The Plaza Theatre was going to be torn down and turned into a parking lot, but thanks to the community, it’s still standing and has provided many great memories for El Pasoans.
While the theatre is now the headquarters for Broadway shows and celebrity artists in El Paso, it wasn’t always that way.
“Mostly for films, but then there were vaudeville acts and there were traveling shows… one man shows that would just travel from city to city a little bit more vagabond,” says Ryan Lympus with El Paso Live.
The theatre opened in 1930. It’s elaborate Spanish decor and ushers made it a magical experience for guests. According to Lympus, back then it was the largest theatre of its kind between Dallas and Los Angeles.
“In the past the theatre was the place to come to in the city of El Paso… what is a shame is all the time it wasn’t here and wasn’t open,” Lympus says.
By the 1950s, the theatre’s popularity declined, due to the arrival of television, drive-in theaters, and families moving outward. The theatre went vacant for many years.
“The community foundation here in El Paso worked a deal with the city and the developer, and if they could raise a million dollars in six weeks, they could take over and purchase the plaza theatre, and that’s exactly what they did,” says Lympus.
The Plaza Theatre was eventually donated to the city of El Paso and then became a private-public partnership with the El Paso Community Foundation in 2002.
“In the last ten years we’ve hosted thousands of performances.. we’re just about to cross over the million patron mark,” Lympus told News Channel 9.
Since the revamp, the theatre has held many successful events including the El Paso Film Festival, Michael Bublé and two tours of Wicked. The plaza hosts public tours every Tuesday at noon.