#35#35: Watch a Movie Outside
Rick and Angela Martinez's Slab Cinema has been "building community through outdoor movie events" since its screening of Bucket of Blood in 2004. The 1959 horror comedy was projected onto a concrete slab outside La Tuna ice house and viewers had to sit within a few feet of the Martinez's borrowed projector to hear the sounds of the film. Slab Cinema has come a long way since then — the Martinez's now have several inflatable screens and high-quality sound and projection equipment at their disposal. Movie buffs looking for an ideal (and free) date night can find the duo periodically at a number of outdoor locations around the city, including the San Antonio Botanical Garden, the lawn at San Antonio Museum of Art, Travis Park and the former Mission Drive-In, now known as Mission Marquee Plaza. MORE
San Antonio Current City Guide
Slab Cinema's movie-theme float included the Ferris Bueller and a cast of many other movie characters.
Slab Cinema's movie-theme float included the Blue Brothers, Pee Wee Herman and Austin Powers,
Slab Cinema's movie-theme float included characters from Clueless, O Brother Where Art Thou, Forrest Gump, ET, Caddyshack, Men in Black and Grease.
Would you like to see a FREE outdoor movie this weekend? Rick and Angela Martinez with Slab Cinema are here to tell you how! MORE
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.
by Kelly Merka Nelson
There’s nothing quite like rocking up to the old Mission Drive-In on a muggy summer evening with a crowd of like-minded movie buffs, spreading out a picnic blanket on the scrubby grass and sitting back with a cold beverage to enjoy a ’90s cult classic (in my case, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles). Slab Cinema founders Angela and Rick Martinez want to share that feeling as far and wide as possible, and they’ve succeeded beyond their wildest expectations.
With a schedule that often features screenings in multiple locations on the same night, attendees are truly spoiled for choice. Films range from ’80s blockbusters to current hits, with a bunch of kid-friendly content mixed in. Those with more refined taste can stick to Oscar-winners like Moonlight, while the rest of us plebeians can catch the latest Marvel and Pixar flicks. If you prefer your movies to be aged to perfection, they still have you covered — on this year’s schedule are classics including Grease, Mary Poppins, and Pretty In Pink.
The best part? The movies are shown in amazing outdoor locations across the city. In addition to the Mission Marquee Plaza, Slab Cinema has also made appearances at the Alamo, Travis Park, Confluence Park and the San Antonio Museum of Art, among other venues.
San Antonio Current City Guide
Rick and Angela Martinez’s Slab Cinema has been “building community through outdoor movie events” since its inception in 2004 (on its namesake concrete slab across from La Tuna) and continues to expand its scope by screening kid-friendly, nostalgic and grown-up films in a growing list of places. While we’re looking forward to seeing how their Movies by Moonlight series fares in the move from Hemisfair to Travis Park in June, we can’t get enough of their pop-ups on SAMA’s serene lawn. Initiated with the cleverly curated Family Flicks series, the Slab/SAMA collab recently branched out with a bar-equipped screening of Much Ado About Nothing—an adult-focused outing the museum plans to continue this summer in conjunction with the exhibition “Matisse: Life in Color.
Business and community synergy comes naturally to recent transplant Angela Martinez. She's been here only four years, but already this Robert Frost-quoting, bird-loving, hard-bowlin' movie fanatic has made an indelible mark on San Antonio's Southtown community. In that time she's co-founded independent movie rental store Planet of the Tapes, helped revive Hermann and Son's bowling alley, launched an outdoor film series at the slab, built the saevents.org community calendar website, and contributed much time and love to the Southtown neighborhood organization board.
Ask her what she's been up to lately, and Martinez will briefly mention her day job - designing websites for non-profits and artists - and then steer the conversation to her latest community-building project, such as Southtown's Oscar night party fundraiser held February 27. RACSO has raised more than $4,000 for Southtown's Mainstreet Alliance, which Martinez says is great but not the soul of the endeavor: She observes merchants and neighbors working together to create RACSO, and believes that collaboration helps strengthen Southtown as a community.
What drives this focus? "In part, it's that we have a child and we really want to build a nurturing environment for him to grow up in," says Martinez. "But it's also San Antonio; this place really let's you make a difference."
|Planet of the Tapes proprietrix Angela Martinez keeps her finger in a half-dozen pies, including the online community calendar saevents.org, Southtown's Oscar night fundraiser, and the summertime outdoor film fest Movies on the Slab. (Photo by Laura McKenzie)|
by Xelena Gonzales
July 15, 2004
I'In the Public Domain' shows free summer movies near La Tuna icehouse.
Movie-going will always be a favorite American pastime, but one that too often involves long lines, bad food, and exorbitant prices. Specialty theaters such as the Bijou are springing up to offer full menus, alcohol, foreign films, and even art exhibits. Alamo Drafthouse, popular in Austin and Houston, is scheduled to open its first venue in San Antonio late this summer, which is good news, save for the theater's location on the traffic-plagued far West Side. For those who prefer to stay inside the Loop, there is another alternative - a free one at that.
For the summer months, Southtown icehouse La Tuna has teamed up with indie video store Planet of the Tapes to feature a series of outdoor screenings called "In the Public Domain." The event is coined after the legal label assigned to works of art that are not protected by copyrights and can therefore be freely used by the public. There are more than 5,000 movies that were never registered with the U.S. Copyright Office or whose copyright has expired, and according to Planet co-owner Angela Martinez, they're all up for grabs.
"Most are just cheesy '60s and '70s movies. We're looking for the humor and the camp value of it," says Martinez. "We first showed Bucket of Blood, which had all these old commercials at the beginning, and people really liked them. We came to find out they love the crazy, campy, ridiculousness of it all."
Another important aspect of the screenings is a family-friendly atmosphere, adds Martinez, who lugs her 2-year-old along with a movie screen and sound system to each event. She and her husband noticed a lack of local events that are entertaining for both kids and adults, so they collaborated with nearby business owners and fellow "movie junkies" to offer the city something different.
"The idea was to bring family and kids together for a casual event, no big shakes," said La Tuna co-owner Michael Berrier. "It's just fun sitting out under the sky, feeling the breeze coming off the river, and watching the film."
The scene is indeed pleasant. At a recent screening, couples and singles gathered on the concrete slab (called the Slab, for easy identification) across the street from La Tuna, lawn chairs and cold beers in hand, as dusk fell and a full moon rose over the Blue Star silos. A preview of cartoons played for the roaming youngsters, who finally settled on picnic blankets for a showing of The Last Woman on Earth. Although "In the Public Domain" has received mostly word-of-mouth advertisement and suffered recent delays and cancellations because of rain, the event has had a solid showing of 20-30 viewers, mostly residents from the surrounding Lavaca and King William neighborhoods.
Aside from drink and small concession sales, event organizers gain no profit from the screenings, but hope to keep them alive as long as there's public interest and fair weather. Martinez says she does the footwork "for the fun of it and for the love of movies.
"I just want to enjoy the neighborhood and promote community," she says. "It introduces audiences to a whole new genre of movies they might not have been exposed to. Sometimes these old movies are so bad they're good."
SA CurrentThe People Issue
Angela & Rick Martinez
Owners and operators,
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
by Erin Eggers
Thursday, July 7, 2011
WWind, 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.
Movie lovers, many with dogs and picnic baskets, gathered on blankets and lawn chairs at the Pearl Brewery.
SA Express-News Metro section
by Nicholas Frank
August 6, 2021
AAngela and Rick Martinez, owners of Slab Cinema, are opening a new indoor movie space at Blue Star. They continue to provide outdoor screenings at various locations with their inflatable movie screens.
After nearly 20 years outdoors, Slab Cinema is coming in from the rain. Given an unexpected opportunity, the popular mobile movie venue will open a new brick-and-mortar space in the Blue Star Arts Complex called the Slab Cinema Arthouse, with events beginning next week.
After a gala celebration for San Antonio bon vivant Mike Casey’s 80th birthday held at The Espee in June, co-organizer Angela Martinez moved art made for the event to an unoccupied space in the Blue Star complex for an informal show.
The 1,700-square-foot space had once been the RC Gallery, run by Martinez’s friend Rhonda Kuhlman, who died in 2009. Those old memories made the space feel welcoming, and that it was available for rent sparked the momentum Martinez and husband Rick Martinez, Slab Cinema co-proprietors, needed to realize a long-held idea to open an indoor venue.
Now with city inspections freshly passed, Martinez is moving quickly to program a schedule that will include “art house” films — a loose term that includes indie movies, classic noir and horror genre films, foreign films, cult movies, and films by local filmmakers — along with art exhibitions, live performance, and themed events.
Film by Erik Bosse, featuring music by Los Mescaleros.
"Yes, we're screening Selena in celebration of the 20th Anniversary of the movie release. We're screening it at the Arneson River Theatre at La Villita."
And it's not just the Selena movie.
"There'll be a performer before the movie. Guests should bring their picnics, lawn chairs, blankets. We'll have two food trucks. Cheesy Jane's and Mi Taquito will be there."
As to what this'll set you back: nothing. It's a free movie. Then on Saturday morning, head north to Boerne. READ MORE
Family movie night gets an upgrade with Slab Cinema, the inflatable film company that teams up with local parks, museums and neighborhoods for free screenings of kid favorites (like Minions), classics (see Top Gun) and even artsy flicks (think Nocturna). From the oversized screen to the small-town atmosphere that watching a movie in the park creates, there are few better ways to spend a summer evening.
Having a night out with the kids doesn’t have to mean splurging on $10-plus movie theater tickets thanks to Angela and Rick Martinez’s Slab Cinema. The couple brings their inflatable big screens to parks, museums, neighborhoods and other venues around the city for screenings that are often free and feature films from the latest Disney flick to classics every kid should see at least once, like The Sandlot.
Yanaguana Garden has already hosted dozens of free community events since it opened last year. This summer, Hemisfair will add Southtown Cinema to the list. The free cinema series will kick off Aug. 6 and run through the middle of December with screenings on the first and third Saturday of the month.