River Oaks Theatre
The River Oaks Theatre is a historic movie theater located in the River Oaks Shopping Center in the Neartown community in Houston, Texas, United States, east of the River Oaks community. The theater has three projection screens; one large screen, downstairs, and two smaller screens, upstairs.
The theater opened on November 28, 1939. Paul Scott had the lease to the theater. Its first film was Bachelor Mother. In February 1947 Interstate Theaters acquired the River Oaks Theatre. In late 1975 the chain Trans-Continental took control from Interstate. The New Mexico chain Movie, Inc. took control of the River Oaks Theatre in 1977. The theater's focus changed from first-run films to alternative films such as re-released films, and classic, foreign, cult, and old films. Movie, Inc. later merged with Landmark Theatre Company.
Since 1976, the theater has been operated by Landmark Theatres and generally shows foreign language and independent films, as well as other "art-house" movies. The theater re-opened on March 26, 1977.
On September 9, 1982, there was a screening of Salo at the theater; this was the third showing in a three-year period. Vice squad officers wiated for the screening to conclude and arrested the manager in a raid. The authorities charged him with promoting obscene material but a jury acquitted the manager in an April 1983 trial.
During a January 1983 screening of Fire on the Water there was a dueling protest between Ku Klux Klan and anti-Klan groups. After the release of the 1985 film Hail Mary there were protests from church groups.
The theater's focus went back to first run films by the mid-1980s due to an increase in video VHS releases and cable. In the mid-1980s the theater owners did a $400,000 renovation. They removed a group of seats from the downstairs auditorium so a projector could be installed. The seating capacity was changed to 546 seats. The owners changed the balcony into two 125-seat each mini-theaters. The 1939-era carbon-arc projectors were replaced with platter-system projectors. The balcony screens received an ultrastereo sound system, while Dolby was used for the downstairs screens. The theater owners installed a café in the upstairs area and elevators. New paint in gray and blue was applied to the interior. On May 15, 1986, the renovated theater re-opened.
Honors and awards
That the River Oaks Theatre holds an important historic and cultural significance for the Houston community is evidenced by the many honors and awards it has received:
- March 26, 2000, was officially proclaimed "River Oaks Theatre Day" by Mayor Lee Brown
- Presented an award for the "Preservation of a Landmark Facility as a Unique and Special Venue for Art, Vintage and Independently Produced Films" (2001) by the Museum District Alliance
- Declared "Best Movie Theatre" (2001) by Inside Houston
- Declared "Best Movie Theatre" (2003) by the Houston Press
- Listed as one of the "20 Cool Things About Houston" (2006) by the Houston Chronicle
- November 6, 2006, was officially proclaimed "River Oaks Theatre Day" by Mayor Bill White
- On April 19, 2007, the globally popular internet show, Pure Pwnage, screened its newest episode at the River Oaks Theatre, before the internet release
The Rocky Horror Picture Show
The River Oaks Theatre is one of a handful of sites in the Houston area that carries on the tradition of showing The Rocky Horror Picture Show at midnight, which can be seen on the second Saturday of every month, complete with the "Royal Mystic Order of Chaos" shadow cast .
Theatre closing controversy
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According to several Houston-area preservation groups, in July 2006, Weingarten Realty Investors, the company that owns the shopping center announced to its tenants that the entire shopping center was going to be bulldozed and replaced with new buildings in 2008.
The groups' statements lead to a fervor in the Houston area to preserve the theater and the surrounding shopping center. Several movements aimed at the theater have established websites and petitions. Many of the backers of the movement to save the theater include many wealthy residents of River Oaks. Many Houstonians have signed a petition to save the theater.
On August 30, 2006, Carolyn Farb announced that she would make an effort to preserve the theatre. She stood in front of the theater with a group of supporters. All wore shirts reading "Save Our Shrines" in black.
Public statements by Weingarten and Landmark Theatres assert that there are no plans to close the River Oaks Theatre. In 2006, due to the controversy, the Houston Press ranked Weingarten the "Turkey Landlord of the Year".
- Welling, David. Cinema Houston: From Nickelodeon to Megaplex. University of Texas Press, June 30, 2010. ISBN 0292773986, 9780292773981.
- Map of Neartown. Neartown Association. Retrieved October 20, 2008.
- "River Oaks Theatre". Cinema Treasures (2000-2007), cinematreasures.org. Retrieved 2007-06-09.
- Welling, p. 128.
- Welling, p. 129.
- Welling, p. 130.
- Welling, p. 131.
- Welling, p. 130-131.
- "River Oaks Theatre". Landmark Theatres (1999-2007), www.landmarktheatres.com. Retrieved 2007-06-09.
- Kristin Finan. "A Rocky Horror evening". Kristin2Go, chron.com. Retrieved 2008-12-12.
- "River Oaks Center/Theatre and Alabama Theater/Bookstop Update". Greater Houston Preservation Alliance (1998-2007), www.ghpa.org. Retrieved 2007-06-09.
- Welling, p. 132.
- Connelly, Richard. "Turkeys of the Year The 2006 Collectors Edition." Houston Press. Thursday, November 23 2006. p. 4. Retrieved on April 15, 2014.
- "Approval of a resolution designating River Oaks Community Shopping Center and River Oaks Theatre, and Alabama Community Shopping Center and Alabama Theatre as 2 Historic Landmarks." (Archive) City of Houston.
- River Oaks Theatre
- Greater Houston Preservation Alliance
- "Save these treasured icons." Carolyn Farb Official Website.