Varsity Theater

2402 Guadalupe Street,
Austin, TX 78705

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kvhagedorn on December 20, 2017 at 4:33 am

I saw several films here in the 80s, including The Gods Must be Crazy and Talkingheads' concert film Stop Making Sense. They had a lot of art-house type films here, and the balcony was unique in that it had been redone as a second auditorium, with a rear projector (or was the rear projector on the first floor?) As I remember, the candy was always stale.

trailerjoh on September 21, 2013 at 4:22 pm

To rdk, it may have played older films towards the end and also showed repertory films but, up until the mid 70’s, they did show first run. The first film I projected there was new to Austin. STRAW DOGS then THE LAST PICTURE SHOW the next day. Showed and saw a lot of first run films there.


rdk on September 21, 2013 at 3:56 pm

Built in the late 1930s by Interstate Theaters Films played the 3rd runin Austin.

Pawnshop on June 28, 2013 at 4:48 pm

I had a room mate in the 90’s who had a friend that worked at the Varsity in 1966. On 1 August 1966 he went to make the theater’s bank deposit and when he tried to come back the police had the area around the UT Tower blocked off (including the theater) because Whitman was shooting from the tower. Hours later he finally made it back to the Varsity and it was shot up pretty bad, including the ticket booth that he worked in. The mural on the side had bullet holes in it until the last time it was restored a couple of years ago.

trailerjoh on February 1, 2013 at 5:10 pm

Found some negatives I took in the 80’s of the mural while it was sorta new. The photo at the top of this page was the mural while Tower Records was in the building. The fire escape was taken down and a window was cut into the south corner of the building. There are 4 detail photos at my link.

Homeboy on January 2, 2013 at 1:32 pm

The restored blade sign was done by Ion Art of Austin Texas. It is 30 x 8 feet. There is an article about the new sign in the June 2012 issue of Signs of the Times.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on June 6, 2012 at 4:21 pm

Hill Country Deco attributes the design of the Varsity Theatre to architect W. Scott Dunne.

joycets684 on June 6, 2012 at 3:49 pm

I believe the 2nd floor version of the “split” varsity was in the early 1980’s. I worked at UT and we went to the Varsity fairly often. During the great Memorial Day Flood of 1981 a Disney cartoon feature (an old one)was showing, and we were there. When we left the theatre the flood was happening and the stop lights were not working or the street lights. I managed to see the street sign “rio grande” and thought that was funny because it was a river, a grand one. I believe in 1981 the movie we saw was on the upper floor, and it had been newly split to 2 floors.

trailerjoh on March 5, 2010 at 9:22 am

Here is a series of photos from the mid 60’s plus one from 1936.

View link

Silicon Sam
Silicon Sam on February 28, 2010 at 1:50 pm

Drove by yesterday, and Intellectual Property (see March 26, 2007 photo) has moved out, and the old Varsity building is currently up for lease once again….

Don Lewis
Don Lewis on April 15, 2008 at 3:37 pm

A 1990 view of the Varsity Theater in Austin.

grinbear on August 17, 2007 at 9:26 pm

The Varsity had a few notable first runs, like Easy Rider and 2001: A Space Odyssey. It was the date night movie house for UT in the 60’s when I was at UT.

Life's Too Short
Life's Too Short on March 26, 2006 at 9:58 am

Sounds like it is gone. Look at the comments shown on the photo posted by Lost Memory Feb 28, 2006.

rorysa on December 12, 2004 at 2:37 am

This was a popular theater on “The Drag” when I was at UT in the ‘70s. I seem to recall its being mainly a revival house. I do not remember its having a second balcony screen during the '70s.

misslauralou on November 23, 2004 at 12:06 am

The Varsity originally had only one screen when it opened on November 20, 1936. The balcony was converted into a second screen in the 70’s I believe. The original sign (no longer there) was nearly 40 feet tall. It was built by the Interstate Circuit chain, under the direction of Interstate’s city manager, Louis Novy. The first film it showed was “The Texas Rangers”. It was a large event locally, complete with a radio broadcast of the opening ceremonies. In addition, the Austin American Statesman ran a congratulatory section for two days about the Varsity. It was considered exceptionally modern by the locals and Austin’s first suburban theater—the Austin American Statesman called it “the new as tomorrow” theater.

Unfortunately, I haven’t yet been able to locate any information about the architect. Will let you all know when I do.