Alabama Theatre (Houston)
|Address||2922 South Shepherd|
|Designation||City of Houston Landmark|
|Architect||W. Scott Dunne|
|Owned by||Weingarten Realty|
|Type||Art Deco-Streamline Moderne Theatre|
The Alabama Theatre is a historic movie theater located at the intersection of Alabama Street and Shepherd Drive in the Upper Kirby district of Houston, Texas. Constructed in 1939, in the Art Deco and Streamline Moderne styles as a suburban theater, the Alabama primarily booked roadshow engagements through most of its history. Today, the theater is home to a Trader Joe's grocery store.
As Houston and the rest of the country recovered from the Great Depression, art-deco style theaters of the late 1930s were built in many residential neighborhoods across the city. The 739 seat Alabama Theatre opened on November 2, 1939 screening “Man About Town,” starring Jack Benny. The Alabama was Interstate Theater Corporation's tenth theater in the Houston area. The showing of the first CinemaScope film made (The Robe) at the first CinemaScope screening in Houston took place at the Alabama Theater.
Competition from multicinemas, television, and videotape reduced Alabama’s attendance and profits. The theater was closed as a movie theater and was renovated as a retail bookstore in December 1983, preserving many details such as its murals and balconies while undergoing an exterior and interior renovation designed to preserve the Streamline Moderne architecture of the 1930s. The theater was reopened as the Alabama Bookstop bookstore in 1984 (later acquired by Barnes & Noble booksellers) and became the retailers most profitable location.
The Alabama Bookstop closed in September, 2009 after 25 years as a bookstore. Weingarten Realty Investors, owner of the theater is interested in saving the historic building as long as the proposals make economic sense for the company. Weingarten might raze the building and is considering high-rise development on the theater site. The Greater Houston Preservation Alliance recently placed the Alabama Theater on its endangered buildings list due to the threat of demolition. Additionally, Preservation Texas also listed the theater as of the state's most endangered places as well as being designated as a historic property by the City of Houston.
In 2010 according to some construction documents Weingarten planned to bury the theater's sloped floor under a concrete slab and to remove the wooden floors that had been inserted in the 1983 conversion to a bookstore. Weingarten for now plans to keep the balcony. In March 2010 Alamo Drafthouse renewed its talks with Weingarten in regards to a proposal to lease space in the Alabama Theatre.
In September 2011 Trader Joe's stated that it was considering opening its first Greater Houston location in the Alabama Theatre. The Texas Historical Commission has informed the Greater Houston Preservation Alliance that Trader Joe's renovation plans for the Alabama Theater would leave the historic terrazzo at the theater’s original entrance intact. In September 2011 the City of Houston's Houston Archaeological and Historical Commission approved the proposed exterior changes that the property would make to the Alabama Theatre. If the municipal commission voted against the changes, the property owner would have been able to make them anyway after waiting 90 days.
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- Alabama Theater at Houston Deco: Modernistic Architecture of the Texas Coast
- Theater at Cinema Houston