August 12, 2002
To Whom It May Concern:
I am writing this letter in support of lo Communications' Interstate Documentary Project.
For the past eight years; I have been conducting research on the history of Karl Hoblitzelle's Interstate Theatres for the purpose of publishing a book-length history. I have conducted oral histories and examined the archival resources at the grass-roots level in Texas and from the studio perspective in Los Angeles. My efforts have produced two journal articles and a first draft of several chapters of the book itself. Interstate Theatre Circuit's history is a rich one; touching on topics as varied as politics; religion; race; economics; and urbanization in Texas; just to name a few. But the process of compiling the history has been lengthy; due in no small part to the challenges inherent in piecing together a story as ephemeral as Interstate's. Much of its history cannot be found in the archives. Instead; it resides in the memories of the people who ran the company as well as in the theatres themselves. In the eight years I have pursued this project; stories have been lost through the deaths of Interstate employees and the destruction of former Interstate theatres. As a result; significant details of the twentieth-century cultural ritual of "going to the picture show;" and how precisely it shaped the lives and perspectives of the vast majority of Americans; have been lost.
I have been aware of Jeffrey Mills' efforts to document the history of Interstate Theatres on video since 1996; and have happily cooperated with him on his production of his one- hour documentary; "Before the Curtain Rises." I endorse the Interstate Documentary Project wholeheartedly. Mr. Mills is dedicated to the mission of preserving the history of Interstate Theatres; preserving the theatres themselves (particularly the Plaza in El Paso) and; through the medium of video; of communicating their importance to the cultural heritage of Texas to a wide audience. It is my hope that his effort to raise the general public's awareness of the architectural significance of these buildings and the richness of their history will result in a better understanding of this under-studied cultural force; which impacted so many aspects of Texas history.
Please feel free to contact me with any questions.