Tuesday, October 16th, 2007
In 1925, the Hacker Hotel was torn down to provide a site for The Rio Grande Theatre. An El Paso architect, Otto H. Thorman, was hired to design the theatre, which is built of adobe. A “washed air” cooling system was installed — which must have been very rare in New Mexico then.
Prices for movies were 40 cents for the main floor, 30 cents for the balcony, and 15 cents for children.
In 1933, the theatre burned, but it was rebuilt and restored, even though it was the Great Depression.
The theatre remained in operation until 1997, when it was closed as no longer economically viable. It was feared it would be destroyed or put to another use.
The theatre was saved by the generosity of the descendents of one of the original owners, who donated the portion they owned (thank you!), and the Dona Ana Arts Council, which raised the money to purchase the rest and to restore the theater.
The restoration process began in 2001 and the was completed sufficiently by 2005 for a grand opening.
The marquee, restored to its original look.
The original facade was covered some time in the 50s. When the new front was removed, the original decorations, although damaged, were discovered. In a 1933 newspaper article, the decorations are described as “color combinations of reds, yellows, and blues.” They are almost completely restored, except for these few:
Here’s the restored ticket booth:
The beautifully restored interior now seats 422:
Notice the “ghost light.” (A “ghost light” is a single bulb burning on a dark stage, an old English tradition.)