Skip to content

San Antonio Movie Theaters in the Zintgraff Studio Photograph Collection

July 16, 2012

The era of elaborate downtown movie palaces and single-screen suburban theaters has passed.  With increasing competition from television and movie rentals, the theater industry responded by building multiple-screen theaters with better sound systems, stadium seating, and other amenities.  The older theaters, were either demolished or converted to other uses.

Fortunately, images of San Antonio’s early theaters have been preserved in our collection.  During the 1930s and into the 1960s, Interstate Theaters and other theater owners commissioned Zintgraff Studio to document their theaters, including the special events held in them.  These representative samples illustrate the distinctive architecture of those structures, built during the “Golden Age of Hollywood.”

Aztec Theater, 104 N. St. Mary’s Street, 1954. (MS 355: Z-1215-C-7)

Harlandale Theater, 5629 S. Flores, 1937. (MS 355: Z-1216-D-1)

Texas Theater, 203 E. Houston Street, 1945. (MS 355: Z-2647-N-20)

Davy Crockett Fan Club waiting outside Majestic Theater for the world premiere of Walt Disney’s “Davy Crockett,” 1955. (MS 355: Z-1218-C-4)

Highland Park Theater, 1833 S. Hackberry, 1937. (MS 355: Z-1216-E-2)

Teatro Nacional and Teatro Zaragoza, 800 block W. Commerce Street, 1937. (MS 355: Z-1216-P-2)

Uptown Theater, Fredericksburg Road at Ashby, 1945. (MS 355: Z-2647-O-1)

Alameda Theater, 318 W. Houston Street, circa 1955. (MS 355: Z-1215-B)

Laurel Theater, 2310 San Pedro Avenue, 1944. (MS355: Z-2647-Q-1)

Additional photographs are on display, through the summer, in the Special Collections Reading Room in JPL Library on Main Campus.  Interviews with people who remember these theaters are available in our Oral History Collection.  Links to a few examples are below:

Almaráz, Félix D. Jr., April 9, 2001

UTSA history professor Dr. Felix Almaraz Jr. discusses San Antonio movie theater history from his boyhood going to the movies on Saturday afternoons to the modern era which has seen restorations of some of the city’s most opulent movie palaces. His recollections cover the era of segregation with separate entrances for “Colored” and an analysis of the importance of Spanish-language films in South Texas.

Shaenfield, Sid, August 9, 2002

Sid Shaenfield discusses his personal history and knowledge of movie theaters in San Antonio, where he began as an usher before becoming a manager and includes the effects of desegregation in the 1950sand 1960s and the impact on attendance caused by television.

Winn, George, September 16, 2002

Born in 1932, George Winn discusses attending movies during segregation, including the Cameo theater on the eastside of San Antonio which was not segregated and the Majestic which had a separate elevator for Black patrons.

Visit our digital collections web site to see more oral histories on the history of theaters in San Antonio.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Norma Monroe permalink
    September 18, 2012 10:44 pm

    I lived two blocks from Harlandale theater. My brothers and I paid 10 cents and later twenty -five cents before it closed forever. So then we had to ride the bus down town to the others to see any movies.

  2. February 11, 2014 1:20 pm

    The Harlandale theater actually only charged 9 cents. They said if they charged more they would have to add tax to it and they didn’t want to. For 15 cents we could see a double feature, a serial, a newsreel and 2 cartoons and eat a bag of candy–with a penny left over!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: