RUBEN FRELS (1929-2014)
Rubin Frels introduced generations of South Texans to the magic of cinema and the wonders of music. Theater and music were his birthright, and he made successful careers in both. While his passion was always focused on music and pipe organs, he had high expectations that only a family-owned theater could live up to. Frels studied economics at Principia College in Elsah, Ill. He learned the theater business by direct association from his father, Rubin Frels Sr., who brought the movies to Victoria in the early 1900s.
In 1921 Victoria Theatre would become the first of many brick and mortar theatre buildings the Frels family would own. In the years to come, Frels Theatres would build cinemas all over South Texas with single screen theatres in places such as Wharton, Cuero, Bay City, El Campo, Columbus and Refugio. Frels Theatres built twelve theatres and drive ins in Victoria alone. The decedent Frelsburger served at Frels Drive-Ins is famous. Uptown Theatre, the first air conditioned theatre in South Texas would be Mr. Frels second endeavor. It was during this time when pipe organs were first introduced into theatres to add melody and sound effects to silent movies. By the 1950s Frels Theatres had become so large that the family purchased the three story Federal Building in downtown Victoria to accommodate offices for Frels Theatres and Frels Concession companies.
The Playhouse Theatre, the largest theatre in the Frels Theatre chain, was completed in 1966 under Rubin’s direction. The Playhouse seated 596 patrons and introduced another first for Victoria “a cry room”. Rubin designed the flooring for the expansion of the Playhouse Theatre to smartly direct spilled beverages to a centrally locate drain. Playhouse 2, 3 and 4, all part of the same buildings expansion, quickly followed. Salem Six and Cinema Four were the last theatres Rubin built.
Literally hundreds of kids got their first jobs working at Frels Theaters. Teaching young kids about business and providing them with their first job was very important to him. Frels quit the movie business in 1989 when he sold Frels Theaters to Cinemak. We are pleased to present this festival as a celebration of his life, and in honor of his contribution to our community.
Frels Fright Fest is a Film Exchange event, and is organized Anthony Peodne & Joe Friar. To learn more about Fright Fest, to volunteer or to submit your film, please contact us using the contact form below.