Waco Hippodrome Theatre

724 Austin Avenue,
Waco, TX 76701

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Waco Hippodrome Theatre (Official)

Additional Info

Previously operated by: ABC Interstate Theatres, Interstate Theatres Inc. & Texas Consolidated Theaters Inc., Paramount-Publix

Architects: Roy E. Lane

Firms: Lang & Witchell

Functions: Live Performances

Styles: Spanish Colonial

Previous Names: Hippodrome Theatre, Waco Theatre

Phone Numbers: Box Office: 254.752.9797
Manager: 254.752.9797

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News About This Theater

Waco Hippodrome Theatre

Construction began on the Hippodrome Theatre in 1913 after a group of Waco businessmen organized by Thomas P. Finnegan and Mayor J.P. Harrison garnered support for a downtown vaudeville theatre.

The Hippodrome Theatre’s opening night, February 7, 1914, featured a live seal act, a five-piece orchestra and a magic act on the bill. Tickets were ten cents for adults, five cents for children, and box seats were a quarter. The theatre was operated by Mr. H.P. Hulsey & known affectionately known by Wacoans as “Hulsey’s Hipp”. The Hippodrome Theatre was the place for road shows, vaudeville tours, movies and local talent shows and events.

As the vaudeville era came to an end, the Hippodrome Theatre became a Paramount-Publix silent movie theatre. As an affiliate of Paramount Pictures, the theatre served as a movie theatre until a fire in the projection booth in 1928 destroyed much of the front of the building, forcing a renovation of the facility.

The consequent renovation resulted in the Spanish Colonial Revival style that is still present in the building today. In 1929, Southern Enterprises leased the theatre to Louis Dent’s Waco Theatre, and management changed the name of the Hippodrome Theatre to Waco Theatre.

The facility remained in use as a movie theatre and performance venue while undergoing renovations in 1936, 1961 and 1971. During this time, a number of celebrities performed and visited the Waco Theatre. Elvis Presley performed on stage, as well as taking in a movie while stationed in Fort Hood. The largest crowd ever gathered at the Waco Theatre was over 10,000 people to see John Wayne in town to promote one of his pictures.

The Waco Theatre remained open until the late-1970’s, but an increasing number of customers turned to newer movie theatres in suburban areas, ultimately causing the theatre to shut its doors on December 15, 1974. The Waco Theatre remained unused until 1980, when the Junior League of Waco began the process of restoring the Waco Theatre. At the time, Waco was in need for a performing arts venue, and the empty Hippodrome Theatre fitted the bill.

Between 1981 and 1986, community volunteers, the Junior League of Waco, and the Cooper Foundation contributed $2.4 million dollars and countless hours of dedication to undertake the restoration. The Waco Hippodrome Theatre was reopened on February 28, 1987 and became listed on the National Registry of Historic Places. The facility was operated by the Waco Performing Arts Alliance and offered a variety of live theatre performances in the building until 2009-2010 when the Hippodrome Theatre once again closed its doors.

In December 2012, local developers Shane Turner and Cody Turner purchased the Hippodrome Theatre and began its current renovation. The theatre retained its classic look, but took on a few new changes. Inside the theatre, a retractable wall and movie screen was added to the balcony giving the building the capability to show two films simultaneously. The seating was refigured to be more stadium-like, as well as to give means for flexible seating with or without tables for dining. The second floor lobby has been renovated into a bar. An addition was constructed facing S. 8th Street that features two kitchens, a concession stand, a full-service restaurant and handicapped accessibility with restrooms on each level and an elevator to connect the floors.

While native Wacoans remember the Waco Theatre as a movie theatre, the Hippodrome Theatre has always been a performing arts center in one form or another. The new Hippodrome Theatre opening in 2014 will offer first-release films, along with classic films, live theatre, concerts, stand-up comedy, dance and much more. The Hippodrome Theatre is set to entertain Waco for another century. By 2018 it had 4-screens. By June 2023 it was presenting Live Performances.

Contributed by Jennifer Warren

Recent comments (view all 17 comments)

CSWalczak on February 26, 2010 at 12:07 am

This theater has, at least for now, suspended operations due to financial problems: http://www.kxxv.com/Global/story.asp?S=12044261

TLSLOEWS on February 26, 2010 at 9:10 am

Nice looking theatre.

hopewell on March 6, 2010 at 10:02 am

According to the local news, the Waco Hippodrome WILL remain open for the moment.

dallasmovietheaters on February 19, 2016 at 12:34 am

Architected by Lang & Witchell

DavidZornig on September 16, 2016 at 11:19 am

May 1920 photo added of the original Hippodrome exterior, photo credit Fred Gildersleeve & courtesy of the Texas Scotish Rite History Collection. Via the Lee Lockwood Library and Museum in Waco. This would be before the 1928 fire mentioned in the Overview.

DavidZornig on September 16, 2016 at 11:21 am

This link has two 1920 interior photos as well.


Trolleyguy on March 31, 2019 at 8:54 am

The exterior of this theatre showed up on a TV crime documentary on the Investigation Discovery cable channel.

50sSNIPES on March 7, 2022 at 7:52 pm

The Waco Theatre became part of the Interstate Theatres chain of Dallas when it started its Interstate expansion to Waco in 1933. Many other theaters in Waco would later take over the business. Along with the Waco, the Rivoli, Strand, Texas, and Orpheum Theatres were also operated by Interstate during World War II. The 25th Street Theatre and the Lake Air Drive-In were soon to be operated by Interstate later on.

The Waco Theatre’s relationship with Interstate Theatres lasted until New Year’s Day 1972 when ABC Mid-South Theatres (later ABC Interstate Theatres) took over operations. The Group Vice President of the non-broadcasting operations of the American Broadcasting Company, Samuel H. Clark, said that the merger would transfer the properties of the name “ABC Mid-South Theatres” to “ABC Interstate Theatres” in connection of the ongoing boost of the Interstate chain.

Its relationship didn’t last long. The Waco Theatre ran its last film on December 15, 1974 in connection of the Christmas Day 1974 opening of the 800-seat capacity ABC Interstate operated Cinema I & II and the Waco Theatre became the Waco Hippodrome Theatre.

In the other hand also in connection of the I & II, the Lake Air Drive-In closed its gates for the final time on December 8, 1974, a week prior to the movie-ending relationship to the Waco Theatre.

rivest266 on June 16, 2023 at 8:16 am

1914 grand opening ad posted.

rivest266 on June 16, 2023 at 8:27 am

As of 2021 the Waco Hippodrome had live performances only.

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