Are you in this picture taken at an Austin movie theater in the 1950s?

Children’s matinees, some with parties, were all the rage at the city’s movie houses.


Mike Miller, archivist and manager of the Austin History Center, has teamed with colleague Susan B. Rittereiser and the center’s staff to produce a lovely and useful small book, “Historic Movie Houses of Austin.”

Chapters cover the earliest informal theaters, including nickelodeons; the era of movie palaces; the Dallas-based Interstate Theater Circuit, which for decades controlled many of Austin’s movie spots; its local rival, Trans-Texas Theaters Inc.; the independents and the drive-ins; segregation and civil rights; and the inevitable “where are they now?” survey.

At a book signing, Miller confessed that his favorite image was taken at the Austin Theater, located at South Congress Avenue and Live Oak Street. It was one of three art deco movie theaters built by the Interstate chain during the 1930s. The other two are the Varsity and the State.

The Austin and the Varsity still stand with marquees, but have been repurposed as offices and shops, while the State was transformed with a stage into a live theater managed in tandem with the Paramount Theatre, which last year celebrated its 100th anniversary.

Back to the Austin Theater picture: Likely taken in the 1950s, it shows an audience of children, mostly Anglo, although those in the balcony could have been otherwise, since that was where minorities were often seated. They are wearing winter clothes, some with hats. A few overalls peek out from jackets. It is clearly one of those children’s matinees staged by many theaters, including the Paramount, especially on Saturdays.

But why are they there? Those Saturday bills included animation, live-action shorts, thrillers and adventure movies. Sometimes they came with a magician or comic. Could it be a birthday party?

If you are at or near retirement age — and you grew up in South Austin — you might be in this picture.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Local

CEO: Apple to donate $2 million to anti-hate groups
CEO: Apple to donate $2 million to anti-hate groups

The CEO of Apple said his company would donate $2 million to anti-hate groups, releasing a staff memo that criticized President Donald Trump and others who claim “moral equivalence” between the white supremacists and counter-protesters last weekend in Charlottesville, Virginia. Tim Cook sent a memo to employees Wednesday, USA Today ...
Tennessee congressman to file articles of impeachment
Tennessee congressman to file articles of impeachment

A Tennessee congressman announced Thursday that he plans to introduce articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump, CBS News reported. "In response to the horrific events in Charlottesville, I believe the President should be impeached and removed from office," Democratic Rep. Steve Cohen said in a statement released by his...
Woman donates school supplies for all students at Texas school
Woman donates school supplies for all students at Texas school

A California woman donated back-to-school items for every student at a Texas school, KWTX reported. "You can't put into words how much that support means,” Rosebud Primary first grade teacher Kendra Lorenz said. Lorenz said she first connected with the donor, who wishes to remain anonymous, through an online organization called ...
Secret Service investigating Missouri lawmaker’s post
Secret Service investigating Missouri lawmaker’s post

The Secret Service is investigating comments made on social media by a Missouri state senator who reportedly said she hoped President Donald Trump would be assassinated, CNN reported. Democratic State Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal's comment on personal Facebook page -- “I hope Trump is assassinated -- was deleted, but it has triggered...
Police: Houston officer in trouble for DWI once posted provocative photos
Police: Houston officer in trouble for DWI once posted provocative photos

A Houston Police Department officer who was recently suspended after being charged with driving while intoxicated was previously in trouble for posting provocative photos of herself online, Chron.com reported.  Stacey Suro, 47, uploaded nearly 100 photographs -- some of them nude -- to the portfolio website ModelMayhem.com, Chron.com reported...
More Stories