historical campus theatre


Across the Denton community, people, businesses, and educational entities have been working together to weave the arts into the fabric of our community. The challenge is to develop a more livable community by supporting the growth and more responsive use of artistic and cultural resources that exist in Denton.


1949 the story begins

The Campus Theatre was a grand movie house built in 1949 in downtown Denton. The manager for Interstate Theatres in Denton at the time impressed the importance of this project upon his company: Denton was in need of a movie theatre that would cater to the "kids on the campus" (University of North Texas and Texas Woman’s University). As a result, the Campus Theatre Movie-House was built. At the time of its construction the Campus Theatre was one of several state-of-the-art movie houses in the southwest. The Campus Theatre remained open and operational as a movie house until 1985 when it closed and was left vacant. Many lives were touched by the Campus Theatre as it was the place to go on Saturday mornings to see picture shows, bring dates, and see the latest movie in the plush theatre.


Campus Theatre as a Movie Theater

The Campus Theatre
"The Finest Theatre in North Texas"

The Campus Theatre opened its doors on October 5, 1949. The premiere attraction: "I Was a Male War Bride", starring Ann Sheridan (of Denton) and Cary Grant.

Over one year under construction, 1948 – 1949, the Campus was built at a cost of over half million dollars. An estimated 30 tons of steel went into building the Campus.

Very little needed repair or replacement in the first twenty five years due to the excellent care ABC Interstate Theatres gave to the Campus.

Major changes through the years included: A new wider, curved screen for cinemascope in 1954, Waterfall curtains and a 4-track stereophonic sound system.

Several movie stars and personalities have visited the Campus through the years. Among them: Warren Beatty, John Wayne, Fabian, William Freidkin, Sandra Dee, Michael Pollard, Estelle Parsons, Jay Silverheels, Chill Wills, Arthur Penn, Deborah Walley and B. W. Stephensons.

On October of 1967 the world premiere of "Bonnie and Clyde" was held in the Campus. Much of the film was shot in the North Texas area and the Campus was used as Warner Brothers’ headquarters during that time.

At the premiere, the packed house included not only the stars of the film, but movie critics from all over the U.S. The reviews were outstanding!

Here is a list of some of the big movies that have been shown at the Campus through the years:

Gone With The Wind, Ben Hur, The 10 Commandments, The Sound of Music, Bonnie and Clyde, Dr. Zhivago, The Greatest Show on Earth, The King and I, Funny Girl, Giant,
Cinderella, Auntie Mame, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Camelot, Cleopatra, Love is a Many Splendored Thing, The Rabe, The Bible, Peter Pan, Mash, I’ll Cry Tomorrow, West Side Story, Tammy, The Great Gatsby, The Exorcist, Peyton Place, True Grit, Blue Hawaii, Shenandoah, Oklahoma, Old Yellar, Davy Crockett, My Fair Lady, Lover Come Back, Wizard of Oz, The Love Bug, Adam’s Rib, Around the World in 80 Days, Friendly Persuasion, Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison, Island in the Sun, Love Me Tender, Pal Joey, Teahouse of the August Moon, Bus Stop, Carousel, Guys and Dolls, To Catch a Thief, War and Peace, Battle Cry, The Left Hand of God, A Man Called Peter, Mister Roberts, A Star is Born, No Business Like Show Business, Seven Year Itch, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Caine Mutiny, High and the Mighty, Hondo, Magnificent Obsession, Rear Window, On the Waterfront, White Christmas, From Here to Eternity, High Noon, Ivanhoe, The Quiet Man, Singing in the Rain, Streetcar Named Desire, An American in Paris, Show Boat, Annie Get Your Gun, Cheaper By the Dozen, The Paleface

ABC Interstate Theatres, which pioneered the motion pictures theatre in Texas, operated over 100 theatres throughout Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Arkansas and Tennessee.

Founded in 1905 by the late Karl Hobitzelle, ABC Interstate strove through the years to present their patrons with the best theatres that could be built. Mr. Hoblitzelle said, "The theatres belong to the customer first, and to those who operate them second." His words were adopted as the mission statement of Interstate officials whenever a new theatre was built.

1990 the story continues

The Greater Denton Arts Council (GDAC) has served the arts organizations well by providing funds and technical assistance throughout its history. GDAC, with the help from the City of Denton, renovated the municipal steam plant into a Center for the Visual Arts (CVA) in 1984. The CVA served as a multi-purpose facility, including the "home" of Denton Community Theatre and other performing arts.

In 1990, the Denton Community Theatre (DCT) Board of Directors began the search for a permanent theatrical home. The Governing Board of DCT with the City of Denton’s help obtained a contract to buy the Campus Theatre. The theater was structurally sound, with easy and visible access, and was in a prime downtown location. DCT saw the acquisition and renovation of the building as beneficial to all the arts organizations in Denton, as well as revitalizing downtown Denton, spurring economic development, and strengthening ties with the City of Denton, businesses, and corporations in the area. DCT proposed to the Greater Denton Arts Council plans for the Arts Complex to include the Campus Theatre.

Late 1990, the Campus Theatre was purchased by GDAC with the help from DCT. DCT negotiated the price of the building to be purchased for $150,000. It was further negotiated the seller would donate $50,000 to the theatre for the start of renovations. A local architect, Alan Nelson, was hired and plans for renovating the building were developed.

During the summer of 1991, all Greater Denton arts organizations and other interested citizens were asked for their comments, ideas, and opinions on the project. Alan Nelson and a team of theatrical consultants compressed their ideas and developed schematics for a workable theatre that includes dance, music, theatre and other multiple-discipline uses. A major capital campaign of $1.76 million led the way for the renovation and restoration of the Campus Theatre into a Performing Arts Facility. A total amount of $1.5 million dollars was raised locally. The rest of the funds came from foundations and companies based in Denton. The total renovation project was $1.95 million dollars.

The Campus Theatre provides the first permanent home for all performing arts organizations. A semi-thrust stage, three hundred seat proscenium house, offices for arts groups, scene & paint shop, dressing & make-up rooms, and ticket sales facilities are part of this edifice. Alan Nelson kept the art deco design of the building intact. The concession area of the building was not disturbed and Nelson used the colors from the original terrazzo floor (reds, greens, and whites) to base the color scheme throughout the building. Many local and area businesses were hired to help re-finish the theatre during the renovation. Texas Woman’s University Art department was asked to re-paint the original mural on the staircase leading up to the balcony area.

The Campus Theatre started construction in July 1994 and opened its doors for the grand re-opening on July 6, 7, and 8, 1995. Over 1,200 people came to the ceremonies. All the arts groups in Denton - Denton Light Opera Company, Denton Bach Society, Denton Civic Ballet, Denton Community Band, Denton Community Theatre, and university faculty and students- joined together to produce "A Salute to Movie Musicals" as the premiere performance in the Campus Theatre.