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San Antonio Express-News: Bringing Outdoor Cinema Back

Erin Eggers

Jul 7, 2011

Wind, rain and even a thief who stole their speakers in HemisFair Park haven't diminished Angela and Rick Martinez's enthusiasm for outdoor community film.

The couple have been bringing families and films together since 2004 through Slab Cinema, a second job for each that has grown into a summer tradition for thousands of San Antonians.

At HemisFair Park's Movies by Moonlight, a boisterous crowd of 1,100 people waited Thursday evening, June 30, for Yogi Bear to begin. Families hit inflatable beach balls to strangers, learned origami at a craft booth, and enjoyed a rainbow of raspas bought from a cart in the back.

It's a different atmosphere from the smaller and quieter Alamo Heights' Movie Nights in the Heights which draws about 200 people.

“The common element is people and their friends and their picnics,” Angela Martinez explains. “It's really just a community builder.”

When they began showing films in the pre-Netflix days of 2004, the Martinezes owned a small video rental store called Planet of the Tapes. La Tuna owner Michael Berrier asked if they could show movies at the concrete slab in the parking lot of his ice house. They did, and the name Slab Cinema has stuck ever since.

Today, the outdoor cinema business thrives and has grown into a second job, complete with sponsors and contracts, for both. When the Mission 4 Drive-in closed in 2007, the couple mourned it along with the community and felt the work they were doing was more important than ever.

Today the Martinezes have screened about 300 movies across San Antonio. Last month alone they showed 20 films.

They have pared down their equipment to two 16-by-9-foot inflatable screens, speakers, cords and a DVD player. Unless they are showing two films on the same night, the couple work together, bringing their children Wiley, 8, and Felice, 6, unless it's a school night.

The next step, says Angela Martinez, is to take the films to smaller towns that don't have the chance to experience outdoor cinema.

“I saw an outdoor film when I was 15, in Europe in Monte Carlo, and it really made such a lasting impression on me,” she says.

Rick Martinez grew up in California watching outdoor films as well. Those memories have been major motivators, they say.

“Really it was selfish (starting the business) because we wanted that experience for our kids,” says Angela Martinez.

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