San Antonio Movie Theaters in the Zintgraff Studio Photograph Collection
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.”
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:
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.
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.
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.