For it’s final day, the River Oaks Theatre is screening Minari, The Father, and Nomadland.
Say it ain’t so. Today, March 25, is the River Oaks Theatre’s last day in operation. After over 82 years and business, the iconic theater is being forced to shutter by property owners amid the pandemic-caused economic downturn. [Featured image: @philipephotography]
Built in 1939, the River Oaks Theatre has been a go-to for movie buffs. Its traditional art-deco design and tasteful film selection, made it a community favorite among cinephiles.
However, amid the recent economic downturn, including its mandated hiatus last year, its parent company Landmark Theatres has struggled with property owners Weingarten Realty to come to terms on a rent agreement – all the way to the bitter end.
“Obviously, the government mandated closure during the COVID-19 crisis had an enormous impact on our revenue and we are trying to work with Weingarten on a proposal that will be to the benefit of both parties as well as the Houston community,” said Landmark Theatres president and COO, Paul Serwitz.
Conversely, the realty company stated that the theater is a year behind on rent, and doesn’t foresee its business model fit for coming through on its payments.
“Conversations have indicated that their business model does not support paying more than a fraction of the previous rent going forward. Unfortunately, the pandemic has caused many businesses in the entertainment industry, such as theaters, to fail,” a spokesperson for the company told CultureMap.
Numerous protests, letters of support, and fundraisers have been created in the past few months as desperate attempts to keep the cinema afloat. While the theatre updated their Facebook page last week with a glimmer of hope, or at least, inconclusiveness, that it would be closing on the 25th, it appears in near certainty that it will ultimately close.
It’s last screening at 7:30 pm this evening, will be of Nomadland – an oscar-nominated film starring Francis McDormand.
River Oaks Theater was built in 1939, opening in late November of that year with a screening of Bachelor Mother. It was first leased by Paul Scott, before Interstate Theaters acquired it in February 1947. It then changed hands to Trans-Continental in 1975, then to Movie, Inc. two years later – a company that would later merge with Landmark Theatre Company, which has overseen the theater ever since.
The theatre was a standout in Houston, as it regularly screened foreign language, independent, and art-house films. In earnest, the theatre was committed to cinema. Back in 1982, its then manager was arrested for screening Pier Paolo Pasolini’s notorious film, Salo. After being charged with “promoting obscene material” the manager was later acquitted by a jury the following year.
Tickets are still available to its last screenings.