History of the theatre

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The Woodlawn Theatre originally opened in 1946.  The legendary John Wayne hosted the world premiere of his movie The Alamo here in 1960.  While a venue of esteem and prestige in the 60’s and 70’s, the theatre fell upon hard times and was forced to shut down. Tragically, it suffered many years on life support with multiple owners attempting to resuscitate its former glory. But now, the theatrical resurrection of the Woodlawn Theatre as a live performance venue is well underway.

Woodlawn Theatre, Inc. is a newly formed (2012) non-profit organization devoted to creating opportunities for its surrounding community by providing quality, entertaining, educational, and affordable programming for all ages. Our mission is to assist in sustaining the tradition of theatre while contributing to the lives of local artists, and to enrich the community by encouraging young adults to participate in the arts.  Key aspects of our outreach include:

– A year-round Children’s Theatre Program (Academy for the Performing Arts) to educate and train the “stars” of tomorrow, today.

– A year-round Main Stage Program to entertain the San Antonio region with quality, entertaining, educational, relevant, and affordable programming for all ages.

– An active board of community leaders devoted to renovating the Woodlawn Theatre, providing educational scholarships, and re-acquainting the community with the theatre.

Legends from the past are once again smiling proudly on Woodlawn Theatre.  Its history is being re-written with NEW legends from the Woodlawn Theatre yet to come.

   

About the Architect

The Woodlawn Theatre was designed by John Eberson (1875–1954),an American architect best known for his movie palace designs in the atmospheric theatre fashion.  Eberson’s only other work in San Antonio is the Majestic Theatre.

Born in Czernowitz, Austro-Hungarian Empire (today Ukraine), Eberson went to highschool in Dresden and studied electrical engineering in Vienna. He arrived in the United States in 1901 and at first settled in St. Louis. There, while working for a construction company he designed his first theater, the Jewel, in Hamilton, Ohio. A year later found him living in Chicago, and in 1926 he made his final move, to New York City.

Eberson attained national, and even international acclaim for his atmospheric theatres, many of them executed in exotic revival styles, including Italian Renaissance, Moorish Revival and others. The first of these such theatres is considered to be the Orpheum in Wichita.  “He specialized in depicting outdoor settings with no formal walls and made the whole auditorium a gigantic stage set that enveloped the whole audience.”

Many of Eberson’s later designs, some executed with his son Drew, were in the Art Deco style. In all Eberson designed close to 100 movie palaces, located in dozens of states in the United States.  Others can be found in Mexico City, Mexico as well as in Perth, Sydney and Melbourne, Australia.

A significant number of his nearly 500 buildings have however been destroyed, as redevelopment and changing taste came to consider the style dated.

In 2013, The Woodlawn Theatre was honored with the official title City of San Antonio Historic Structure.

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Russell Rush and his team found some interesting activity at the Woodlawn Theatre. Find out what!

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