Believe it or not, the Alamo Plaza attraction Louis Tussaud’s Waxworks, situated directly across from Texas’ most visited site, marks its 30th anniversary in San Antonio this weekend.
More than 6 million people have visited the attraction since it opened. But the company celebrates this milestone amid uncertainty over where it and other entertainment businesses will go when a newly imagined Alamo Plaza is developed.
In October 2015, the State announced its intentions to purchase the three buildings across from the Alamo that house Ripley’s and other tourist attractions. The Alamo Master Plan calls for renovations of these properties and the establishment of a museum that tells the story of the Battle of the Alamo in place of those attractions.
The anniversary event was marked with a press conference Friday attended by new Councilman Clayton Perry (D10).
“I am very interested in the development down here around the Alamo,” said Perry, acknowledging that he has not yet seen the redevelopment plan. “Where they were planning to move all this, I don’t know.
“I do love the entertainment here, but it gets back to how do we want to portray the Alamo and the area around it, [and] how far do we want to take it back to the original boundaries. Personally, I like the downtown area with this area of family entertainment. But it depends on where they’re talking of moving it to. It’s a lot of money they’re talking about, a lot of money.”
Since opening in 1987, the Theater of Wax has employed 1,400 people – for many of them, it was their first job. The attraction began with 250 wax figures of characters like comedian Jerry Lewis and actor Ed Asner and has cycled through 325 different figures as styles and celebrities have come and gone.
Today, there are 200 figures featured, from the iconic, like Marilyn Monroe, to current celebrities like Lady Gaga, Britney Spears, Jimmy Kimmel, and Beyoncé. Figures of President Donald Trump and Pope Francis greet visitors at the door.
“Thirty years ago, when we opened, there was an article in the local newspaper that asked, ‘Will the wax museum bring family fun back to the plaza?’” said Clay Stewart, Ripley’s regional manager. “And I think we have. We have been a mainstay here for many years. We have been a fun place for families to come and enjoy themselves … and it helped spin off other businesses in the area to make this a really fun, entertaining area for all families to come down and see.”
No matter where the theater of wax goes, said Michael Woody, vice president of communications and development at Visit San Antonio, the entertainment assets would be preserved.
“We’re very dedicated to that,” Woody said. “It’s exciting for us because when we look at tourist counts, 70% are coming for this type of activity. This is part of that experience and protecting that experience will keep us relevant, not only in the state, but nationwide. It’s part of who we are, so we will be working very hard to find a solution.”
The relocation of such businesses in Alamo Plaza also would impact Visit San Antonio because of the visitor center there, said Richard Oliver, director of partner and community relations at Visit San Antonio. But he’s not concerned.
“Wherever that entertainment district ends up, we know the City is going to do its due diligence to make it happen in a very positive way,” Oliver said. “I don’t think there’s anything more exciting than what happens in the investment of the Alamo. It’s the hub of the wheel.”
The Orlando, Fla.,-based Ripley Entertainment Company owns publishing, licensing, and broadcast divisions that oversee projects including the syndicated Believe It or Not! television show, best-selling books, and the popular syndicated cartoon strip, Ripley’s Believe It or Not!. Ripley Entertainment is part of the Jim Pattison Company, the second-largest privately held company in Canada.
To celebrate the anniversary, Stewart announced that a percentage of the weekend’s ticket proceeds would benefit the nonprofit Boys & Girls Clubs of San Antonio, and all San Antonio Fire Department firefighters were invited to visit the theater for free.
Admission to the Ripley’s San Antonio attractions is reduced from $29.99 per person to $15 through Sunday, June 25.
Discounted tickets are available at the door or here using the promo code “wax30.”