In WordPress 3.4, themes can now place page templates inside a subdirectory of their theme.
I’ve spent much of the 3.4 development cycle working on a new API called WP_Theme. But it’s not something you’ll find in the release announcement.
That’s because the vast majority of plugin and theme developers will never use it, nor should they. It’s an under-the-hood enhancement that was aimed at strengthening our internals, and it enabled us to improve quite a bit. For example, we were able to find huge performance improvements in both memory and speed. And it enhances the ability to localize themes. (More on these changes when I start working on the 3.4 field guide.)
It feels nice to be working with a modern, well-written API, even if I’m the only one using it. That’s okay, because look how easy it was to add support for page templates in a subdirectory. This is just the beginning.
Child themes can override these templates the same as before — the child theme will just need to create the same directory structure to do it. (So, /page-templates/one-column.php needs to be overridden with /page-templates/one-column.php, not /one-column.php.) And yes, we’re only looking one level down.
Updated… Caution: Renaming a page template — and that includes moving all of top-level page templates into a directory — will unassign that page template for all pages currently using it. This is a new tool in your toolbox, but use it wisely.