An interesting rumor is going around that a five-star restaurant was planned for the long vacant Martini Theatre building in the island’s downtown.

But there’s no truth to the rumor , Michael Martini, majority owner of the building at the corner of 21st and Church streets, said.

Martini this week said he still owns the building and there’s no plans for a restaurant at the site. But Martini did say he’s getting bids to replace the roof and put the original marquee back on the building. The marquee would be would be lit at night, he said.

“I’m so happy to see all the action downtown,” Martini said. Martini and family get offers occasionally for the building, but they’re too low, he said.

To demolish the building would cost about $500,000  — there’s a lot of concrete and steel — and redeveloping what was once a 990-seat movie theater also would be expensive venture.

Martini doesn’t want to demolish it and islanders have long wanted to see the art deco-style theater, built in 1937, revived. Martini has, on occasion, been at odds with the city over the building’s condition.

The building is not a protected landmark under the city’s preservation ordinance. But Martini is sentimentally attached to it, he said.

The Martini family at one time owned eight island movie theaters. But the family empire faded with the advent of TV. The Martini Theatre closed in 1975.

Although there is no new buyer for the building, Martini is in talks to lease the strip center at the site.

“I’m actively working on that,” he said.

If you had deep pockets, how would you redevelop the Martini Theatre building?

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(14) comments

GISD Communications

Make it into an upscale bar/nightclub/event space with old movies playing in the background.

Glen Krajca-Radcliffe

Alamo Draft House

Barb Falkenhagen

Alamo Draft House, or similar, cocktail and a movie!!!

Steve Fouga



All of those ideas would be difficult to get approval from TABC, because of the Church across the street for any business selling alcohol I due believe.

Norman Pappous

The real problem is that the owners of this property (and others they own and have fallen into neglect) are seeking diamond prices for opals..... They need to adjust their expectations or one day when the neglect gets to the point of becoming a health hazard there will be a large, expensive clash with city hall....

Albert S. Gonzales

The last movie we saw there was “King Kong” in 1974-75. The Martini itself made every movie a special event. It should be renovated to once again become what it was built to be, a wonderful movie house that is elegant and comfortable. It can be a special events venue for anything that would benefit the general public, i.e. movies, speaker engagements, stage plays, etc.

Veronica De Los Santos

I was just thinking about that building get yesterday, hoping it wouldn't be demolished, so many memories there.

Raymond Lewis

Thanks for the update Laura. Not too encouraging but still an update.

If I could wave a magic wand it would maintain the theater facade and well lit Marquee but inside several small shops (perhaps Coffe/tea small specialty dining) with lots of outside seating. The theater would become a stage for smaller music venues with a community theater and meeting space. The corner and intersection would become as lively as 21st and Postoffice.

david nance

A Martini Bar

Roy Hughes

I would restore and show old movies there. Make it an icon. I believe Houston has a theatre on West Gray that shows French movies. It is on a nice street right outside River Oaks.

Jarvis Buckley

The family needs to find the market price and sell it to some one that appreciates the history and has the money to renovate it. They shouldn't let their greed destroy this building that is such a part of Galvestons history.They owe that much to Galveston. In my humble opinion.

Mary Castillo

Film selections should be similar to the types of Houston's River Oaks Theater, MFAH Film Series, or even , Sundance Theater's. It's time for this type of film venue, especially with both professional job and population growth along the I-45 corridor, and year- round island visitors, to have a location south of Houston and its inner loop.
If not a film theater, I would hope a jazz bar or jazz club, particularly, after seeing the attendance at the Moody Garden's Jazzfest last May. Many of those in attendance traveled from Houston that weekend to hear an outstanding line-up of artists.

Miss Priss

Keep the name the Martini .....definitely get a liquor license and specialize in the drinks by the name. Limited menu with gourmet popcorn twists, popular snacks.

Agreed - select movies that are independent films that don't get shown at regular theaters. River Oaks theater on West Gray is always packed because they do a great job of getting the word out in that area - focus on making it a destination for people in other county cities, clear Lake, etc.

I wish I could buy it.

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