The Batmobile was a popular draw at the Santikos Palladium IMAX at the Rim. Photo by Robert Rivard

A sneak preview of Batman Vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice at the Santikos Palladium IMAX at the Rim might strike some as an odd setting for a press conference to announce “a partnership that will change the face of philanthropy in San Antonio.”

Those were the words of Santikos Entertainment President and CEO David Holmes, who welcomed hundreds of civic and nonprofit leaders to a world premiere showing of the film with Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman and, of course, the Batmobile, serving as photo-op backdrops for the occasion.

While the film screening was surely a bonus, what really drew the crowd was the official transformation of Santikos Theaters into Santikos Entertainment, a 100-year-old, for-profit business that now exists to fund the John L. Santikos Foundation in partnership with the San Antonio Area Foundation.

“Santikos Entertainment now exists for the sole benefit of the communities in which it operates,” Holmes said Wednesday. “The partnership between the Area Foundation and Santikos Entertainment is an alliance unlike anything else that exists in the social space. Please go out and spread the message of the new Santikos legacy.”

San Antonio Area Foundation President and CEO Dennis Noll said afterwards that the decision by Santikos to leave his company and fortune to the community was one of the great philanthropic stories in the history of the city. The Area Foundation, which now has $900 million in assets, distributed $32 million to area charities and nonprofits in 2015.

The Wednesday evening fanfare at the Palladium, the second largest theater complex in the United States, was the latest development in the rebranded Santikos Entertainment and the newly launched Santikos Foundation and the valuation of $605 million that has been put on the gift that John Santikos left as his legacy following his death in December 2014. How much the Santikos assets are really worth is hard to pinpoint.

Santikos Entertainment is best known for operating the largest family-owned theater circuit in Texas, which includes the largest movie theater in the country, the Houston Palladium, and a second theater complex in that city, and the Palladium at the Rim and seven other theater complexes in San Antonio. The company also owns and manages more than 1 million sq. ft. of commercially leased real estate in San Antonio, and holds 300 acres of prime real estate that will be sold over time with the proceeds flowing to the Santikos Foundation.

Holmes said the foundation will contribute $20 million annually in charitable giving in San Antonio and the four-county area designated by Santikos in his will.

“Santikos is an entertainment company, but it’s now also a social enterprise,” Holmes said to loud applause. He then led the audience to a nearby IMAX theater inside the Palladium for the film screening, which the Rivard Report skipped.

Comicon actors portraying Superman, Wonder Woman and Batman. Photo by Robert Rivard
Actors portraying Superman, Wonder Woman and Batman. Photo by Robert Rivard
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Featured image: The Batmobile was a popular draw at the Santikos Palladium IMAX at the Rim. Photo by Robert Rivard

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Robert Rivard

Robert Rivard is co-founder and columnist at the San Antonio Report.