SAN ANTONIO – The Alameda Theater is one of the last symbols of San Antonio’s Golden Age for grand movie palaces.
The theater opened in March 1949 and has stood in downtown on Houston Street for decades.
It was the largest movie palace ever dedicated to Spanish language films and the performing arts.
“It was the Latino theater of San Antonio,” said Councilman Roberto Treviño (D1). “It was the place where all Latino artists could show their movies.”
The Mexican film “Revancha” was the opening movie. Singing cowboy Gene Autry was a surprise guest and sang a popular ballad in Spanish.
Major artists from throughout the United States, Spain, Mexico and other Latin American countries performed at the Alameda.
Unlike many theaters at the time, the Alameda catered to a Spanish-speaking audience and offered desegregated seating.
“I think that is an amazing history to show that this is the kind of place that really represents San Antonio,” said Treviño. “It’s a compassionate city and embraces the beauty of very significant artists in their time."
Some of the Mexico’s cultural icons such as Lola Beltran, Agustin Lara, Pedro Infante and Cantinflas performed at the Alameda.
The stage was so grand, it could accommodate performers on horseback, such as Antonio Aguilar who would ride out on a horse toward the audience.
“Not only was it a showcase of some amazing talent, the theater itself is a great representation of architecture that also speaks to that that history, and in embracing the beauty that is inside those walls,” said Treviño.
That beauty can still be seen in the interior finishes. Most of the inside is original to the 1949 date of construction.
That includes large murals, statues, floral designs, mirror glass finishes and a unique lighting system.
The theater is currently under renovations. Once complete in 2021, the historic theater will be a multi-media arts and live performing center for everyone to enjoy. It will feature the American-Latino multicultural story and diverse programming.
“We want to make sure that we’re providing spaces, modern spaces for those that want to enjoy the modern theater experience while also kind of getting to see some of the historic fabric,” said Treviño.
The goal is to create new memories at the Alameda while connecting the theater’s past to the present.
“A lot of people in San Antonio would agree that they can talk about the time they went with their parents,” said Treviño. “The time they went with friends to to enjoy an amazing event, an amazing movie, a performance. I think this is exactly the kind of thing that we are setting the table for, where we’re getting ready to to begin a new chapter in the life of the Alameda.”