ETX theater name oldest continuously operating theater in Texas
MINEOLA, TX (KLTV) -
It is the oldest operating movie theater in Texas and it's right here in East Texas. Mineola Select Theater has been in operation since the 1920s and is now the center of a new documentary called, "The Pride of Mineola."
Lou Hooks Wagner's family opened the Mineola Select Theater and Playhouse in 1920. Lou's grandmother and father ran the theater.
"My grandmother was the big boss. If anybody ever knew her they would agree with me that whatever granny said was done," Wagner said.
For just 20 cents, you could see a movie or play by a local theater group. Lou worked at the theater as a teenager, and got to see all her favorite movies repeatedly.
"Gone with the Wind. I think I saw it about three times," Wagner said.
In 1961 the theater was taken over by Truman Thomas and James Dear, who had worked at the theater through their teens.
"By the time I was 14, he had me selling tickets and working in the concession stand and if someone called in sick I had to work," Brenda Melvin, Truman Thomas' daughter, said.
That continued another romance started at the movies.
"Most of the time my first dates were at the movies, because I didn't get off till 9 o'clock and I had to be home by 11. So it doesn't give you time to do much else besides go to the movies," Melvin said.
George and Brenda Melvin had their first date at the Select Theater. George admits he was pretty nervous.
"Truman, her dad, was 6' 4" and 240 lbs; he was a big ol' guy. I was 5' 10" and 180 lbs and he would put the fear into you, as far as his daughter was concerned. It took a brave man to come back," George Melvin said.
But George did come back, and they've been going to the movies here ever since.
It's more than the Melvins who keep coming back, making the movies a Mineola landmark.
"It just means home. I was raised here. My dad went to work here when he was 15. We raised our kids in the movies and our grandkids are the fourth generation coming to the movies. So it has a special place in my heart," Brenda Melvin said.
On March 22nd the Mineola theater will show the documentary based on the theater to the public and will sell tickets for the same price they were when the theater first opened; just 20 cents.
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