Carrying on a Wimberley Treasure
The smell of popcorn mixes with the fresh, evening breeze. An occasional whinny from neighboring horses floats on the wind, and the soft hum of crickets drones as the sun sets, signaling the start of the show. There are no reclining seats or cushioned headrests, but it won’t take long for visitors of the theater to be convinced that The Corral Theatre, tucked in the heart of the Texas Hill Country, offers moviegoers a special experience.
Though the majority of moviegoers are first-time visitors, many others consider themselves regulars and come out almost every weekend. Of those regulars, owner Mary Anderson, now in her 90s, is the most dedicated. For years, Mary has been passionate about keeping The Corral experience alive for the people who make their way out to the Wimberley area, and she rarely misses a showing.
Mary first moved to Wimberley in 1966 to fill the camp director position at the neighboring Rocky River Ridge girls’ camp. Having been involved with Girl Scouts of the USA, her passion for empowering young women in the local community inspired her eventual purchase of Rocky River Ridge and the neighboring Corral Theatre. She saw the theater for the community treasure that it is.
“It is very important for me that the theater remains available and affordable for the families of this community,” says Mary.
True to her word, ticket and popcorn prices are kept as low as possible to give every moviegoer a chance to see the “stars under the stars,” as the theater’s website puts it.
Keeping the theater available to the community while honoring its nostalgic appeal hasn’t always been easy. Up until 2013, the theater was still using 35mm reel-to-reel projectors. With the movie industry transitioning entirely to digital formats, film reels became nearly impossible to find. The Corral’s only options were to buy a new digital projector or to go out of business. And there was another glaring problem: a used digital projector would cost $65,000.
“We were at a loss,” says Teri Carter, manager of The Corral Theatre. “We didn’t have that kind of money. Not even close.”
In a last-ditch effort to save the theater, the staff launched a fundraising effort in May 2013, online and in the local community. Fortunately, the people of Wimberley jumped in to help, sending checks and messages of support. Three months after the campaign began, The Corral Theatre had accrued enough funds to purchase a new projector.
“It was a humbling experience, hearing stories of why people didn’t want to see it go,” says Teri, who was overwhelmed and moved by the outpouring of support. The challenges of running a small theater are still present, but with the support of the community, the Corral will be around for years to come.
The Corral Theatre is one of Mary’s legacies, her gift to the city of Wimberley and beyond. If you venture to the theater to catch a weekend showing of the latest animated flick or silver screen classic, look up at the stars in the sky, and take a moment to appreciate the experience that is so dear to Mary, her staff, and the community that keeps it running.
For more theater history and to check showtimes, visit www.corraltheatre.com.