The Woodlawn Theatre company is moving to the Bijou Theatre at the Wonderland of the Americas mall.
The Woodlawn Theatre company is moving into the former Bijou theater space at the Wonderland of the Americas. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

Santikos Theaters is opening its doors to all first responders and offering them free admission to its seven locations in San Antonio from Sept. 11 through Nov. 30. The offer is open to all uniformed personnel, regardless of where an individual lives or works.

That means police officers, fire fighters, sheriff’s deputies, constables, and and EMS technicians all will be welcome to go to the movies for free as many times as they like. First responders will be asked to show their badge or official identification. They do not have to be in uniform. Dependents, significant others, and friends still have to buy their tickets.

The idea for the “Free for First Responders” program came when Santikos Theaters President Art Seago and San Antonio Acting Police Chief Tony Treviño were talking about meaningful ways the San Antonio entertainment company could communicate its appreciation for law enforcement personnel.

“It’s really a thank-you to our first responders, we think it’s the right thing to do, and recent events in Houston and other cities that have occurred since we began planning this only underscores why we want to give back and express our support,” said Dennis Noll, president and CEO of the San Antonio Area Foundation.  Noll also is serving as chairman of the John L. Santikos Charitable Foundation, a charitable trust established this year after the dEcember 2014 death of the company and foundation’s namesake. Mr. Santikos was a highly successful entertainment business entrepreneur, prescient real estate developer, and philanthropist.

John L. Santikos. Photo courtesy of the San Antonio Area Foundation.
John L. Santikos. Photo courtesy of the San Antonio Area Foundation. Credit: Courtesy / San Antonio Area Foundation

Under the terms of his will, 10% of all the foundation’s funds will go to Doctors Without Borders and 10% will go to International Orthodox Christian Charities for the organization’s operations in Greece, Santikos’ native country. The remaining 80% of the foundation founds will be spent in San Antonio in support of charitable and non-profit community groups. Noll said the foundation would be making a more formal announcement about its activities after the organizational work is complete later in 2015.

“Mr. Santikos was a very private man, he didn’t draw attention to himself, he was a quiet philanthropist,” Noll said. “The future impact on San Antonio of his philanthropy will be enormous.”

Seago said the Santikos Theater managers and employees are inspired by Santikos’ generosity and his decision to see the foundation created, and they are doing more to change their own company culture to play a more active and giving role in the community. The “Free for First Responders” is an example of the kind of programming the company is offering in the community, similar to free movie days for the young residents at the San Antonio Children’s Shelter.

The company’s semi-monthly Eva’s Heroes Special Presentations and its weekly, Wednesday Mommy Matinees, are designed for families with babies (free stroller concierge), and families with toddlers or special needs children. The theaters have the lighting turned up and the sound is lowered to create a more comfortable environment for the children and families.

“We are excited to offer this well-deserved thank-you to our local first responders,” Seago said. “As one of the pillars of our community, we recognize and respect the self-sacrifice first responders provide for our safety and well-being. We look forward to seeing them at Santikos Theatres.”

First responders honor those that lost their lives on September 11 during the second annual San Antonio 110-9/11 Memorial Climb. Photo by Scott Ball.
First responders honor those that lost their lives at the 9/11 terrorist attacks during the second annual San Antonio 110-9/11 Memorial Climb. Photo by Scott Ball.

*Top image: Movie goers walk pass the ticket booth at The Bijou, owned and operated by Santikos Theatres. Photo by Scott Ball. 

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Robert Rivard, co-founder of the San Antonio Report who retired in 2022, has been a working journalist for 46 years. He is the host of the bigcitysmalltown podcast.