According to Judge Larry J. Craddock, whose family owns the The Ritz, the space opened two weeks before the stock market crashed in 1929. Because there was a hunger for escapism, the theater that was started by L.L. Hegman survived. As the first theater built for sound movies in Austin, it was successful from the start. In the early days, the cinema was a mecca for B-movie Westerns. The stars of the films often came to town and put on a show at the theater.
The theater passed to Hegman’s son Elmo in 1937. It was officially a movie theater until it was closed in 1964. In 1974, Jim Franklin and Bill Livinggood reopened the Ritz, becoming a stage for musical performances from the likes of Willie Nelson and others. It also hosted stage plays.
In 1975, Franklin closed shop. But in 1982, Craig Underwood, Shannon Sedwick and Michael Shelton converted the Ritz into a music venue, garnering the likes of Stevie Ray Vaughan, John Waters, Megadeth and the Red Hot Chili Peppers to play its stage. It would remain a music venue until 1987. Throughout the 1990s and until 2005, it was both a bar and a live music venue.
Alamo Drafthouse Cinema occupied the space from 2007 until 2021. It closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Historical Marker Inscription
In 1927, the historic Ritz Theater was built and opened by J.J. Hegman and is still owned by his grandson, Austinite Larry Craddock. “Talkie” made the Ritz a destination early on. Ten cents would get you a ticket and a comfortable seat. Westerns became a staple, as well as boxing and family films. The Ritz has enjoyed many incarnations as a live music venue and event space. In the mid ’70s, Jim Franklin, of Armadillo World Headquarters fame, revived it as a rock ‘n’ roll hall. In the early ’80s, the Ritz was home to countless national and local punk bands, such as Black Flag, The Misfits, The Big Boys and Minor Threat. Later in the ’80s, the Ritz was home to Esther’s Follies, as well as heavy metal bands such as Testament and Slayer. In 2007, Alamo Drafthouse founder Tim League restored the façade and converted the Ritz back to a movie theater which continues to operate today.
320 E 6th St, Austin, TX 78701