David Welling

Cinema Houston: From Nickelodeon to Megaplex (University of Texas Press, 2007)
Over the last century, Houston has had over 250 theatres and more than 25 drive-ins, half of those constructed before 1950. Today, only a handful of those original theatres stand. Only one has survived intact from the twenties, most being either torn down or converted in the name of progress. All of the drive-ins from the last century are gone. Many people can still remember the hours spent inside the opulent Majestic, Metropolitan or Loew’s State before they were razed in the seventies, and the mere mention of the names bring back a virtual flood of nostalgia. The younger audiences, brought up in less awesome venues still carry equally powerful memories of the grand Windsor and Gaylynn, as well as the downsized multi-cinemas and the new breed of megaplexes. Cinema Houston is a concise history of the theatres in Houston, including hundreds of photos, clippings and advertisements of the period.

  The 1923 Majestic
Karl Hoblitzelle’s third and final Majestic is rightly considered to be the greatest movie theatre ever built in Houston. Much of this is due to the design by architect John Eberson, and would stand as the prototype for all of his future atmospheric theatres. Most notable in these theatres was the Mediterranean blue ceiling, inset with twinkling lights and clouds that floated lazily over the heads of the audience.

The Tower Theatre
Opened by Karl Hoblitzelle’s Interstate Theatre chain on Valenties’s Day, 1936, the Tower lasted the decades, first as a movie theate, then as a venue for live performances, before being overhauled into a video store. Photo by David Welling
The 1910 Majestic
Upon the opening of Hoblitzelle’s second Houston Majestic, a Houston Chronicle reporter described the building to be “compared favorably with the gilded palaces of ancient kings.” Houstonians simply called it the “Theatre Beautiful.”
The River Oaks Theatre
In the late seventies and early eighties, the River Oaks Theatre was a movie-lover’s dream come true, with double features of classic films every night. Their schedule was a standard adornment to many refrigerators.

The Capitan Theatre
Phil Isley’s Capitan Theatre in Pasadena opened its doors to the public in 1949. It eventually resorted to running X-rated fare before closing down. It is currently undergoing a restoration for use as a civic center. This picture is from the relighting ceremony in 2000. Photo by David Welling
Main Street theatre row
Over a 10-month period, from December of 1926 to October of 1927, Houston experienced a theatre building boom, centered within a few blocks of main street. The architect connected with these three giants was Alfred C. Finn. These three were the Loew’s State, the Kirby, and the Egyptian-themed Metropolitan.

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