One of El Paso’s best-known landmarks is the Plaza Theatre, built in 1930 as the city’s state-of-the-art movie house and performance venue. A booming town of over 100,000, El Paso already contained several theaters at the time the Plaza was constructed, but the Theatre’s size, ornate décor and technical innovations quickly made it the centerpiece of the city’s cultural life.
No expense was spared on the theater’s Spanish Colonial Revivalist-style architecture and intricate Rococo interior; in its early years the Plaza Theatre was known as the “Showplace of the Southwest.” Its most monumental attribute was the Mighty Wurlitzer organ used to accompany vaudeville shows, sing-alongs, and entertain guests before and after films.
The Plaza remained successful for decades, though gradually declined in the 1960’s (as did many similar venues of the era) with the mass exodus of the middle class from the city’s downtown to the suburbs. By 1972, the majestic theater as well as all of its prized artwork had been sold, and the great organ auctioned to a private collector in Dallas. The Plaza had to be saved from demolition several times, including once in 1986 when it was planned to be cleared for a parking lot. Only thanks to a groundswell of community support was the venue saved from demolition, equipped with a new roof, and donated to the City of El Paso.
Today the Plaza, while having lost some of its original grandeur, is again a major hub of El Paso’s cultural life. It is home to Broadway in El Paso, the El Paso Symphony Orchestra, El Paso Opera, and Showtime El Paso. In addition to its resident organizations’ schedules, the Plaza features an array of performances (including theater, dance and music) and other cultural events year-round.
The Plaza Theatre Information
- Public Transportation: Excellent (a short walk from several buses at Oregon Street/Mills Avenue and Oregon Street/Texas Avenue)
- Handicapped Accessibility: Good
- Performances/Programs: Approximately 130 events presented annually
- Ticket Prices: Vary ($5–$75) depending on event and seating choice
- Subscriptions/Membership: Subscription series include Broadway in El Paso, Showtime El Paso, El Paso Symphony Orchestra, and El Paso Opera. Prices vary by series.