The Texas Theatre in Oak Cliff, Dallas, Texas;
taken in March 2006 while restoration was in progress
|Location||231 W. Jefferson Blvd.
|NRHP Reference #||03000187|
|Added to NRHP||April 1, 2003|
The Texas Theatre is a movie theater and Dallas Landmark located in the Oak Cliff neighborhood of Dallas, Texas. It gained historical fame for being the place where Lee Harvey Oswald, the man who killed President John F. Kennedy and Dallas police officer J. D. Tippit, was arrested after a brief fight. Today, it hosts a mix of repertory cinema and special events.
When first opened in 1931, the Texas Theatre was the largest suburban movie theater in Dallas and was part of a chain of theaters owned by Howard Hughes. It was the first theater in Dallas with air conditioning and featured many state-of-the-art luxuries.
On November 22, 1963, shortly after the fatal shooting of President Kennedy and the wounding of Texas governor John Connally (who was the jump seat passenger in the Kennedy limousine) at 12:30 p.m. and the fatal shooting of Officer Tippit at approximately 1:16 p.m., Oswald entered the Texas Theatre shortly after 1:30 p.m. without paying for a ticket, ostensibly to avoid police. They were later informed by the assistant manager that a man had entered the theater without paying. The films being presented on that day were Cry of Battle and War Is Hell. Oswald briefly viewed the latter.
As a commemoration to the historic capture, the words "Lee Harvey Oswald, November 22, 1963" were later inscribed in gold paint on the chair Oswald (supposedly) occupied (the actual chair was removed by the then manager "Butch" Burroughs, who took it home and replaced it with another one which the FBI confiscated the next day for evidence thinking it was the original Oswald seat). It was the fifth seat from the aisle in the third to last row.
Following the theater's closure in 1989, the Texas Theatre Historical Society (TTHS) bought it in 1990. Acknowledging its importance to the President’s assassination, TTHS allowed Oliver Stone to remodel the exterior façade for his 1991 film, JFK. However in 1992, the Society was no longer able to make the mortgage payments and the theater closed once more. Shortly thereafter, former usher and sign changer Don Dubois of Texas Rosewin-Midway Properties saved the theater from the wrecking ball. Nevertheless, two years later in 1995, it was nearly destroyed by a five-alarm fire, forcing the doors shut yet again. In 1996, Pedro Villa rescued the theater from demolition when he learned of plans to convert it into a furniture warehouse. However, as Villa’s resources were exhausted and his pleas for investments went unheard, the theater defaulted back to Texas Rosewin-Midway Properties. The tattered and torn building remained vacant for three years, succumbing to vandals, stray animals, and hostile weather.
In 2001, after being awarded $1.6 million from the City of Dallas Neighborhood Renaissance Partnership program, the Oak Cliff Foundation acquired and began to renovate the Texas Theatre. Since 2001, the board of the Oak Cliff Foundation has raised an additional $2 million of the estimated $9 million needed for the complete renovation of the theater. The funds raised contributed to major structural renovations needed after years of neglect and fire damage and the venue began hosting movies and special events soon after.
In August 2010, Aviation Cinemas, Inc. (a reference to Howard Hughes, the theater's original owner), consisting of Partners Barak Epstein, Adam Donaghey, Jason Reimer, and Eric Steele, signed a lease to operate the theater as an independent and repertory cinema.
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