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State Theatre - History

"The State Theatre is a historical cornerstone to Austin's downtown arts district, so ensuring its soundness and longevity are key to the future fabric of our city. We want the community to understand the history of the State Theatre and to continue to enjoy its unique Austin setting for many, many more years." - Former Mayor Will Wynn

This vintage movie house—built in 1935 by Interstate Circuit Inc.—stands next door to the Paramount Theatre and within sight of the State Capitol building. It was built on the site of the old Avenue Hotel, which stood until after the turn of the century.

The State Theatre was the first theatre in Austin built specifically to show motion pictures and opened on Christmas Day of 1935 with The Bride Comes Home, featuring Claudette Colbert and Fred MacMurray. Downtown movie houses were popular during the era; the theatre screened films along with many others like The Paramount, The Queen—which stood on the west side of Congress Avenue—and The Ritz, now an Alamo Drafthouse location on 6th Street. The State flourished under the helm of Louis Noovy, a general manager for Interstate's four Austin movie houses, which included the Paramount, Queen and Capitol theatres.

Designed by W. Scott Dunn in the Art Deco style that was popular when it was built, the State lobby retains much of the charm of its past due to a major facelift in 1981 that returned it to its original Art Deco splendor. Vacant beginning in 1986, the City of Austin bought the structure and leased it to Live Oak Theatre. Live Oak, a local, producing theatre company, spurred the most notable renovations to the facility. Austin architect Sinclair Black and Live Oak’s director Don Toner embarked on a $3.5 million rehabilitation in 1998, transforming the interior into an inviting, open 320-seat space with backstage work areas, dressing rooms, a rehearsal hall, and a new lobby.

Six months later, the company finalized its purchase of the State Theatre, moved into the building and continued its tradition of presenting quality work and supporting the growth of new plays. Embracing the spirit of its new permanent home, the company changed its name to The State Theatre Company.

In 2000, the company merged with its next-door neighbor, The Paramount Theatre for the Performing Arts, to form the Austin Theatre Alliance (ATA). An endeavor that began with two distinct operational and business models has combined the best of both to become one of Austin's most uniquely productive performing arts resources - a thriving organization that both presents and produces a broad range of drama, comedy, music, dance and spoken-word events of the highest caliber, in downtown Austin's most commanding venues.

In June of 2006, the State Theatre, having just celebrated its 70th anniversary and in the middle of a successful run of the play Bunk Bed Brothers, suffered the effects of a city water main break that resulted in the flooding of the State’s stage and basement, ruining hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of equipment and forcing the cancellation of part of the theatre’s 2006-07 season. Some productions were moved to other venues—the State’s remount of the award-winning American Fiesta was moved to the University of Texas’ McCullough Theatre and Judith Ivey’s Women on Fire was performed at the Paramount.

After approximately $300,000 worth of repairs were completed, the Austin Theatre Alliance was proud to celebrate the grand re-opening of the State Theatre on March 1st, 2011 with a private performance by Austin favorite, Bob Schneider. The venue is now available for both rental and additional presented performances.