Municipal Archives


Majestic Theatre Renovations, 1968-1992

​Collection 1996-005

Overview

Repository ​Dallas Municipal Archives
Office of the City Secretary
1500 Marilla Street, 5D South
Dallas, Texas 75201
CreatorMajestic Theatre
TitleMajestic Theatre Renovations
Dates1968-1992
Quantity1.25 linear feet
Abstract Photographs, correspondence, contracts
Identification1996-005
LanguageRecords are in English

Scope and Contents

The Majestic Theatre, at 1925 Elm Street, opened in 1921 as the flagship theatre of Karl Hoblitzelle's Interstate Theatre chain.  Designed by noted theatre architect, John Eberson, the Majestic is a classic example of the opulent show house popular in America in the early part of the twentieth century.  The interior decor was described as eclectic Baroque.  

The theatre seated 2400, and the stage opening was 39-feet wide and 30-feet high.  In addition to the main aspect of the theatre - the auditorium space - the building also contained approximately 20,000 square feet of office space on the top floors of the Elm Street-facing portion of the building. 

The Majestic was the first Dallas vaudeville house to admit blacks, albeit to the fourth-floor "colored" balcony that had its own box office on the foyer level and was reached via a separate entrance from the street.  This side entrance is now the general entrance for Majestic employees.

Throughout the 1920s and early 1930s, some of the great acts of vaudeville appeared on the Majestic stage, including George Burns and Gracie Allen, Harry Lauder, Blackstone the Magician, and Bob Hope.  With the demise of vaudeville in the 1930s and the rise of moving picture popularity, the Majestic was converted to a movie theatre and continued in that role until declining business forced its closing in 1973.  As a movie theatre, the Majestic, along with other Interstate theatres, was among the first in the country to install air conditioning.

The theatre remained empty until the Hoblitzelle Foundation gifted it to the City of Dallas in 1977.  At this time, not only was the theatre placed on the National Register of Historic Places but also planning began to renovate the theatre as a downtown performing arts hall.  Funding for this $5.9 million project came from the following sources: 

•  $150,000 from the 1975 Bond Program
•  $4.0 million from the 1979 Bond Program
•  $1.0 million raised by the Dallas Ballet from private sources
•  $750,000 raised by the City Council and Park Board from other private resources

The work to be accomplished included providing a new roof; installing new heating and air conditioning, a new sound system, and light and theatre rigging; expanding the orchestra pit; refurbishing the lobby, painting interiors, recovering and painting existing seats; reworking the elevator; installing new carpets, dressing rooms, a green room, an orchestra room; and restoring the building's exterior.  

Local cultural agencies including the Dallas Ballet, the Shakespeare Festival of Dallas, the Dallas Black Dance Theater, and the Dallas Civic Opera performed in the renovated space.  Some companies, such as the Shakespeare Festival of Dallas, officed in the building.  The Majestic also housed touring roadshows and popular music attractions, which formerly could not find performing venues in Dallas.

The two-year construction schedule began in early 1981 and was completed in late 1982.   The building was re-dedicated in January 1983 with live performances beginning the same month.

Majestic Theatre history 1905-1983

The following table shows key activities of the theater between 1905 and 1983.


1905
Majestic Theatre opens in Dallas at the corner of St. Paul and Commerce Streets: owned and operated by Interstate Amusement Company. a Missouri corporation.
1916Majestic Theatre burns; reopens in Old Opera House at the corner of St Paul and Main Streets.
February 1920Construction of new Majestic Theatre begins at 1925 Elm Street near the northwest corner of Elm near Harwood Street.
June 13, 1920Interstate announces the advent of motion pictures in original theatre (at St Paul and Main).  Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse is one of the first pictures shown.  Films are shown during summer months only.
March 26, 1921Cornerstone of new theatre laid by Ester Walker, who was married to Karl Hoblitzelle, Interstate's president.
April 10, 1921Last performance at original Majestic.
April 11, 1921New Majestic opens with a gala event featuring actor Olga Petrova.  The final cost of the theatre is $2,000,000.
1922Majestic begins showing movies as part of its vaudeville season.
1925Majestic has first summer vaudeville season.
1926First RKO circuit unit vaudeville show.
1930Hoblitzelle sells Interstate Amusement Company to RKO and retires.
1932Majestic abandons full vaudeville season; movies become the dominant form of entertainment.
1933RKO Pictures and Paramount Pictures announce bankruptcy.  Hoblitzelle asked to take over management of Texas theaters affiliated with both companies.  Two companies, Interstate Theater Circuit and Texas Consolidated, form from the RKO Pictures and Paramount Pictures chains.  Paramount Pictures finances fifty percent of the reorganization.
1938Federal government files anti-trust suit against large motion pictures companies with Paramount included in the suit.
1942Karl Hoblitzelle and Ester Walker establish the Hoblitzelle Foundation to fund charitable, scientific, literacy, and educational organizations in Texas.
1946-47Majestic remodeled; concession island placed in lobby.
​1948
The ​marquee is changed to a more art deco motif in part by adding flashing, neon lights set against a hard-edged geometrically-designed background.
1949
Paramount enters into consent decree with US Department of Justice and is required to separate production and distribution from theater holdings.
1950Under consent decree, Paramount Theaters purchases Hoblitzelle's interest in Interstate and Texas Consolidated Theaters and contracts Hoblitzelle to manage theaters.  Interstate becomes a subsidiary of Paramount.
1967Karl Hoblitzelle dies.  Ownership of Majestic Theatre building passes to Hoblitzelle Foundation.
July 16, 1973 Live and Let Die is the last film shown at the Majestic.  The theater closes to the public.
1975Dallas voters approve $150,000 in city bonds to examine possible uses of the theater building.
January 31, 1976Hoblitzelle Foundation formally presents Majestic Theatre building to the people of Dallas as a gift.  The Majestic will become a center for performing arts.
1977The Majestic Theatre is named to the National Register of Historic Places.
1978
Voters reject city bond proposal that includes funds for renovation of Majestic into a performing arts facility.
1979
Private group establishes "Light of the Majestic" campaign and pledges to raise, $1,000,000 for the building renovation.  The city sponsors a bond campaign, including $4,000,000 for renovation.  Voters approve this bond.
January 16, 1983Formal re-dedication of remodeled Majestic Theatre.
January 28, 1983Dallas Ballet holds the first public performance in the Majestic.
March 8, 1983Liza Minelli headlines the gala benefit opening.

Access​

Permission to publish, reproduce, distribute, or use by any and all other current or future developed methods or procedures must be obtained in writing from the Dallas Municipal Archives.  All rights are reserved and retained regardless of current or future development or laws that may apply to fair use standards.

Citation

Majestic Theatre Renovations, 1968-1992  (Box <x>, Folder <y>), Dallas Municipal Archives

Related Material

2018-010Office of Cultural Affairs Public Art Collection

​Index Terms

Dallas -- Texas -- History
Hoblitzelle Foundation
Majestic Theatre (Dallas, Tex.)

Container List

Box
Folder Title, Date
1
1
Memorandum from WB Dean, Park and Recreation Board President to Van Holloman of the Hoblitzelle Foundation regarding conveyance of the Majestic Theatre to the City of Dallas, 11/12/1973

2
Feasibility Study of the Majestic Theatre by The Oglesby Group, Inc., 06/1978
 3Majestic Theatre Design Development Project Manual by The Oglesby Group, Inc., 2/15/1980
 4Conrad Schmitt Studios, Inc. brochure on the theater's renovation, undated
 5Majestic Theatre renovation architectural sketches, undated
 6Plat page, undated
 7Hoblitzelle Properties warranty deed of the Majestic Theatre, 7/3/1968
 8National Register of Historic Places application and documentation, 1977
 9Theatre history, 1980
 10Color paper photographs, undated
 11Photographs B&W, undated
 12Photographs color, undated
21Park Board City Council agenda, 1981-1982

2
Shakespeare Festival of Dallas reports and correspondence, 1982

3
Renovations 1, 1973-1986
[Memoranda, income projections]

4Renovations 2, 1973-1986
[Correspondence, PR releases, City Council agendas]
 5Renovations 3, 1983-1985
[Memoranda, reports, cost estimates, donors]
 6Renovations 4, 1984-1992
[Memoranda, reports]
31Cadillac Fairview Urban Development, Inc 1, 1981-1986
[Correspondence]
 2Cadillac Fairview Urban Development, Inc 2, 1980-1981
[Correspondence, City Plan Commission zoning docket]
 3Renovation contributions 1, 1982-1986
[Correspondence]
 4Renovation contributions 2, 1981-1982
[Correspondence, receipts]
 5Renovation contributions 3, 1980-1981
[Correspondence, receipts]
 6Renovation contributions 4, 1981
[Correspondence, brochure, meeting notes, news clippings]
41Photographs, North basement corridor (B03, B19, Rooms B15, B25), undated
 2Photographs, Stair B51, B52; Elevator B50, undated
 3Interior photographs, undated
 4Photographs of first floor auditorium, undated
 5Photographs of first floor, undated
 6Photographs of second floor (elevations used on sheet 7.09), undated
 7Photographs of east elevation, undated
 8Photographs of first-floor elevation, undated
 9Photographs of west exit passageway, undated
 10Photographs of stage entrance corridor, undated
 11Photographs of stairs, corridor, undated
 12Photographs of fourth floor (not used on contract documents), undated
 13Photographs of third-floor balcony (not used on contract documents), undated
 14Photographs of third-floor lobby, undated
 15Photographs of mens' restrooms 205 and 304, undated
 16Photograph of second-floor mirror, undated
 17Photographs of second-floor mezzanine balcony and projection room (not used on contract documents), undated
 18Photographs of second floor, undated
 19Photograph of first-floor vestibule, undated
 20Photographs of offices, stairs
 21Photograph order folder, 1980