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John Santikos, who built the largest family-owned movie theater chain in Texas, died Dec. 30 at Methodist Hospital in San Antonio after a short illness, the exhibitor announced. He was 87.
Santikos Theatres was founded in 1911 by Santikos’ father, Louis Santikos, a Greek entrepreneur and pioneer in the Texas exhibition industry. The chain has nine theaters — seven in San Antonio and two in the Houston area — for a total of 129 screens.
In the early 1950s, Santikos, who attended St. Mary’s University in San Antonio, joined his father at the family’s Olmos Theatre on San Pedro Avenue in San Antonio, taking tickets, handling concessions and learning the business. He took over the company in 1958 when his parents returned to their home and film distributorship operation in Athens.
Santikos purchased and built theaters through the Texas real estate downturn of 1987, then sold those theaters to Norman Lear’s Act III Communications. Act III later sold its theaters to Regal Cinema, and when that chain filed for bankruptcy protection in 2001, Santikos repurchased the San Antonio theaters that he had sold.
Santikos Theatres this year plans to be among the first exhibitors in the U.S. to install laser-projection technology. The chain employs more than 1,500 people.
“Mr. Santikos was well-known in San Antonio for his patronage of the arts and generous support of nonprofit and educational institutions,” Santikos Theatres CFO Joe Kryszak said in a statement. “He will long be remembered for his innovative spirit, business success and community involvement.”
Louis Santikos began in the movie business when he bought the Rex Theatre in Waco, Texas. In 1918, he was invited by San Antonio businessmen to move to the city, and he opened the Palace Theatre, San Antonio’s first “movie palace,” on Alamo Plaza. It closed in the mid-1950s.
John Santikos’ survivors include his daughter Violet and sister Kiki.
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