Tuesday, October 16th, 2007

Rio Grande Theatre

Rio Grande Theatre, Main Street, Las Cruces.

In 1925, the Hacker Hotel was torn down to provide a site for The Rio Grande Theatre. An El Paso architect, , 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.

The theatre opened on July 29, 1926 with the film (a silent film), directed by and staring and .

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 .

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 , 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 , 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 “.” (A “ghost light” is a single bulb burning on a dark stage, an old English tradition.)

Some photos of the restored ceiling:

(Historial information provided by the Dona Ana Arts Council.)

See Also
Screen With A Voice – A History of Moving Pictures in Las Cruces, New Mexico
Rio Grande Theatre – More History.
Las Cruces Gets Talkies.

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6 Responses to “Rio Grande Theatre”

  1. March 24th, 2008 at 1:21 am

    Stephen Toepel said:

    Absolutely gorgeous. My one question was the original ticket booth trimmed in, what looks like to me, aluminum around the windows? And did the entire structure have to meet the standards of your county historical society? I am a builder/restorer and am well aware of the time that is add-
    ed to a project having to work with the HS. But too, it is worth it due to thier care and knowledge.

    The time, thought and overall care and craftmanship that went into this project shows in every facet. You can be most proud.

  2. July 7th, 2008 at 7:25 am

    Hamza Nassrallah said:

    I love Mexican art

  3. November 16th, 2009 at 3:09 am

    Randolph Man said:

    Was the Rio Grande Las Cruces’ first movie theatre? In Santa Fe the first theatre built expressly fo movies was the Paris in 1914, but the Elks Theatre (1909) functioned as a part-time movie theatre as well as a live venue until it became virtually full-time movies in 1914 in competition with the Paris under thename of the Kays. Does anybody know when the irst movies played in Las Cruces and where?

  4. November 29th, 2009 at 2:40 am

    Cruces said:

    The Rio Grande was not Las Cruce’s first movie theatre. There were quite a few that proceeded it, including a drive-in theatre. I will write the history of these earlier theatres as soon as I get enough time. — Admin

  5. May 1st, 2010 at 12:05 pm

    louisiana said:

    Nice Post, thank you so much.

  6. November 10th, 2010 at 5:57 am

    David Moran said:

    A flood of memories from these photos. I watched many movies at the Rio Grande theater as a child (1960’s). Entry cost at one point (for children) was a couple of empty milk cartons.

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