TEXAS Theatre History
- Built: 1912
- Age: 96
- Closed: February 1983
- Seats: 511 total
- Original Seats: 44
- 1936 Vintage Seats: 120
- Projectors: 2 Super Simplex with Carbon arcs
- Audio: Simplex
- Speaker System: Altec A5
- Wurlitzer: Auto Player piano from the silent era
Twenty-five year old Jake H. Smith came from Atlanta, Georgia, to McGregor, Texas, in 1900. He married and went into the lumber business, but he watched with interest as traveling troops came to town, put up tents and performed for large audiences.
He decided to erect a permanent place for shows, and in 1912 built a fifty foot by one hundred foot brick building with a large stage, a balcony, and some 300 seats. He called it the Opera House, and planned for silent movies and dramatic productions. Backstage were dressing rooms; the stage had footlights and scenery for both outdoor scenes and an indoor paneled drawing room.
There were glass doors all across the front, and the ticket office was inside the lobby, placed so that the ticket seller could look through a glass window and see the movie.
During the early years of the Opera House, dramas were produced each year with a talented amateur cast of local business men and their wives. Often directors from New York City came through on tour with costumes and play books. They rounded up a cast and put on truly professional works. Young local music and dance students performed between acts.
Once a western movie star appeared on stage with his horse. The most memorable part of his act was when his horse tried to eat the painted scenery.
The High School Senior Class plays were staged here until 1936 when a new gymnasium with a stage was completed at the school. That was the end of the stage plays at the Opera House.
When movies began to talk, the sound was on a large record which could be set to synchronize the voices with the lip movements. Soon sound track was added to the film itself, requiring new equipment and sound systems. Then 3D pictures became the rage, requiring huge film reels and cardboard glasses.
Jake Smith modernized the building exterior in 1936 and changed the name to the Texas Theatre. He died in 1937, and his widow continued to run the theatre until her death in 1943. Their son, Henry F. Smith, was serving in the army when he inherited the theatre, and his wife, Margaret, handled it until he returned in February 1946, after the end of World War II.
At that time, the building exterior was changed again to gain office space and a roomier lobby. New seats were installed downstairs, but a portion of the balcony retains the 1912 ornate iron standards and wooden seats.
The show was running seven days a week, with matinees on Saturday and Sunday. With the advent of television and with the change of the movie industry to more R and X rated movies, the theatre gradually became a weekend operation. R and X rated movies were never shown.
On July 12, 1975 to kick off the McGregor Bi-Centennial year, Henry Smith ran a nostalgic 10 cent movie and sold 10 cent popcorn and soda water.
In 1982, Mr. Smith reluctantly closed the doors on the old theatre.
The theatre was one of a number of old theatres featured in the December 1995 Texas monthly article on “The Last Picture Shows.” The photo of the lobby and popcorn machine from this article appears in the book The Pictures of Texas Monthly 25 Years. A history of the theatre and photos are also included in Richard Schroeder’s book Lone Star Picture Shows.
History Written by Co Authors Margaret Smith & Kathy (Smith) Schank