Arbor 7 Cinemas

10000 Research Boulevard,
Austin, TX 78759

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The Arbor Cinema 4 originally opened as a four screen theatre on July 3, 1985 by Presidio Theatres. In 1989 three more screens were added. There was no expense held back on the construction and design of this theatre.

The poster cases on the exterior of the building were unique in that they were outlined with a white colored brick and came to a point like a steeple over each with a large “P” engraved in the brick above each case.

The main entrance had three sections that also had the steeple effect at the top of each. At the top of each was a section of stained glass. There was canvas balloon styled awnings over each of the the three entrances. Above the box office there was a round section of stained glass with the “P” in them for Presidio.

The theatre had a large lobby with the restrooms on a second level with a balcony overlooking the lobby. The lobby ceiling ws done in a sky effect with clouds and twinkling stars.

The concession stand had five stations and had a red and white awning over it.

Two of the auditoriums were equipped for 70mm and THX certified. Seating was slightly elevated and featured high back seats with retractable arm rests. All in all this was a first class theatre unlike many of the other multiplexes.

Contributed by Chuck Van Bibber

Recent comments (view all 14 comments)

pkrouse
pkrouse on January 3, 2005 at 6:48 pm

Just to chronicle the whats and whys — the northwest Austin area “originally” had the Arbor 4 and at some point it was turned into the Arbor 7, run by Regal Cinemas. Sometime around then, the Great Hills 8 was opened a couple of blocks away, run by GCC. I don’t remember which came first — the Great Hills 8 or the Arbor upgrade. Both theaters featured first-run films. So then, the Gateway 16 opened and the Arbor 7 immediately switched to art house fare. Things couldn’t get any better at that point — so they got a little worse. GCC filed for bankruptcy, closing the Great Hills 8. Then things got MUCH worse — the Arbor 7 was closed, gutted and turned into a Cheesecake Factory. At this point we had a dead theater, unoriginal food and nothing nearby showing art house films or alternative films. Finally, Regal Cinemas took over the old Great Hills 8, calling it the Arbor at Great Hills. It shows art house films. We still have the Gateway 16 for first-run films, so northwest Austin is looking pretty decent theater-wise.

wparr69
wparr69 on May 6, 2005 at 8:10 am

“Two of the auditoriums were equipped for 70mm and THX certified.”

Actually 3 theatres were equipped for 70mm THX, Auditoriums 2,3 and 4. Auditoriums 2 and 3 had waterfall curtains in them. Auditorium 1 was originally built as a mono house.

trailerjoh
trailerjoh on October 11, 2006 at 4:41 pm

In answer to your comment of which came first, “I don’t remember which came first — the Great Hills 8 or the Arbor upgrade.” Great Hills 8 came first. Opened July 89 and a short time later, Arbor added the 3 new screens. I was projectionist at the GH8 but I don’t remember exactly the year the Arbor expanded.

It took a little while to get all the legal stuff out of the way and make plans for the remodel job at the GH site or I’m sure they would have opened sooner after we closed. GCC had not cratered yet when we close but were close. Many theaters were closing due to all the new modern screens opening up. It was cut throat city.

jayology
jayology on September 15, 2009 at 2:33 pm

I worked at the Arbor Cinema 4 in the summer of 1985, and I’m awfully sorry to hear it’s gone. We took a lot of pride in this theater. Chuck’s description is spot on, except that I’m pretty sure the Arbor opened its doors in the late spring of ‘85. I started there a few weeks after the grand opening, and this was my summer job after I graduated from high school, so I’m certain of the year.
Another unique feature in the lobby was the concierge station. It was located toward the front and was on your right, across from the concession stand, as your entered the lobby. There was always a manager posted there to keep an eye on things and answer questions from theater-goers and staff. I can’t say that I’ve seen anything like this in other theaters.
The decor in the lobby was supposed to evoke the courtyard of an Italian villa, or so I was told. I seem to recall that the outside of the elevator shaft was made to look like a clock tower, but I could be mistaken.
I do remember those very sleek, comfortable seats, which were designed by Porsche Designs.
Keep in mind this is 24 year-old hearsay, but I was told that Presidio originally planned to have more than 4 screens there. I don’t know how it was supposed to be laid out, but it seems like this was the reason the restrooms were upstairs, off the balcony.
The big movie that first summer was Back to the Future, and staff favorites were Silverado and Weird Science. Explorers was the stinker. People were constantly walking out of that one, and we had to issue a lot of refunds.
Anyway, it was a great place to work. I had hoped it was the beginning of a trend for more elegant movie houses, but that doesn’t seem to be the case.

johncoeland
johncoeland on September 18, 2009 at 11:21 pm

I worked for Presidio Theatres as a manager from 1985-1987. I was based at the Lakehills Cinema 4 in south Austin. Arbor opened summer of ‘85. Jay, you’re right, the elevator shaft was designed to look like a clock tower in an Italian or European courtyard. It was the jewel of the Presidio circuit! Presidio set out to build the finest theatres in the country, and in my opinion, achieved that goal during its short lifetime. If any Presidio alumni out there read this, I’d LOVE to reconnect! The Presidio Legacy lives on to this day in the way some circuits do business. For example, Presidio was the first circuit to post the manager in the lobby at the concierge station. Loews copied that idea with “Guest Service” stations located in each lobby. GCC did too. Now that AMC has absorbed both companies, we have that original idea in nearly ALL of our locations. I am currently a manager at the AMC Loews 600 North Michigan 9 in downtown Chicago. Would really enjoy hearing from a blast from the past, so to speak!

Regards,
John Oeland

jrpaperstack
jrpaperstack on September 3, 2013 at 10:32 pm

This theater was so nice when it opened that my parents always dragged me to it, even though the indoor clouds terrified me and we lived in the middle of the city. I enjoyed its art house run as well.

kvhagedorn
kvhagedorn on December 20, 2017 at 2:18 am

This was a very posh theater, with good sound systems, but not as well-engineered for sight lines as the Americana was (few were.) I remember seeing Lawrence of Arabia in its restored release here, which was a TREAT. That movie was actually shot in 65mm (the prints were 70mm, as was shown at this release,) and as you can imagine, the restored film was gorgeous, and they gave it the full treatment at this theater. Great showing! I also recall seeing Silverado and a few other films at this place, and it was always a top-notch movie house. It was built around the same time as the Lincoln 3 and a bit after the Southpark 3, so Presidio had 3 first-rate THX theaters with sound systems that put everything else to shame at the time.

rivest266
rivest266 on March 11, 2018 at 1:47 pm

7 screens on December 21st, 1990. Another ad in the photo section.

MSC77
MSC77 on March 29, 2018 at 9:21 am

I’m passing along the link to a new historical article about large format presentations at this and other Austin cinemas.

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