Catch a Glimpse of Austin's Movie Theater Past


Paramount Theatre; Austin Texas

If you're a film lover in Austin, you've probably been to a renovated theater that has a long past of showing movies in town, like the Paramount or Alamo Drafthouse Ritz. Or perhaps you've driven by a business that was obviously a movie theater at some point in the past: the old Varsity at Guadalupe and 24th (now a bunch of chain fast-food joints) or the old Cinema West on South Congress, which has been turned into an office building. We won't even talk about the Arbor Theatre, which is now a Cheesecake Factory.

Austin History Center has a wealth of information about movie theaters in Austin through the ages, and they're going to share it with us, from now through this summer. "The First Picture Shows: Historic Austin Movie Houses" will run until August 19. The exhibit includes "hundreds of historic photographs, documents, and architectural drawings" that portray Austin theater history from the early days of nickelodeons to the current status of many of these buildings as other types of businesses.

AHC is holding a reception on Tuesday, April 3 at 6:30 pm to officially kick off the exhibit. The reception will include a panel discussion with three people quite knowledgeable about Austin theaters. From the press release: "Jay Podolonick's parents founded the Trans Texas Theater Co. in Austin in the 1950s along with his grandfather, Louis Novy, who started in the theater business in 1917. Jim Maloy is a retired projectionist who worked in the movie theater business in Austin for over 40 years. John Stewart is the current projectionist at the Paramount Theater and has worked as a projectionist in Austin for 40 years."

If you want a tiny taste of the many photos in the exhibit, the Austin Chronicle has a photo slideshow on their website. I especially like the photo from the Chief Drive-In at Lamar and Koenig.

[Photo credit: "Paramount Theatre; Austin, Texas" by John Rogers. Found on Flickr, used under Creative Commons license.]