The Cactus Theater: Landmark of History and Stage for the Future cover image

The Cactus Theater: Landmark of History and Stage for the Future

Downtown Lubbock • October 4, 2023

For a night of quintessential West Texas entertainment, drive no further than 1812 Buddy Holly Avenue. There, the neon sign “Cactus Theater” lights the downtown Lubbock Depot Entertainment District as it has done for decades.

Locals will tell you this is where music is born. This is where all regional talent graces the stage. World-class entertainment is performed here in the heart of the city. Yet, like a good steak, the Cactus Theater is seasoned with history—and it has the plaque to prove it. Placed on the National Register of Historic Places, this venue is truly on the map.

Where Stars Shine

Like a true West Texan, this Lubbock landmark opened its doors in the midst of one of the hardest times in history—The Great Depression. Funds and resources were tight, but in April of 1938, the Cactus Theater began as a neighborhood movie theater. It premiered movies for twenty years, bringing entertainment to Lubbock’s downtown scene. Sometime during this era, the theater featured the band that brought attention to West Texas and whose star was home-grown, Buddy Holly and The Crickets.

Then, in 1958, the doors were shut. Instead of featuring cinemas, the theater took on a new ‘backstage’ role as a storage facility. It wasn’t until 35 years later that the Cactus Theater was dusted off and restored. Don Caldwell, along with the help of investors, purchased the theater with a vision to showcase West Texas performers. Once again, the neon lights buzzed brightly, illuminating downtown as the theater was reborn.

Since then, the stage has featured musicians, comedians, live plays, and musicals. It’s a bustling place featuring live music from the likes of the Maines Brothers Band, Joe Ely, Nanci Griffith, & more.

Owner, Darryl Holland, and a recent Elton John Tribute band.

Setting the Stage for the Future

In 2016, lifelong entrepreneur Darryl Holland saw an opportunity for the Lubbock community in the Cactus Theater. He has a knack for scoping out the big picture and seeing what the community needs. So, he purchased the theater. Mr. Holland’s grandfather ran theaters, so the theater business runs in his blood.

His vision was similar. After all, showcasing local artists is a win for the community. However, Mr. Holland wanted to expand that vision. So, not only would they showcase top-notch local talent, but they would also lift the curtain for regional and national touring acts. He also sought to enhance the theater’s amenities, paving the way for it to remain a hub for the future of Lubbock.

Audiences now enjoy new features, including a new digital projection system for showing movie classics and a state-of-the-art sound system. Most recently, Mr. Holland received a grant to crown the historical landmark with a stunning new marquee.

For Lubbock, The Cactus Theater is not only a piece of our history. It’s still alive—producing and showcasing our talents. Whether an audience member laughs along with a comedian or a musician waits for the curtain to lift, this historical place brings opportunity and entertainment. 

If you’re looking for a place to be, this is where Lubbock’s brightest shines best. The stage is set. The lights are on. It’s time to doll up and show up at The Cactus Theater.