by Tracy Idell Hamilton
February 28, 2015
SSlab Cinema launched this year’s outdoor movie season the night before Valentine’s Day (thanks, winter in South Texas) with a showing of “Sleepless in Seattle“ in Travis Park, part of the city of San Antonio’s free Movies by Moonlight series.
“Someone proposed during the movie,” said Angela Martinez, who with her husband Rick make up the tireless duo behind Slab Cinema. “It was a beautiful night, everything went smoothly, and I was super happy that showing movies was my job.”
It was also a far cry from the couple’s early movie showing days, when they would borrow equipment to project B movies onto a plywood “screen” on top of a crumbling commercial building slab for patrons who would wander across Cevallos Street from La Tuna Icehouse.
Eleven years and more than a thousand screenings later, Slab Cinema will show dozens of movies this spring and summer on six portable screens that will be inflated in parks, museum grounds, private backyards and other outdoor venues throughout San Antonio and beyond
Saturday, Feb. 28, they’re screening the 1960 production of “The Alamo” at the Alamo, part of a series celebrating the battle’s 179th anniversary, hosted by Allies of the Alamo and featuring Dr. Bruce Winders, Alamo curator and historian, discussing history versus Hollywood before the free, indoor showing. Seating in the Alamo Gardens is limited to the first 80 attendees for the discussion at 4 p.m. and 200 for the movie at 6 p.m.
“It’s a real business now,” Rick says, a bit of marvel evident in his voice. “When we started out, we just wanted to bring people together and have some fun.”
Slab Cinema grew organically out of the Martinez’s never-profitable independent video store, Planet of the Tapes, located in half of a decrepit little building with peeling orange paint on South St. Mary’s Street across from the pink pig sculpture at the former Pig Stand. The couple lived in the back of the building with their young son, Wiley.
Rick would work all day at architecture and design firm 3D/I (now Parsons). Then he’d come home and the family would hang out together in the store, renting movies and visiting with an ever-widening circle of friends.
“The video store was our living room, basically,” said Rick. “The corner was so dark and dreary then, so we decided to make a little spectacle. We’d invite people over to watch movies projected on a sheet out front. We just treated it like our front yard.”
“It was the worst time ever to open a video store,” Angela recalled. “Everyone was already switching to DVDs. We’d buy used videos from Hollywood Video or pawnshops. But we didn’t care. We weren’t doing it to make money; we were just doing it for the entertainment value, and to build community.”
In 2004, they asked Michael Berrier, who owns La Tuna with partner Mike Looney, if they could show movies on the slab he owned across from the icehouse.
They screened “Bucket of Blood,” and Slab Cinema was born.