Lake Air Cinema Demolished

posted by JV2k4 on June 18, 2004 at 8:34 am

WACO, TEXAS — The glass covered front and the inverted roof of the twin screen Lake Air Cinema that sat behind the Lake Air Mall, became the latest victim of mega-multiplexes.

After a brief asbestos removal, demolition began on June 1, 2004, and wrapped up sometime last week. I am happy to say that all 768 red theater seats, and the 2 projectors were purchased and will be used for another future theatre project in Waco.

Myself, I managed to salvage a trailer from a film which has still yet to be determined, and a fixture from the box office that cashiers use to talk through the window — I don’t know what they are called.

The Cinema opened in 1965 about the same time the Lake Air Mall opened. The General Cinema chain operated it most of its years. The one movie I have memories seeing there was “GREASE”, in 1978. My mom must have taken me to see that movie at least 5 times, and it remains one of my all time favorites.

The time I was in there briefly before demolition helping remove the seats, so many fond childhood memories of that Cinema went through my head. Its ashamed that another piece of Cinema and Waco history is gone, there could have been so many different uses for it, especially when they demolished the original Lake Air Mall and rebuilt it (which I still don’t see the reasoning in that). They should have restored and converted the Lake Air Cinema as well.

The sad thing is that it had a unique 60s style design both interior and exterior, and there is not another building in Waco with that styling such as the the inverted roof, and another sad thing, of all the theaters in Waco’s past, there are only three still standing. The Waco (Hippodrome) Theatre, The Jubilee Theatre, and the 25th Street Theatre.

For a city that claims to cherish its past, such as the historic homes and Texas Ranger Hall of Fame, it has neglected to realize the importance of this aspect of history.

Theaters in this post

Comments (13)

paulaclark on June 18, 2004 at 10:42 pm

I am sorry for the loss you feel. It truly is sad when City officials fail to defend historic properties, and development claims them. It is a constant struggle everywhere, I think, to try to preserve even portions of our past.

Take heart, though, as the memories you have are yours and cannot be taken from you. Sometimes we don’t see the whole picture as to why things happen as they do in our cities, but it is still a shame when a cool place is lost to us. I don’t know if any theatre I grew up with is still standing. I hope to go back and check it out someday!

klebrun on June 19, 2004 at 2:14 am

I am also sorry to hear about the loss of the Lake Air Cinema. While it is not easy to save any type of theater, it seems that theaters built in the 1950’s and 1960’s are even harder to save than an art deco theater. This is just my opinion, but I believe that art deco theaters cater to the art films and theater plays niche, while megaplexes cater to the mall rat niche. But people who like the futuristic designs of the 50’s and 60’s tend to be ignored, as though there is no market for it. I’ve read several articles over the years about developers who find building designs from that era ugly and immediatley want to tear them down, and I feel that is a shortsighted attitude. There are plenty of baby boomers out there that would love to take their spouse or kids to the place they used go to when they were younger. We had a local theater that was built in 1966, and I used to see all of my sci-fi and action movies there and the futuristic design of that theater added so much to the experience. While it was being torn down, I took my 5 year old son with me to watch some of the demolition and he told me that he thought the design of the theater was really cool and he couldn’t understand why they were “killing it”. Unfortunately, he and many other kids of today are stuck with the cookie cutters and will never know what it is like to see a movie in a “real” theater.

Don Lewis
Don Lewis on June 19, 2004 at 10:04 am

Hello Jake Vanek. I feel your pain also. These old theaters represent an era like none other and when gone can never be replaced.
I have photographed the Waco and the 25th Street, but missed the Jubilee. I would very much appreciate an address and directions to it.

Thanks!! Don Lewis

JimRankin on June 20, 2004 at 5:54 am

Jake, you mention the “inverted roof” of the former LAKE AIR; could you e
xplain just what you mean? The single small photo of the facade at: View link
doesn’t seem to help much at showing what you mean; seams like a standard flat roof from what one can see there.

JV2k4 on June 22, 2004 at 6:41 pm

That facade is a mistake…the picture of in cinema tour is a picture of the Hollywood Video on the opposite end of the block to where the Lake Air Cinema sat. What i meant by “inverted” roof is that the ceiling and roof were somewhat higher at the screen and slopped downward towards the front of the building.

Don Lewis
Don Lewis on June 23, 2004 at 2:40 pm

Address correction for Don Lewis

annabelltoo on August 30, 2004 at 2:30 pm

I too will miss the Lake Air Cinema. I felt it had more viability for renovation as a children’s theater, along the design of Linda Haskett’s group Waco Children’s Theater as they do not have a permanent home as of yet.

Jake, please notify me when and if you use the chairs. I’d love to see them again for sentimental reasons.

Jennifer Warren
Theater Buff and Hippodrome Historian

annabelltoo on August 30, 2004 at 2:32 pm

I knew I forgot something. Why doesn’t someone renovate the Texas Theater in McGregor? It still belongs to the widow of the original owner. I am sure she would welcome someone’s input and advice as to what to do to find backers and interested parties. It is one of the oldest theaters still standing in McLennan County. The Texas was built in 1898, but has gone unused since 1985.

Just a thought,

JimRankin on August 31, 2004 at 1:39 pm

Jennifer, not to rain on your parade, but there are countless theatres across the nation that deserve to be “renovated” and some of them are very beautiful indeed, as may be the TEXAS you mention. The sad fact is that buildings cannot long exist as monuments since they must ‘eat’ in the sense of doing something useful to bring in some income to pay their way, at least for taxes and upkeep. Just reading through any number of theatre pages on this site will acquaint you with the hundreds of cries-in-the-wilderness of people heartsick at seeing a beloved theatre decay while no one seems to care — financially. That is the problem: if such places were so easy to renovate or rehab to new use, that would be done by those always seeking a place to ‘make a buck,’ the goal of most Americans. Sad to say, the nature of entertainment has changed from the turn of the 19th Century when the TEXAS and many of its kin were built. Today, electronic entertainment is king, and live entertainment is a poor second, as to expected profit to the people who would have to invest their money into such theatres. Therefore, for the amount of live, true entertainment around, there are many venues seeking them as attractions, and such personalities or groups can pick and choose on their terms as to who will host them. Further, the renovation costs —not to mention true restoration— are often, if not usually, prohibitive; tens of millions of dollars are as nothing to such endeavors, and it takes many years of LOTS of ticket sales to recoup that investment. There are many other investments that can be made by those with money that entail far lesser risk; under such circumstances, if you were an investor (especially one responsible to a group of investors), what would you do?

zfclown on May 8, 2005 at 8:43 pm

I was driving down Bosque today when, for the first time, I realized that they had torn down Lake Air Cinema. While much younger than you(I’m 18), I also have wonderful childhood memories of going there with my older sister and some friends. I was truly sad to see such a wonderfully designed and unique building destroyed for the sake of a shopping strip.

SayWhoRU on September 14, 2005 at 1:10 pm

I started working at the Lake Air Cinema when I was 15 years old and worked there for many years.I have many fond memories of it. I started out as working concessions and ticket. I moved up to assistant manager and working the film projectors. I still cant believe it is gone. I too would have like to see it put to good use such as the Children’s theater. My daughter was 3 years old when it closed down and she has many memories of it. Her favorite is when she was on the catwalk and kept throwing her Little Mermaid doll down to lobby and my mother tossing it back up to her :) I cried when it closed down but am glad I have my memories of what a truly wonderful experience it was for me.

Mike Rogers
Mike Rogers on July 25, 2010 at 5:32 pm

Jake, glad you were able to save something.I did the same thing when two theatres i worked were closed.

Utgrad92 on November 16, 2017 at 7:26 am

I was the Asst. Manager there in the mid 80s. Sorry to see it go, but glad you have some pictures, especially of the “bones”. I remember recovering a lot of those seats. Are they still in storage?

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