The Plaza Theatre – one of the showcase historic entertainment venues of the Southwest – was close to demolition before community leaders stepped in and saved the historically significant building.
“The significance of the Plaza Theatre is that it is one of the very few working atmospheric theaters,” said Eric Pearson, president and CEO of the El Paso Community Foundation.
The Plaza Theatre was built in 1930 and went out of business in 1983 due to the region’s depressed economy. In that decade, many of of El Paso’s key businesses in the downtown area closed down.
“In the 1980’s, the devaluation of the peso was a big hit to El Paso’s downtown economy,” Pearson said. In 1987, The Plaza Theatre was saved from being demolished by The El Paso Community Foundation, and by March 2006, the theater was restored and reopened to the public.
Betty Moor MacGuire, former chairperson of the El Paso Community Foundation, was one of a handful of city leaders that helped save the Plaza Theatre from being demolished because of its historical significance.
As part of the refurbishment, a bar was added to the Plaza Theatre where a restaurant used to be. The stage was expanded, and is the largest theater stage in the city to date.
The original Plaza Theatre was smaller than it is currently. And during the remodeling, more seats were added to increase capacity.
“The original Plaza Theatre looked exactly as it did today,” Pearson said. “It is a place of national historical significance, so when it opened on September 12, 1930, and when it reopened in March 17, 2006, it was made to look exactly as it did on opening day.”
This article was produced as part of Borderzine’s Journalism in July 2016 summer workshop for high school students sponsored by the Dow Jones News Fund and the University of Texas at El Paso Department of Communication.