Allen Family Builds Aggie Legacy
In 1982, when the Farmington-based Allen Theatres, Inc. acquired two cinemas in Las Cruces, Larry Allen, who has been president of the company since 1975, decided that he would spend the summer in Las Cruces to assure a smooth transition. Those few months turned into 32 years and counting as the family (wife Diane and three children) soon joined him and made Las Cruces home.
The family’s involvement in the exhibition side of the motion picture industry dates to 1912 when his grandfather opened a nickelodeon in Farmington. It was one of several businesses that his grandfather tried and more than a century later, this family-owned business is thriving with 108 screens in eleven communities across New Mexico and Colorado.
Over the years, the Allen family was very active in the Farmington community. Silent films gave way to talkies. They added drive-ins in the 1950s and promoted fine and performing arts along with motion pictures. Larry was involved with a number of civic and business organizations in Farmington and once he was a permanent resident of Las Cruces, he quickly found similar outlets for his interests.
“I became a big fan of Aggie athletics, particularly the women’s volleyball program,” he says. “We went to all their games long before they were playing in the Pan Am Center.” His interest in athletics led him to accept a six-year term on the Aggie Athletic Club board of advisors and make many financial contributions as well.
Allen has been making gifts to the university since he arrived in Las Cruces. In 1991, he established an endowment to award scholarships to NMSU students who are employed at Allen Theatres.
“It’s not a big scholarship but it makes me feel that it is worthwhile when one of the recipients tells me it makes a difference in being able to stay in school,” Allen states. His own college career was cut short during his second year when his father passed away and he dropped out to help his mother run the business. He received an honorary degree from Dona Ana Community College in 2012.
The largest single gift came through Allen Theatres, Inc., in 2010 to name the box office in honor of Larry’s mother, Helen Foutz Allen and sponsor the outdoor digital marquee for the Center for the Arts.
“We’ve seen a lot of changes in this industry in the last several decades,” Allen states. “Keeping up with changes in technology can be challenging but our goal is to deliver a quality product that provides enjoyment for patrons of all ages.”
Larry now serves on the NMSU Foundation Board and is impressed by the work that organization does to support the university. “New Mexico State University, particularly under its current leadership, is dedicated to excellence in education for all New Mexicans and we are proud to be a partner with this institution.”