LOCAL Houston | The City Guide December 2016 - Page 38

Heights Theater – photo by Ray Redding USHERING ERA River Oaks Theatre – photo courtesy Landmark Theatres GISH AT THE MOVIES in a new DeLuxe Theater – photo courtesy Fifth Ward Community Redevelopment Corporation I managed the 1939 River Oaks Theatre in the 1990s so I’ve always had a soft spot for historic theatres. When it was in danger of being torn down in 2007, I founded a now-defunct group called “Save Our Landmarks” that was instrumental in getting the theatre registered as a city landmark. It’s not a “protected landmark” – something that the owners must apply for – so its fate is still not sealed. But in the meantime, we get to enjoy it as Houston’s longestrunning movie theatre. According to historian DAVID WELLING (author of Cinema Houston), in the 1930s and 1940s, Houston had almost two dozen theatres that ranged from Egyptian temples to exotic Spanish gardens to majestic downtown palaces to art deco beauties. Unfortunately, most of those theatres are gone, save the River Oaks and a few others heading for decay. But there are two gems that have been recently rehabbed and, although they are no longer showing films, their newfound life pays homage to their illustrious history in the Houston film scene. Both theatres will soon be listed in the National Register of Historic Places, and both theatres have been re-opened just one year. The DeLuxe Theater (www.thedeluxetheater.com/) opened in 1941 as the first African-American movie house 38 L O C A L | december 16 in Houston and was one of the few theatres blacks could go to during segregation. It sits in the heart of Fifth Ward, a 150-year-old historic neighborhood that KATHY FLANAGAN PAYTON, the vibrant director of the Fifth Ward Community Redevelopment Corporation, calls “a community of choice.” The theatre sat vacant for 40 years as a shell, so when the City of Houston acquired it in 2009, the decision was made to restore it to its original art deco style as a stimulus to the neighborhood. The FWCRC rents the building for $1 a year from the City with the agreement that they will program it and Texas Southern University uses the building for theatre classes, shows and networking events. EDWIN CABANISS of Dallas told me his passions include historic preservation, the arts and neighborhoods so the 1929 Heights Theater (www.theheightstheater.com) was a perfect combination of all three. He was thrilled to be able to purchase it from SHARON and GUS KOPRIVA, who had already started the historic designation process. Like the DeLuxe Theatre, the Heights Theater stands as an anchor in the neighborhood not only for its connection to history but also as a gathering spot for the community with a robust schedule of musicians coming to play, including JOE ELY, SARA WATKINS and LOS TEXMANIACS. WANT TO SEE MORE ART FILMS? CHECK OUT THESE VENUES 14 Pews (www.14pews.org) Alamo Drafthouse (www.drafthouse.com) Asia Society (www.asiasociety.org/texas) Aurora Picture Show (www.aurorapictureshow.org) Blaffer Art Museum (www.blafferartmuseum.org) Café Brasil (www.cafe-brasil.net) Contemporary Arts Museum (www.camh.org) Discovery Green (www.discoverygreen.com) DiverseWorks (www.diverseworks.org) Holocaust Museum (www.hmh.org) Jewish Community Center (www.erjcchouston.org) Landmark River Oaks Theatre (www.landmarktheatres.com) Menil Collection (www.menil.org) Miller Outdoor Theatre (www.milleroutdoortheatre.com) Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (www.mfah.org/films) Orange Show (www.orangeshow.org) Rice Cinema (www.ricecinema.rice.edu) Sundance Cinemas (www.sundancecinemas.com) By Sarah Gish | www.gishcreative.com