SA CurrentThe People Issue

Angela & Rick Martinez
Owners and operators, 
Slab Cinema

by Travis Buffkin

The camera pans up a pair of tight-as-Saran-Wrap denim Wranglers careening over pearl snaps stretched to a taut tension across John Travolta’s brawny torso. Women crumble into a communal squeezebox of coos, oohs and ahs. This was my introduction to Slab Cinema: the ombré descension of dusk punctuated by a pockmarked limestone wall, that evening’s canvas for Urban Cowboy.

Urban Cowboy is my wife’s all-time favorite movie and its screening in Hemisfair Park in 2010 served as one of our first dates. This is the kind of earnest sentimentality that has kept Angela and Rick Martinez carting around the wires and wares of a bygone pastime for 12 years.

Originally the proprietors of San Antonio’s only VHS rental establishment, Planet of the Tapes, the Martinezes moonlight in the portable-drive-in “business,” doing it, simply, for the love of the medium. “Some of our best childhood memories involve going to the drive-in with our families. Slab Cinema provides us with a chance to make memories with our own children, while giving us an outlet to help build community and give others the opportunity to make memories with their families.”

That quote is not their corporate mission statement. It’s not posted all over a pristinely produced website as the feel-good cliff note to a profit-driven endeavor. It’s directly from the duo and sums up their interpretation of the outdoor movie experience, their passion and their purpose.

The pair has screened hundreds of films all over the city, from the cobblestoned banks of the San Antonio River to the historic Mission Drive-In. They have faced hit-and-runs, violent weather and stolen equipment to provide us a glimpse into the magic they felt growing up and offer us to experience it with our children, and to maybe feel a little like kids ourselves.

Read more of The People Issue at San Antonio Current