky kid.Lol.

Myshy
Myshy on August 4, 2010 at 9:34 pm

His name was A.C. and he used to take me to the theater all the time when I was a kid, my sisters and I would sit up in the balcony, which was usually roped off and watch movies. I can’t remember how many times I saw Rocky and The Pink Panther movies. I believe they showed Rolling Thunder there as well as One flew over the Cuckoos Nest and Carrie, he did let us watch the end of Carrie when she reached up from beyond the grave. I think they also show The Exorcist there, but he wouldn’t let us watch that one, we left SA in 78 and I was 9 yrs old, so you can see why he wouldn’t let us watch certain movies. I remember going with him to Mr. Braha’s office and there was another guy with silver hair, can’t remember his name right now. I have vague memories of The Aztec, my memories are mainly of the New Laurel, I remember he brought home a lot of promotional stuff, t-shirts, 45’s posters and autographs. After watching movies in the balcony all day he would take us to the Century South to watch more movies, Jaws, Star Wars, The Incredible Melting Man, Manitou etc.

TLSLOEWS
TLSLOEWS on August 4, 2010 at 3:19 pm

Nice vertical on the LAUREL THEATRE.

Mike Rogers
Mike Rogers on August 3, 2010 at 6:32 pm

If you have any stories of your dad please post them.Most of us were theatre managers.

Myshy
Myshy on August 2, 2010 at 9:16 pm

If anyone has any more pics of the place I’d love it if you posted them. My dad’s passed away now and I don’t have many pics of the theater, it’d be crazy if someone had pics of him at the theater.

Myshy
Myshy on August 2, 2010 at 9:14 pm

My dad managed this theater in the 70’s, all the up until 1978. I saw Rocky and all The Pink Panther movies there in the balcony over and over again. It was the coolest thing when you’re a 7 yr old.

gy2020
gy2020 on November 7, 2007 at 9:29 pm

I am correcting myself a second time. It must be age. The Laurel was razed in Sept. 1986 rather than 1987.

gy2020
gy2020 on November 7, 2007 at 8:19 pm

On a previous post I gave the website of the Laurel Theatre and I entered it without cap letters. To go to the site, go to: http://www.satheatres.com/Laurel_Theatre.php

gy2020
gy2020 on November 7, 2007 at 8:13 pm

There are some comments about a fish tank. According to John Igo, the Uptown had a foutain in the lobby. The reason it was in the center of the lobby was due to an incident in the 1930’s. The union was at war with the owners, Community Theatres and set off a bomb in the lobby. With creative thinking, the owners took the hole in the floor which was close to some drain pipes and created a fountain in the center.

gy2020
gy2020 on November 7, 2007 at 8:06 pm

The Laurel Theatre was built by Interstate Theatre Circuit and was designed by John Eberson. It opened in January 1945. The owner was Joseph J. Barshop. It continued to be an Interstate Theatre showing second run movies until it was sold to Maurice Braha in 1978, who renamed it the New Laurel Theatre. Braha closed the theatre in 1982 and razed it in 1987. The theatre had a balcony and the total seating was 918. For more information go to http://www.satheatres.com/laurel_theatre.php
Submitted by Gary W. Yantis, San Antonio Theatres: Now & Then
Eberson also designed the Woodlawn Theatre in San Antonio which opened August 17, 1945. Both theatres were similar in design.

Jim Miller
Jim Miller on June 29, 2006 at 6:44 pm

The Laurel seated 750 people, not 350. It was built in 1940 and was operated by Interstate Theatres, Tom Sumners, Cinema Arts Theatres, Theatre Corporations, and Braha Theatres. It was extremely well built. It was all concrete and steel. It was not an easy theatre to demolish!

Jim Miller
Jim Miller on June 29, 2006 at 6:37 pm

The “New” Laurel was what Maurice Braha renamed the Laurel after he bought and renovated it in the mid 70s. The New Laurel had quite a few exclusive United Artist runs because of problems UA had at the time with some of the other chains. The renovation modernized the Laurel, but took away a lot of it’s charm. It was the first San Antonio theatre to install Dolby stereo!

The Laurel had a small balcony, and never had a curtain in front of it’s massive screen. It was always one of my favorite theatres when I was a kid, and I worked at the Laurel off and on throughout the 70s. When the UA problems with other chains were solved, the New Laurel became a 99 cent theatre.

efrem1
efrem1 on July 3, 2005 at 3:38 pm

The theatre was known back in the mid and late 70s as the place where “exclusive engagements” were held. The CBS affiliate in town KENS ran frequent promotion of releases at “the NEW Laurel Theatre.”

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on May 18, 2005 at 12:16 pm

I went to a good number of very pleasant single-screen theatres in San Antonio in the latter half of 1966 when I was stationed at Lackland Air Force Base. I know I went to the Laurel a couple of times. I can’t remember what I saw, but “The Moment of Truth” is one possibility, and “The Bible” is another. I can’t be sure.

cameocenter
cameocenter on May 18, 2005 at 11:52 am

I tried to buy the Laurel in the early eighties. I was going to adaptively reuse it into lofts, but the owners were adamant about tearing it down so they could get their taxes lowered. Another treasure lost.

Emory
Emory on January 31, 2005 at 7:23 am

Hi Dick:
Even though I was born and raised here in S.A., I was away for many years. Sorry, but I don’t remember the lobby you describe. I’m not even sure I was ever in the Uptown. It was not the Josephine, at least in 1953, because I worked there that year. While the Josephine is not in the Cinema Treasures database, it is in current use as a home for Musical Theatre productions.

DickZ
DickZ on January 24, 2005 at 12:07 pm

Emory,
There was a San Antonio theater that had a large round goldfish tank in the center of the lobby. The outer walls of the tank were black and white tile. I think the theater was either the Josephine or the Uptown. Does this ring any bells with you?

Emory
Emory on December 6, 2004 at 1:46 pm

I worked for Interstate Theaters in the early 1950s, at the Texas, Majestic, Empire, Laurel, and Woodlawn. I was at the Laurel in 1951, so I know it predates that. At the time, it seemed fairly new, so I suspect (but am not sure) that it went up shortly after WWII.

melissasatx
melissasatx on May 29, 2004 at 10:47 pm

I recently came across a picture of the Laurel Theatre and it was a very nice single screen theatre. There were two poster windows on each side. In the picture, the movies that were showing were “Girl Rush” and “March of Time” with a cartoon. Sadly, I read somewhere it is now the parking lot for the school across the street after it was completely demolised. I also thought like Michael and believed it was the structure on the corner with a tall odd tower, but someone informed me that it was incorrect also.