Built in 1929 by J.J. Hegman, the Ritz theater was the first theater in Austin built to show the new talking pictures that were all the rage. By the 50’s the theater had changed ownership a number of times and had started showing Westerns almost exclusively. As television began to grow in popularity across the USA, and the proliferation of Western themed TV shows, the theater began to lose business and was eventually closed in 1964.
During the rest of the 1960s and all the way through the 1970s the theater fell on hard times, with a revolving door of ventures from niche film offerings to live music venue attempts. It wasn’t until 1981 that the theater saw a consistent theme when punk rock was officially introduced to Austin. Over the next decade bands like Black Flag, The Misfits, and The Red Hot Chili Peppers played The Ritz, making it the best place for Punk Rock in the city.
The Ritz continued on as a music venue and bar until 2007, when local theater chain Alamo Drafthouse stepped in. The Drafthouse has grown from just a few theaters in 1997 to having dozens of theaters from coast to coast in 20 major cities. Being the film enthusiasts that they are, they began renovating the Ritz to turn it back into the theater that it once was. On November 2, 2007 The Ritz once again opened its doors as a movie theater.
To see more photos of the Ritz, please visit our Austin Stock Photo Gallery here.