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Ritz Theatre
Majestic Metro
911 Preston
(713) 224-7226

April 15, 1926

Photo courtesy
Rick Staudt


The Majestic Metro is Houston's most unique gathering site for hosting wonderful wedding receptions, parties, and galas. Located in the heart of the downtown historic district, this historic facility features a large dance floor, banquet style seating, and a state-of-the -art sound and light system.

However, in the beginning, there was no Majestic Metro. There was – simply – the Ritz...

• • •

The Majestic Metro auditorium transformed for a gala dinner event.
Photo courtesy Clare Lagroue

Of all of Houston’s theatres built before 1930, only one has remained standing to see new life and restoration: the 1926 Ritz.

The Ritz was owned by sisters Stella and Lillian Scanlan, daughters of Thomas Scanlan. Its grand opening was held on April 15, 1926, with the Buck Jones feature, “The Fighting Buckaroo.” Unlike the massive excesses of the nearby Majestic, the Ritz was an ornate but intimate theatre, with a seating capacity of 1,260. A very affordable admission of 5 cents and 15 cents would remain in place through the thirties, eventually to be proudly displayed in bright lights on the exterior marquee.

In 1930, it was taken over by local theatreman Will Horwitz, and an alliance later formed with the Interstate Theatre chain. During the early forties, the Ritz Theatre ran Spanish language films, eventually changing its name to the Teatro Ritz and later the Cine’ Ritz.

In the seventies, the Ritz switched to exploitation, under the guiding hand of Alvin Guggenheim, who had previously reopened the old Lincoln Theatre as the Majestic in 1972. At this time, the theatre’s name was officially changed to the Majestic Metro, in tribute to the Interstate theatre he ushered at in the forties.

The theatre finally closed its doors in 1984.

In 1985, businessman Gary Warwick acquired the building and laid out a restoration plan, although the work was pushed back due to the flat economy of the times. Eventually, the restoration took place.

The Majestic Metro reopened on December 15, 1990, with the Merrill Lynch Christmas party, and the American Institute of Architects awards gala on January 31, 1991. This was followed by a party for Page Parkes School of Modeling, staged as part 1920’s elegance and part 1980’s MTV. A highlight to the evening was an old newsreel, located by Warwick, of 1930’s models in swimsuits and fur coats. It was the first time in years that the old Ritz screen glowed with an image not containing hot, steamy sex or a karate chop to the chest.

To date, the former Ritz Theatre functions as a venue for special events, and is one of a handful of buildings in the Old Market Square district to have survived. Intimate, but opulent, the former silent movie house managed to attain what the grand palaces were unable to grasp: a new lease on life.

For more information check out the Majestic Metro website at www.majesticmetro.com.

For a period, the Ritz Theatre came under the control of Will Horwitz, who operated the Iris, Texan, and Uptown theatres. These were the “homefolks” theatres – modest, reasonably priced movie houses for ordinary people.

Horwitz was well known for his humanitarian efforts, as the nation delt with the effects of the Great Depression, and his yearly Christmas parties for local children were legendary.

The Ritz theatre just as the talkies were taking hold.
Photo courtesy Houston Metropolitan Research Center

Two views of the restored lobby of the Majestic Metro.
Photo courtesy Steve Schmid

The Ritz during its time as a Spanish language house.
Photo courtesy Ray Boriski

View from the balcony looking down to the screen.
Photo courtesy Steve Schmid

© 2016 David Welling