April 15, 2021: Weingarten Realty Investors, long-time owner of the River Oaks Shopping Center and its historic theatre, has entered into a merger agreement with real estate investment trust powerhouse Kimco Realty Corp. The parties expect the transaction to close during the second half of 2021 after customary closing conditions are met. Friends of River Oaks Theatre hopes to persuade the new property owners to preserve the theatre's historical integrity and continue its legacy as an operating cinema. Kimco Realty news release
In 1939, the first curtain rose at Houston’s Art Deco jewel, the River Oaks Theatre on West Gray Street. For the next 82 years, movie lovers laughed, screamed, cried, and gasped together – and ate the best popcorn alongside each other – within what is considered the soul of a community.
On March 25, 2021, however, the doors closed on a theatre that until that moment, had been the last operating movie palace in the nation’s fourth largest city. The historic building’s owner, Weingarten Realty, and the tenant, Landmark Theatres, operator of 45 years, could not come to an agreement to renew the lease. An era ended.
[UPDATE April 15, 2021: With Weingarten Realty's merger into Kimco Realty Corp, the fate of the theatre will rest with the incoming owner]
Concerned devotees of the theatre are acutely aware of what has been the destiny of other vacated movie palaces in town over the years. Some have become restaurants, some bookstores, grocery stores, or tragically, have been demolished – their irreplaceable architectural elements gone forever.
Hoping to prevent this from happening to their beloved River Oaks, a group formed to lead a rally to save it – the Friends of River Oaks Theatre. We’re working to encourage the property owner to not only maintain the theatre’s historical integrity but also to allow it to remain a film-based operation.
Please join our cause.
When it became known that the theatre was in danger of closing, Friends of River Oaks Theatre began to spontaneously organize to save the theatre. We are reaching out to all fans of the River Oaks Theatre to preserve our historic ‘church’ of cinema.
Here's a special message to Friends of River Oaks Theatre from filmmaker Wes Anderson.