An “atmospheric theater,” as it turns out, is one “which has an auditorium ceiling that is intended to give the illusion of an open sky as its defining feature.” (Wikipedia) The Majestic’s ceiling does, indeed, give a realistic impression of a twilit night sky, complete with slowly moving clouds and twinkling stars. Unfortunately, the ceiling doesn’t photograph well — at least not with a cell phone camera — but it was beautiful.
The theater opened on June 14, 1929, as the largest theater in Texas and second in the US, behind the Fox Theater in Atlanta. It was the only theater in Texas to be air conditioned, offering “‘an acre of cool, comfortable seats.'” The snow-capped letters of the theater’s name prompted some San Antonio society women attending the opening to wear fur coats. In June. In San Antonio.
Originally seating 4,000, today the theater seats 2,311 in the main auditorium. The interior of the auditorium is beautifully decorated with murals, sculptures and architectural features to create the impression of sitting outdoors in a vibrant Mexican plaza, or town square. Each side of the auditorium, for example, features façades of buildings that appear to be overlooking the square. The detail work everywhere you look is just breathaking. We sat in our seats for a half hour before curtain marveling at the artwork you see at every turn and in every corner.
The Majestic is right smack downtown, in the middle of the entertainment district, and is home to the San Antonio Symphony. It hosts touring companies of Broadway shows, comedians and other entertainers on a regular basis. Lewis Black will be there in February, as will “Wicked,” and “West Side Story” is up sometime this spring. Looking forward to returning many times over.