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South Texas Living

Where to find classic movies

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At the movies
March 25, 2015 | 3,658 views | Post a comment

Do you think movies used to be better? Back in the ’80s maybe, or the ’50s and ’60s? You wouldn’t be alone. Everyone has their favorite era. Hindsight’s a beautiful thing -- for the most part, we only remember the best old movies we’ve seen and forget the rest.

On a weekend like this last, where modern movie options grew pretty sparse, that can be pretty useful. You can still see a lot of classic movies in theaters and on the big screen. Years ago, theaters had to have the physical reels in order to play a movie, meaning a set of reels (often scratched and worn thin from use) could only be in one location at a time. Classic films “toured,” making tracking down old films on the big screen fairly difficult.

Now, remastered and restored versions of old films can be digitally downloaded directly to a movie theater, meaning a single copy of a classic movie can be shown on thousands of screens at once. Seeing a classic movie on the big screen still feels special, though. Luckily, La Vernia and San Antonio at large offer great opportunities to do this.

There are six theaters within a half-hour drive of La Vernia that just showed “Rear Window,” Hitchcock’s classic -- and arguably his best -- movie. Many chain cinemas show classic films through a partnership between Turner Classic Movies and Fathom Events. Fathom also shows opera, stand-up, and fight nights on the big screen as well.

Because of this, you can enjoy films ranging from “Singin’ in the Rain” and “A Streetcar Named Desire” to “Gone With the Wind” and “The Wizard of Oz” the way they were meant to be seen, towering above their audiences.

My two favorite big-screen experiences are as different as can be. The epic to end all big-screen epics, “Lawrence of Arabia,” was meant to be watched on as large a screen as possible. The other was a surprise: “Back to the Future.” It’s a film we’re used to watching and laughing at with a few friends on television. When 200 other people are laughing at all the classic lines, you don’t just appreciate the film, you feel its magic all over again as if you’re seeing it for the first time. Movies change when you see them on the big screen. They become something more, not afternoon fodder when we can’t find anything better to do on a lazy weekend, but whole events that transport you into the past and re-introduce your favorite movie moments to you.

Fathom is closing out the month with showings of ’80s classic “The Breakfast Club” on the 26th and 31st. Next month, you have a chance to see “The Sound of Music” and “Friday,” among other films. The six area theaters that regularly participate in these showings are Santikos Rialto, Santikos Embassy, Cinemark McCreless, Santikos Palladium, Regal Cielo Vista, and Creekside Cinemas. Look the theaters up online for more information, or go to

They aren’t the only game in town, though. I may not live there anymore, but I used to go to the Alamo Drafthouse pretty regularly. Many know about these theaters as a proud Texas business gone national, where every aisle has a long table and you can order dinner from your seat, but people often forget they also show classic movies (and classic commercials before the films) more than any other chain. This last weekend included ’90s comedy “Wayne’s World” and ’40s period piece “Pride & Prejudice.”

Classic suspense and horror plays especially well in modern theaters -- Alamo’s got “Alien,” “The Fly,” and Hitchcock classic “Vertigo” all coming up. They also have quote-alongs for “Clue,” a comedy classic, and ...“Tommy Boy?” Well, as long as people are having fun. You can check out Alamo Drafthouse’s three San Antonio-area locations at Be aware that they have age restrictions because alcohol is served on the premises.

Other showings run the gamut from “The Blues Brothers” to “My Fair Lady.” See the former because it’s a classic worthy of sharing with a few hundred friends. See the latter because people forget how beautiful and worthy of a big-screen experience it is.

You can also find seasonal showings that theater chains put on -- many feature “The Nightmare Before Christmas” every Halloween and, though I’m not the movie’s biggest fan, “The Polar Express” every Christmas.

Whether you think movies used to be better or not, you’ve got to admit, there hasn’t been a better time to be a moviegoer. You can see all the new films and still have regular chances to catch many of the classics on the big screen.

Gabe Valdez grew up in Chicago, went to college in Massachusetts, is a former news reporter in Floresville, Texas, and worked in politics in Oregon. He writes and directs films when he can find the time. Reviews, views, photos and more can be found at Email him at

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