104 N. St. Mary's Street,
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Aztec Theatre (Official)
Previously operated by: Publix Theaters Corporation
Firms: Meyer & Holler
Previous Names: Aztec on the River
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News About This Theater
- Mar 17, 2004 — Today's Newsreel
The Aztec Theatre was designed by the firm of Meyer & Holler, best known for their set of theatres built for Sid Grauman in Hollywood, the Egyptian Theatre(1922) and the Chinese Theatre(1927).
The Aztec Theatre could originally seat 3,000 when it first opened on June 4, 1926. As its name implies, it was extravagantly and quite exoctically decorated in the Meso-American style (or at least a Hollywood version of it), both in its temple-like auditorium and collonaded lobby.
It cost just under $2 million to build, an outrageous amount in those days for a movie house. Meyer & Holler combined elements of ancient Aztec design with modern touches, creating a stylized ancient American look, complete with polychromed plasterwork, duplicating murals, massive columns and sculputre from ancient Mexican temples.
The centerpiece of the lobby was a three-ton chandelier, two stories tall and twelve feet wide, hailed as the largest in Texas.
In its early years, the Aztec Theatre featured stage shows, including chorus girls, a 26-piece orchestra, an 11-rank Robert Morton (restored by Ed Gaida in 1958), and motion picutres (not long after the theatre opened, it switched to sound, starting with John Barrymore’s "Don Juan" in 1927.)
Though the theatre remained highly popular for many decades, by the 1970’s, it was in decline. On July 2, 1971 it was cut into three auditoriums as the Aztec Triplex, but this only slowed the eventual. In 1989, the Aztec Theatre was closed, and that same year, the theatre was added to the National Register of Historic Places, which helped save it from demolition.
After sitting vacant and falling into disrepair for years, the theatre was acquired by the city of San Antonio in the late-1990’s, and plans were put in place to transform the former movie palace into a showplace along the city’s popular River Walk.
Now known as Aztec on the River, a mixed entertainment venue and retail/restaurant area, the theatre was restored to its 1920’s appearance, the auditorium re-converted into a single screen.
Along the Commerce Street side of the building, rows of stores and eateries overlook the River Walk.
Aztec on the River opened to the public in 2007, however it closed on December 18, 2007, for construction work and anticipated reopening in Spring 2008. This date was put back to Spring 2009, and was further delayed, with a reopening in late-2009 with the San Antonio Rose Show, featuring Country music. This show was still playing in March 2010. The Aztec Theatre was closed by the summer of 2012, but had reopened by 2014.
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