Photo courtesy of Cinemark

The Cinemark movie theater chain is bringing back a special viewing experience that involves not movies but sports: The Plano-based company is teaming with ESPN to bring college football games to the big screen.

This postseason, fans can catch three of the biggest games, including the Fiesta Bowl on New Year's Eve, as well as the College Football Playoff National Championship in January.

Cinemark debuted this idea in 2021. According to a release, it proved to be sufficiently successful that they're not only bringing it back, they're expanding the number of theaters where it's offered, to a total of 70 theaters across the U.S. including 19 in Texas, as follows in alphabetical order:

  • Austin - Cinemark Southpark Meadows
  • College Station - Cinemark Movies 18 and XD
  • Dallas - Cinemark 17 XD and IMAX
  • Denton - Cinemark 14
  • El Paso - Cinemark 20 XD and ScreenX
  • Fort Worth - Cinemark Alliance Town Center and XD
  • Grand Prairie - Cinemark Movies 16
  • Grapevine - Cinemark Tinseltown Grapevine and XD
  • Katy - Cinemark 19 and XD
  • Lubbock - Cinemark Movies 16 and XD
  • McAllen - Cinemark Hollywood USA
  • McKinney - Cinemark North McKinney and XD
  • Pasadena - Cinemark Hollywood Movies 20
  • Pflugerville - Cinemark 20 and XD
  • Plano - Cinemark West Plano XD and ScreenX
  • Rockwall - Cinemark 14 Rockwall and XD
  • San Antonio - Cinemark San Antonio 16
  • The Woodlands - Cinemark 17 and XD
  • Waco - Cinemark Waco and XD

The full list of theaters where it's available is online.

"Cinemark is thrilled to once again offer college football fans an opportunity to watch this year’s most anticipated games in our immersive, shared environment, especially given the enthusiasm we saw in our theaters last year," says Wanda Gierhart Fearing, Cinemark Chief Marketing and Content Officer.

"We are thankful for the collaboration with ESPN and our ability to bring this year’s games to even more cities as we expand participating locations," Fearing says. "Our larger-than-life screens and booming surround sound create the ultimate experience for fans to cheer on their team without missing a single heart-pounding play."

The schedule is as follows:

  • December 31, 3 pm: No. 2 Michigan will square off against No. 3 TCU in the College Football Playoff Semifinal at the Vrbo Fiesta Bowl
  • December 31, 7 pm: No. 1 Georgia will take on No. 4 Ohio State in the College Football Playoff Semifinal at the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl
  • January 9, 6:30 pm: The winners of the two games will go head-to-head for the College Football Playoff National Championship Presented by AT&T

All showings will include ESPN’s live pre-game studio programming.

To see the games in theaters, fans can reserve a seat when they purchase a $10 concessions package. Sales kick off on December 13. For information on participating theaters and to purchase concessions packages, visit Cinemark.com/CFP or the Cinemark mobile app.

Texas State University slides into top 10 ranking on list of best college investments in Texas

Top Ten TSU

By one measure, earning a degree at the Texas State University is one of the smartest moves in the Lone Star State.

In its eighth annual ranking of colleges and university that give students the best return on their educational investment, personal finance website SmartAsset places Texas State at No. 10 in Texas.

Houston's Rice University earned the No. 1 spot in Texas and No. 10 in the U.S., making it the only Texas school to break into the national top 10.

To determine the best-value colleges and universities in each state, SmartAsset crunched data in these categories: scholarships and grants, starting salary for new graduates, tuition, living costs, and retention rate.

Regarding tuition ($10,280) and student living costs ($12,850), Texas State's numbers are in the lower range among the top 10 Texas schools on the list, but so are the average amount of scholarships and grants ($7,757), average starting salary ($54,700), and retention rate (77 percent).

Texas State's admissions website estimates tuition, fees, on-campus room and board, books, and personal expenses for the 2022-23 academic year to be around $27,720. That figure, which excludes financial aid, applies to a full-time, degree-seeking student (and Texas resident) living on campus.

"At Texas State, you can immerse yourself in learning experiences that prepare you to launch a career as an entrepreneur, to make life-changing discoveries in science and technology, or to flourish creatively and make your mark as an artist," reads a statement on the school's admissions website.

Other schools on SmartAsset’s list of the biggest-bang-for-your-buck schools in Texas are:

    • Rice University in Houston, No. 1
    • University of Texas at Austin, No. 2
    • University of Texas at Dallas, No. 3
    • Prairie View A&M University, No. 4
    • University of Houston, No. 5
    • Texas A&M University-College Station, No. 6
    • Texas Tech University in Lubbock, No. 7
    • LeTourneau University in Longview, No. 8
    • University of North Texas in Denton, No. 9
    • Texas State University in San Marcos, No. 10

    Historic San Antonio mansion will transform into new restaurant and hotel destination

    in the house

    A San Antonio real estate firm co-founded by multimillionaire entrepreneur Graham Weston is converting a historic landmark on the campus of San Antonio College into a restaurant, hotel, and entertainment space.

    The firm, Weston Urban, is paying a little over $2 million for the Koehler House. Trustees of the Alamo Colleges District decided last year to sell the property, at 310 W. Ashby Pl. in the Tobin Hill neighborhood, in an effort to save money on renovations. The district’s trustees approved Weston Urban’s bid February 22.

    The Koehler property, formally known as the Koehler Cultural Center, once housed San Antonio College’s ceramics, art metals, and jewelry design studios. The three-story, white-limestone mansion, built in 1901, also has served as a conference and meeting venue. The 12,655-square-foot mansion sits on a nearly 2-acre site.

    The property’s original owner was Otto Koehler, co-founder and head honcho of what eventually would come to be known as the Pearl Brewery. Following Koehler’s shooting death in 1914, his widow, Emma Koehler, took over the property. After her death in 1943, Otto A. Koehler, son of the senior Otto’s twin brother, and wife Marcia assumed ownership of the estate.

    The junior Otto Koehler died in 1969. Two years later, the estate was deeded to the college district for use as the Koehler Cultural Center.

    It’s unclear preciously what Weston Urban envisions doing with the Koehler House. Documents from the San Antonio Colleges District indicate the property will become a restaurant, hotel, and entertainment space. Beyond that, details are scare.

    Launched in 2012, Weston Urban now owns more than 1 million square feet of commercial and retail space in San Antonio. Its highest-profile project is downtown San Antonio’s Frost Tower office high-rise.

    Weston is co-founder, former chairman, and former CEO of Windcrest-based Rackspace, a provider of cloud computing services. He exited the business in 2016, when it was sold to private equity firm Apollo Global Management for $4.3 billion. In the Apollo deal, Rackspace went from being a publicly held company to a privately held company. Two years ago, it returned to being a publicly held company.


    UTSA graduates to the head of the class with new Tier One designation

    academic upgrade

    The University of Texas at San Antonio has joined an elite class of colleges and universities.

    UTSA recently was designated a Tier One school. Under the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education program, Tier One is the highest possible level for academic and research excellence.

    “The designation places UTSA among the nation’s top public and private research universities, amplifying its statewide and national exposure to attract and recruit world-class faculty and top students,” the university says in a news release.

    Other Tier One schools in Texas are Baylor University, Rice University, Texas Tech University, the University of Houston, the University of North Texas, and the UT campuses in Austin, Arlington, Dallas, and El Paso.

    UTSA President Taylor Eighmy says San Antonio and the rest of Texas “deserve Tier One educational and research institutions to advance economic mobility and robust economic development driven by a knowledge economy.”

    To achieve Tier One status, UTSA increased annual spending on research, expanded its pipeline of doctoral students, and sought national attention for its researchers.

    UTSA is now one of about 20 U.S. universities that hold both Tier One designation and official status as schools serving Hispanic students.

    “Tier One designation improves the degree value, increases choices for our students aiming to pursue graduate study at other now-peer university programs, creates stronger professional affiliations for our faculty, and elevates our stature in the national research community,” says Kimberly Andrews Espy, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs at UTSA. “Simultaneously, the designation advances San Antonio’s knowledge pipeline by attracting additional talented faculty, who in turn further our local workforce.”

    In addition, Tier One status helps encourage partnerships with local organizations like UT Health San Antonio, the Southwest Research Institute, the Texas Biomedical Research Institute, Brooke Army Medical Center, and Joint Base San Antonio.

    “In the next decade, UTSA will become a national model for student success, a great public research university, and an exemplar for strategic growth and innovative excellence,” Eighmy says. “The traction we’re seeing on multiple fronts — in athletics, fundraising, enrollment, academic innovation, and research — position us to serve as an exemplar for the future of higher education in the United States.”

    Esteemed San Antonio university graduates to higher level in higher education

    Academic achievement

    San Antonio’s Trinity University has given it the old college try, and it’s aced a new classification that could elevate the school’s reputation on a national level.

    The Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education has approved Trinity’s request to be reclassified as a baccalaureate arts and sciences institution. This will result in Trinity being shifted to the National Liberal Arts category in the closely watched U.S. News & World Report rankings, beginning with the fall 2022 report. Trinity says the new classification better reflects the university’s mission and sets it up for greater national recognition.

    “Trinity has enjoyed an exceptional reputation for academic excellence, interdisciplinarity, and a commitment to the liberal arts for more than 150 years. We have earned a reputation as the premier liberal arts university in the Southwest,” Danny Anderson, president of Trinity, says in a news release.

    “Now, we are positioned to become a highly ranked and nationally recognized institution. While this will require significant effort and stewardship over multiple years, ultimately this move helps us attract and retain outstanding students, faculty, and staff. Most important, the investments we will make to achieve such standing positively impact student success and provide greater value for our alumni.”

    Founded in 1869 by Cumberland Presbyterians, Trinity has an enrollment of about 2,500. The school’s 43-acre campus is west of State Highway 281, between East Hildebrand Avenue and East Mulberry Avenue.

    Photo by Elizabeth James

    Whataburger cooks up $500,000 scholarship fund for minority students

    What an opportunity!

    Now, in addition to feeding their faces with some of Texas’ best burgers and fries, some worthy college students will be able to feed their dreams, thanks to beloved San Antonio-based chain Whataburger.

    The fast-growing and long-lasting burger chain, which features a beefy dedication to the communities where it does business, has just rolled out a scholarship program that will initially aid minority students.

    The Whataburger Feeding Student Success Scholarship initiative — part of the chain’s signature community program, Feeding Student Success, which aims to remove obstacles to success for students — includes a $500,000 commitment to help fund students’ college, university, and nonprofit vocational school endeavors.

    Whataburger says 100 students in cities where its restaurants are located will be awarded a non-renewable amount of $5,000 in scholarship funds that can be used for tuition, fees, books, supplies, and housing for the 2022-2023 academic year.

    Additionally, as part of a recent $1 million commitment Whataburger made to support Black and other minority students, it will prioritize these students in its first round of scholarship awards.

    Students interested in participating in the scholarship program can apply between now and February 28, 2022, and can get more info about eligibility requirements and the application process on Whataburger’s Community Support page through its website.

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    3 San Antonio-area chefs named James Beard Award finalists

    James Beard Finalists 2023

    Three San Antonio-area chefs are in the running for one of the food world’s most prestigious prizes. The James Beard Foundation has selected them as finalists for their annual Restaurant and Chef Awards.

    Considered the Oscars of the food world, the awards recognize chefs and other culinary professionals in a wide range of categories ranging from Outstanding Chef to Best New Restaurant. Texas is considered its own region and one person will earn Best Chef: Texas.

    The finalists for Best Chef: Texas are:

    • John Russ, Clementine, San Antonio
    • Ernest Servantes and David Kirkland, Burnt Bean Co., Seguin
    • Reyna Duong, Sandwich Hag, Dallas
    • Benchawan Jabthong Painter, Street to Kitchen, Houston
    • Emiliano Marentes, ELEMI, El Paso

    Other Texan restaurants and chefs in the running for national awards include:

    • Outstanding Bar: Las Ramblas, Brownsville
    • Outstanding Bakery: Kuluntu Bakery, Dallas
    • Outstanding Bakery: La Casita Bakeshop, Dallas
    • Outstanding Restaurant: Lucia, Dallas
    • Best New Restaurant: Restaurant Beatrice, Dallas
    • Best New Restaurant: Don Artemio Mexican Heritage, Fort Worth
    • Best New Restaurant: Tatemó, Houston
    • Outstanding Wine and Other Beverages Program: Nancy’s Hustle, Houston

      Notably, all of this year’s finalists for both the national categories and Best Chef: Texas are new. None of them received nominations in 2022.

      The finalists are drawn from a pool of semifinalists that included 10 nominations each for Houston and Dallas, seven for San Antonio, six for Austin, and two for Fort Worth.

      Last year, Texans did well in the awards, with Houston cocktail bar Julep winning Outstanding Bar Program, Austin chef Edgar Rico (Nixta Taqueria) winning Emerging Chef, and Austin chef Iliana de la Vega (El Naranjo) winning the first ever Best Chef: Texas. In addition, two Texans won media awards — Austin chef Jesse Griffiths (Dai Due) for his cookbook, The Hog Book: A Chef’s Guide to Hunting, Butchering and Cooking Wild Pigs and Texas Monthly taco editor Jose Ralat for his Tex-Mexplainer columns.

      The Foundation will reveal its Restaurant and Chef Award winners at an awards ceremony on Monday, June 5, 2023, at the Lyric Opera of Chicago. Media Award winners will be announced on June 3.

      6 things to know about San Antonio food right now: Stone Oak catches new Latin seafood spot


      Editor's note: We get it. It can be difficult to keep up with the fast pace of San Antonio's restaurant and bar scene. We have you covered with our weekly roundup of essential food news.


      The owners of local mainstay Sabor! Cocina Mexicana have dived into seafood. According to social media posts, Arenas Marisqueria Lounge held its grand opening at 9903 Stone Oak Pkwy #202 on March 16. Led by executive chef Luis Vazquez Sr., the eatery serves Latin coastal favorites such as ceviche, aguachile, poké tostadas, and fish tacos. The atmosphere follows suit with oceanic mood lighting and an imposing octopus mural.

      According to the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation records, the popular Chinese eatery Ming's is planning a new thing. Project details filed with the state reveal that a new location is in the works at 10772 Fiesta Texas Dr., Bldg 400 #106in La Cantera Heights. Construction on the 4000-square-foot eatery is set to begin in early April and wrap up in July.

      The race to fill the San Antonio area with chain coffee shops continues with Scooter's Coffee. The Nebraska-based franchise has submitted paperwork with the state for a drive-thru location at 2606 FM 1103 in Cibolo. The brand is best known for its maple waffle sandwiches filled with egg, Cheddar, and "just-enough-spice sausage. Take that last descriptor with a grain of salt. The Midwest is hardly known as a hotbed of bold flavors.

      An Austin-based chain is hoping to make a splash near Sea World. A sixth outpost of Torchy's Tacos debuted March 29 at 602 Hwy 151 #101. Like the other locations, the spot will serve fusion tacos alongside salads, burritos, cocktails, and the brand's signature queso.

      Other news and notes

      Food site Mashed has named local taquería Little Taco Factory its pick for the best taco in the state. According to the write-up, the site factored in "reviews, recommendations, awards, and other forms of recognition" to determine the winners, which must have been a daunting task. Particular kudos were given to the chorizo and egg breakfast taco, evocatively described as "an absolute fiesta in your mouth."

      Need a little liquid courage to conquer a fear of heights? The Tower of the Americas is hosting Wine Fest on April 15 from 2-5 pm. The $50-$90 tickets include tastings from 24 Sonoma Valley wineries paired with light bites. VIP passes add early entry and access to an exclusive lounge.

      Where to find the most iconic — and best — meals in all of Texas

      Hit the Road

      Texans don't need much of a reason to hit the open road. Our state is brimming with natural beauty and charming small towns, but nothing motivates us to fill up the tank like a bonanza of regional foods.

      There are renowned Texas flavors to be found throughout the entire state, from small towns like Round Top to the far west end in El Paso. And with meals ranging from Tex-Mex and barbecue to Frito Pie and kolaches, the Lone Star State is known for some of the most iconic foods in America.

      When you hit the open road to explore (and taste) it all, know that a Hilton Hotel is nearby for a good night's rest. Whether you're traveling with family, friends, or as a couple, the right room is waiting with a warm welcome.

      Hope you're hungry, because here is but a small slice of some of the best.

      Goldee's BBQ, Fort Worth
      Few barbecue joints in Texas can make a name without serving the holy trinity of brisket, sausage, and ribs. Still, the young chefs and pitmasters at this Fort Worth stop one-up the competition with unexpected sides like chicken rice and collard greens and crowd-pleasers like fish and chips.

      Chicken Fried Steak
      Babe's Chicken Dinner House, Carrollton
      All Texans take their chicken fried steak with some degree of seriousness. We dare say this eatery — which originated in Carrollton and has locations all over North Texas — takes it the most seriously of all, with plenty of family-style sides to round out the table.

      La Cocina, McAllen
      Former oil worker Evin Garcia combines tradition and innovation at this McAllen haunt. Enjoy everything from birria tacos dipped in a luscious consommé to an octopus version served with traditional al pastor fixings like onion, cilantro, and grilled pineapple.

      Elotes Fanny, Austin + North Texas
      With locations in Austin, Fort Worth, and Garland, this snack shop mini-chain knows everything about corn. Get it by the cob or in a cup, and make sure to douse it in the fiery homemade Atomic Salsa.

      Fried Chicken
      Dolli's Diner, Nacogdoches
      This diner does just about everything right, but the crowning jewel of the menu is undoubtedly the chicken fried chicken. It's served with mashed potatoes, gravy, and fresh veggies for color and is best enjoyed with funnel cake fries for dessert.

      Frito Pie
      RD's Burger, Cibolo
      This casual stop does its namesake dish with aplomb, but found pure magic in its Frito Pie. It's served with no muss or fuss and occasionally on the insanely delicious burger.

      Slovacek’s, West
      When it comes to kolaches, any bakery in West will serve the real deal. Relative newcomer Slovacek's gets the vote for its dozens of fruit flavors and creative klobasnek (the meaty cousin of kolaches) filled with boudin, pepperoni, or kraut.

      Royer's Round Top Cafe, Round Top
      No trip to Round Top's famous antique fair is complete without a stop at this darling cafe. "Pie Man" Bud Royer makes every visit sweet with pies like buttermilk, pecan, and the multi-fruit Troy's Junk Berry.

      L & J Cafe, El Paso
      This El Paso tradition is by a graveyard, sure, but don't let that deter you from enjoying its queso. The miraculous concoction made with roasted green chile, tomatoes, and onions is served with just-fried tostadas.

      Leal's Tamale Factory, Lubbock
      A Lubbock classic, this mainstay doesn't go for newfangled tamale flavors like sweet potato. Order pork, chicken, or cheese and rediscover the fundamentals.

      Viet-Cajun crawfish boils
      Crawfish & Noodles, Houston
      Who knows what James Beard-nominated chef Trong Nguyen puts in his secret sauce. What we do know is that it's one of the most intensely flavorful experiences in all of Houston.

      Texas knows no bounds when it comes to to where you can go (and eat). No matter where your next foodie adventure takes you, a Hilton hotel is waiting for you.

      With over 550 Hilton hotels spanning across the state of Texas, the possibilities to earn more while exploring the Lone Star State are endless.