The Cactus Theater was constructed in Lubbock, TX in 1937 and officially opened in April 1938 as the first suburban, neighborhood movie theater. Built with a cost of around $30,000, it originally featured 720 seats and a washed air cooling system (air-conditioning). Its marquee featured 750 feet of neon lighting.
The original Cactus operated as a movie house from 1938 to 1958....when it was closed, stripped of its interior furnishings and equipment. For many years, it was used as a storage facility for scrap iron by the neighboring Greer Iron Works.
In the fall 1993, Lubbock music producer Don Caldwell purchased the Cactus Theater with the help of investors. His vision was to provide a venue to cultivate, mentor and showcase talented West Texas performers and present an entertainment opportunity for the region never before available. This vision helped plant the initial cornerstone for the development of the Lubbock Depot Entertainment District.
For this renovation the theater retained its balcony, sloped floor and stage. The projection booth was redesigned to hold spotlights, including a state of the art sound and light system. Approximately, 400 seats were installed with an up to date concession stand and restrooms in the lobby. Artist John Russell Thomasson provided the final touch with caprock canyon murals that included a stage backdrop to give the interior an "outdoor feel" for patrons seated inside the Cactus.
The newly reborn Cactus officially re-opened in 1995 as a live performance theater.
Through the years, Cactus audiences from Lubbock and the surrounding region have enjoyed many live music productions including: Nostalgia Nites, The Cactus Family Christmas Celebration, Girls’ Nite Out, The JDs, concerts showcasing America’s legendary Big Bands such as The Glenn Miller Orchestra, The Tommy Dorsey Orchestra have been showcased. Texas music legends with Joe Ely, BJ Thomas, Gary Morris, Jerry Jeff Walker, The Maines Brothers Band, Nanci Griffith, Guy Clark, Rodney Crowell, Marcia Ball, Gary P. Nunn, Ray Wylie Hubbard, Michael Martin Murphey and dozens more.
Live theater plays and musicals have been offered at the Cactus with productions of Fiddler on the Roof, The Odd Couple, Steel Magnolias, Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story, Always…Patsy Cline, and Honky Tonk Angels. The Cactus has also debuted regional written musical plays including: Holy Rock ‘n’ Rollers and Heavenly Country.
On July 1, 2016, the Cactus Theater was acquired by Lubbock businessman and music promoter Darryl Holland. The vision for the Cactus remains focused on showcasing top-notch local talent; promoting an expanded offering of regional and national touring acts; and screening classic and independent films on the newly-installed digital projection system. A new, state-of-the-art sound system has recently been installed as well...giving Cactus patrons the ultimate listening environment possible.
Recent concert highlights include performances by world-class guitarists Tommy Emmanuel, Leo Kottke, Esteban, Monte Montgomery and Eric Johnson. Country legends who have appeared include Gene Watson, Sammy Kershaw, John Conlee, Shenandoah, Bill Anderson, John Anderson, Junior Brown, Ricky Skaggs, Larry Gatlin and the Gatlin Brothers Band, The Bellamy Brothers, Michael Martin Murphey and Deana Carter…to name just a few. National and international icons have also graced the Cactus stage, as well, and these include Ireland's legendary Mary Black and Lubbock's own Ralna English and the original group that put Lubbock, Texas on the musical map - The Crickets. Bluegrass acts have been prominently featured as well and notable acts who’ve graced the Cactus stage include Ricky Skaggs & Kentucky Thunder, Dailey & Vincent, Del McCoury Band, Jerry Douglas and more. Comedy has also been featured along other specialty programming including illusionists, dance/ballet companies and prominent speakers. Pop, rock acts frequently perform at the Cactus and recent notable performers include Don McLean, Kiefer Sutherland Band, Band of Heathens, Del Castillo, and Reverend Horton Heat. Americana acts include the talents of Bob Schneider, Hayes Carll, Whitney Rose, Jack Ingram, Radney Foster, Sarah Jarosz, Bruce Robison and Kelly Willis. Rockabilly, Western and other specialty genres have been represented by acts ranging from Reverend Horton Heat to Riders In The Sky.