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The fast-growing AMC Theater chain wanted to follow up its game- changing AMC Northtown 6 and its follow-up AMC Northwood Hills 4 on the border of Richardson with another 42 screens with 10,000 seats in Dallas during the 1971 calendar year. On the periphery of Dallas’ Preston Hollow neighborhood, the Preston Center 2 Theatres was built by contractor Koonce & Davis and in support of AMC’s architects was Albert R. Smith, a Dallas architect. The side-by-side theaters each had their own attraction sign and entrance at the Preston Center East Shopping Center but shared every other theater amenity. The 10,200 square foot theater had two 450 seat houses for a capacity of 900 patrons (technically 446x2 892 total). Opening on Nov. 10, 1971, the theater had a first-run film in “Joe Hill” and a return presentation of “Carnal Knowledge” which had played at the General Cinema NorthPark I & II. The opening was sandwiched between AMC’s grand opening of the AMC Golden Triangle 4 in Oak Cliff in July and the Nov. 17th opening of the ill-fated AMC Western Park 4.
The theater featured first-run fare and great midnight shows. While the theater had many up days, the challenges for the twin screener were that it was land-locked, had parking challenges at key points in the day, and with only two screens was AMC’s only area theater with fewer than four screens. By 1980, AMC demoted the theater to sub-run $1 movies for all shows, a mis-match for the Preston Hollow neighborhood. Meanwhile, a sleepy twin-screen theater in Farmers Branch, TX rebranded itself from dollar house to art theater. Brought in to the Showcase was Bob Berney who had managed AMC’s Greenway 3 which, itself, had transitioned from mainstream to successful art film policy. Suddenly, AMC had a notion! The Preston theater was rebranded as the Park Cities Theatres 2 and closed after a handful of dollar screenings to renovate the theater to show art films full-time. AMC hoped that the Greenway’s success in Houston would translate within Dallas.
Starting in Nov. 17, 1980, the Park Cities 2 showed “Practice Makes Perfect,” a French film, and “Rude Boy,” a British film. The concessions now included coffee and imported candy along with much classier carpeting. For 14 months, the Park Cities 2 tried every language of film imaginable but the losses mounted to a six figure loss. Dallas proved to be a much worse draw for art films than Houston in the early 1980s. At the end of the 10-year lease cycle and a short-term re-up, the writing was on the wall and AMC would pull up anchor. On the Park Cities 2 marquee the last night of its operation, the message read on the left attraction board for screen one, “Dallas One,” and on the right attraction board for screen two, “Art Zero.” In a classy move, the theater manager addressed the audiences for the last showings of the Park Cities 2 in January of 1982 telling audiences to go to the Inwood Theater, which would switch to an all-art film policy. Meanwhile, the Showcase Cinema in Farmers Branch would move to full-time X and XXX films. And the Park Cities 2 closed up shop and would be repurposed for other retail purposes. AMC would get back to the general area moving to the AMC Highland Park Village in the Park Cities five years later.
Correction: Closing date of January 28, 1982
The Perkowitz + Ruth architected AMC Parks 18 megaplex was nothing short of a bombshell in South Arlington opening November 6, 2002. The 18-plex occupied 72,800 square feet with 3,360 seats—auditoriums ranging in size from 100 to 350 seats. Its announcement in 1999 as a 4,000 seat 24-screen multiplex had employees at aging Arlington multiplexes updating their resumes as the theater’s footprint would impact the AMC Green Oaks, General Cinema Arlington Square 8, UA Bowen. AMC Festival (former Forum), Loews Lincoln Square, and Loews Cinemas 20 & 287, all of which would close due in part to the Parks. The megaplex was in and multiplex was under pressure.
Sears’ Homart Development had the 112-acre site for the Arlington Park Mall since the 1970s but didn’t announce its anchors or plans until January of 1983 with a 1986 targeted opening date as the Arlington Park Mall. The initial theater was external to the mall as General Cinema theater opened December 12, 1986 with its Arlington Park Square 8 much as was the case with Homart’s Seminary Square and Town East malls which featured neighboring external General Cinema properties. But unlike those projects, the Arlington Park Mall was stalled, slowed by inability to get tenants signed on quickly and wasn’t even approved by the Arlington City Council until 1987 and finally opened in 1988.
In 1995, Homart was purchased by General Growth Properties and that same year the AMC Grand in Dallas revolutionized film going for the area. General Growth announced an AMC property inside its new Stonebriar Mall in Frisco, TX in 1998 and had already plotted how to renovate its aging Parks property even prior. In talks for several years with AMC regarding the Parks the announcement came in 1999 and the AMC Parks opened in 2002. There was no questioning the impact of the project to south Arlington. General Cinema would bail out of its neighboring Arlington Park Square 8 and all other Tarrant County locations on October 5th, 2000 even prior to the AMC Parks facelift finishing, leaving the mall area theaterless until 2002.
With aged malls dying all over the DFW area, the AMC Parks megaplex project was the heart of a big-risk 1.6 million-square-foot addition. An expanded food court, an ice skating rink, the replacement of the ghost town Sears-owned Great Indoors anchor, Arlington police stations, carousel and – possibly most important, two new adjacent parking deck structures remade the mall. The $70 million renovation plan with tax rebate incentives paid out big.
The AMC Parks 18’s overall theme was called Film City and upped AMC’s more benign Stonebriar 24 in Frisco with more design flair. Hallway walls had murals of movie stars and the terrazzo floor design had famous movie quotes, “Here’s lookin' at you, kid!” and “We’re not in Kansas anymore” among them. A similar design would be used at Dallas’ Valley View 16 and elsewhere across the country. Ample legroom, with each row 18 inches higher than the one in front along with AMC’s loveseats were there. The theater went all in for Sony Dynamic Digital Sound is in all auditoriums. The theater had a single large concession stand opting for vending machines near each auditorium rather than the multiple concession areas tried in other area AMC multiplexes.
Its November 6, 2002 opening would spell the end for the area’s multiplexes associated with the major chains. The Loews properties would be bulldozed. The General Cinema property became home to the Arlington school district. The former AMC Green Oaks and Festival became Movie Tavern and dollar house locations and the UA Bowen – which, itself, was ticketed for a megaplex makeover that never happened – became a storage facility. While competition came in the form of a nearby Studio Movie Grill in January of 2007, the AMC Parks continued to thrive into the 2010s.
In the realm of Dallas trivia, if someone were to ask which Dallas movie theater originally constructed as a movie theater was the first one able to survive 100 years, you’ve found your answer. The Crystal Theater building actually survived a century in demolition-happy Dallas, Texas. In the store-show era of movie exhibition, the Crystal was like the Candy, Princess, Dalton and many others housed in converted retail spaces. Dallas movie pioneer and capitalist W.D. Nevills had the most downtown theaters but George Jorgenson had one of the largest with the converted retail space known as the Crystal Theatre at 1608 Elm Street. Jorgenson had seven store shows in Galveston but knew bigger coin could be had in downtown Dallas.
Nevills decided the time was right to move past the “store-show” concept and project to more people simultaneously. He launched the Washington Theatre at 1615 Elm St. as the first movie palace built for photoplays in Dallas seating 600 people. It opened Thanksgiving Day 1912 and moviegoers lined up there. For Jorgenson peering across the street and seeing this, it must not have sat well. Meanwhile, a block away work was almost completed on an even more oppulent movie palace, I.A. Walker’s awesome Queen Theatre. For Jorgenson to survive, there were few options.
He was able to secure a bit more land – 25 feet to the east adjoining 1608 Elm and had his store-show theater razed. Using Queen architect Walker and $100,000, the new Crystal would one-up the Washington – both of which launched with short-term leases. Jorgenson and Walker also carved out space for retail and office space above the theater just to secure additional sources of revenue. On September 25, 1913, an audience filling each of the theater’s 600 seats saw the grand opening feature of “A Sister to Carmen.” Audiences were impressed with Walker’s Oriental design starting with its lobby with a fresco of a Japanese love story and oversized Japanese lantern at its center. As the theatergoer’s path continued complete with Japanese art, they would notice the Oriental light fixtures, elevated boxes, and main auditorium – a joss house temple creation. Gaudy but nice. At the $10,000 Wurlitzer pipe organ the first night was Carmenza Vendeless of Chicago who said that while there were bigger houses in Chicago, nothing could compare to Walker’s Queen and Crystal in downtown Dallas.
The Crystal became known as one Dallas’ “Big Four,” along with the Washington, Queen, and Hippodrome. The competition was pretty fierce. Jorgenson managed to wrestle the Universal Film Studio contract away from the Queen in the fall of 1913. The Queen siezed the General Film Company contract (Edison, Mélies, Biograph, Lubin, Pathé, et al) away from the smaller Washington. And the Hippodrome retained Mutual Films.
P.G. Cameron would take on the profitable Crystal for Southern Enterprises. But times were changing rapidly in downtown Dallas. The Big Four were under big pressure in the early 1920s with the creation of the Palace, the Majestic and others. Cameron would move on to greener pasture locations and W.G. Underwood would become the third operator of the Crystal. Across the street, the Washington was done after its 15-year lease cycle (a 5-year and 10-year) was up in 1927 and would be demolished not long after. Underwood would finish out the theater’s 15-year lease (one 10-year and one 5-year) and move to the Pantages renaming it the Ritz. The Crystal would be spared as a building, however, because of its multi-use construction and existing clients including Kushner Brothers Men’s Store. Walker’s Oriental designs were removed and theater gutted to create additional retail space. The Crystal became home to many clients with the lobby becoming a long-running Bakers Shoe store and, in the 2010s, the Donut Palace.
So while the Crystal didn’t go out as a movie palace after over 100 years in downtown Dallas, at least it was a palace for donuts. Sadly, the building was largely overlooked for its significance as the last remaining homes of Dallas' “Big Four” in early silent film exhibition.
The Golden Triangle is the area extending from Denton at the north point to the south with Dallas on the eastern point and Fort Worth on the western point. Developers launched the Golden Triangle Shopping Center in 1964 at the confluence of U.S. 67, S. Polk Street and W. Pentagon Parkway forming a triangular plot of land in south Dallas' Oak Cliff. The fast-growing AMC Theater chain wanted to follow up its uber successful AMC Northtown 6 and its follow-up AMC Northwood Hills on the border of Richardson with another 42 screens with 10,000 seats in the 1971 calendar year. Oak Cliff would receive two theaters during this growth spurt.
Both theaters would be almost identical to the Northwood Hills 4 and the Triangle 4 would be the first of the two Oak Cliff properties to launch. Opening July 1, 1971 with “Cold Turkey,” “Patton,” “The Owl and the Pussycat,” and “Song of Norway,” the theater was underway. Four months later and just 4.5 miles away, the theater’s cousin – the Western Park 4 launched, as well. But the population shifts were rapid and the Western Park 4 closed just seven months into what was a disastrous situation.
The Triangle 4 was AMC’s last theater standing in Oak Cliff. It wouldn’t last long, either. The theater failed miserably closing in February of 1974. The theater would get one last shot at finding its audience when the operators of the Canyon Creek took on the theater in the summer of 1976 running it as a sub-run dollar house. The neighborhood didn’t show up and the theater was a quick casualty. Both the Western Park 4 and the Triangle 4 would have two different operators and both failed to gain an audience. Their total running time was four years combined. AMC wouldn’t repeat the mistake by building any more theaters in Oak Cliff. The only theaters which would be added would be General Cinemas adding two multiplexes near Red Bird Mall and United Artists building an eight-screen ‘plex in the vacinity of Red Bird Mall.
As of the mid-2010s, both former AMC theaters were still standing. Both were converted into retail spaces. Both were in business as of this writing. The Western Park 4 was a Family Dollar franchise retail store. And the Triangle 4 was also a Family Dollar franchise retail store. An odd coincidence for two of the worst performing new-build theaters in the history of Dallas.
Western Park is a neighborhood in the Southwest-Redbird area of Oak Cliff established in the early 1960s. The fast-growing AMC Circuit had dropped a bombshell on Dallas called the Northtown 6 that was changing the very nature of film exhibition in the Dallas area as the decade of the 1960s concluded. Following up that theater with its AMC Northwood Hills on the border of fast-growing Richardson, AMC looked to keep the momentum going in the early 1970s. In a curious decision, the chain targeted Oak Cliff for two new nearly-identical four-screen multiplexes announced in January 1971 that would have the same design as the Northwood Hills 4. The goal in Dallas was to operate an additional 42 automated screens with 10,000 seats in 1971, alone.
The AMC Western Park launched at the corner of Illinois Ave. and Cockrell Hill in the Western Park Village shopping center on 17 November 1971. It showed “Murphy’s War,” “The Tender Warrior,” “The Organization,” and “McCabe and Mrs. Miller.” Population shifts were already underway in the ten-year old neighborhood. CEO Stanley Durwood noted the challenging economic climate that the theater faced. He suggested that twilite shows priced under $1 would be what the area needed and that the theater would be run with the efficiency of a military division. But unlike some military operations, Durwood and AMC almost immediately realized that they had hit a buzz saw by opening in Oak Cliff. And unlike some military operations, Durwood and AMC wouldn’t wait long before taking steps to bug out.
Just completing its seventh month in its new build Western Park 4, AMC hastily closed up shop just as the big summer films were coming in. They would put all of their Oak Cliff eggs in the remaining Triangle 4 which had also opened in 1971 just 4.5 miles away. A new operator was identified and ran the Western Park 4 as a sub-run, sub-dollar house. That run was even less successful lasting just two months and the Western Park 4 was closed again. For a new build theater, the Western Park 4 holds the record as the worst performing movie theater in the city’s history. Its cousin, the Triangle 4, didn’t fare much better failing to make it to its third anniversary. It also closed ignominiously in February of 1974. For AMC, these two Oak Cliff theaters were unusual missteps and the theaters were just a blip on its radar as it righted the ship and became a dominate player in Dallas.
As for the two theaters in the mid-2010s, both spaces were converted to retail spaces within their shopping centers. Still standing in 2015, the Triangle 4 at 3939 S. Polk was a Family Dollar franchise retail store. And the Western Park 4 at 4404 W. Illinois was, ironically, also a Family Dollar franchise retail store.
Correction: Family Dollar — not Dollar General.
When Texas Automated Theaters was looking to establish low-cost automated theaters, many would be located adjacent to – or inside of – hotels or other high traffic areas and run with minimal personnel. But as was the case in Garland – with the Walnut Twin – the theaters were tucked behind other buildings and were low risk investments to utilize challenging retail spaces. For the Farmers Branch Showcase I & II in Farmers Branch, suite 400 at 2825 Valley View Lane was out of view from the road thanks to a strip shopping center that blocked the standalone twin-screen theater built in 1974. The attraction board on the street was the only hope for most patrons driving past to see the theater’s offerings. Another attraction board was featured in front of the theater, itself. The features on the boards for Friday, April 4, 1974 were its grand opening films of “The Way We Were” and “Billy Jack.” Thanks to the installed equipment, the theater had five to six showings each day of its feature films.
Showcase tried to eke out its existence playing first-run fare and then tried lower cost sub-runs but the audiences just didn’t come. The operators sold out in early 1980 prior to their sixth anniversary. Circuit owner Theaters West of Houston took on the struggling twin-screener and tried something totally different beginning April 26, 1980 switching to full time art house. The theater’s name was changed from the Farmers Branch Showcase I & II to the Showcase Cinema 1 & 2. The art house policy brought with it free publicity from the local Dallas Morning News whenever a significant art film opened.The first films were foreign language films “Till Marriage Do Us Part” and “Robert et Robert.” However, the audiences weren’t enough to keep the theater viable. This problem worsened when AMC renamed its Preston Center 2 as the Park Cities 2 playing art films
Exactly one year into its Showcase art run, Theaters West purchased Dallas' venerable Inwood Theater which had been closed for months due to a fire and converted a new upstairs theater to show art films hoping to find a boutique clientele in Dallas. It worked. So in June of 1981, Theaters West reversed course in Farmers Branch shelving art and turning Showcase Screen Two into a mainstream sub-run dollar house but adding an X-rated adult film to Showcase Screen One. The theater’s performance issues were behind it as the adult fare did brisk business.
Unfortunately for Theaters West, they were in court often as the city of Farmers Branch did anything and everything to close the theater down including citing the theaters 14 times and confiscating films. The $200 a day fines could add up quickly but Theaters West counter-sued citing harassment and seeking an injunction against the city in 1982. The city kept trying to close the theater saying it was “pollution of our minds and our youth.” As the city’s federal suit and theater’s counter-suit were still on the table all the way to 1988, Theaters West and the city of Farmers Branch finally said each side would drop their suits if the theater took all signage down for its attractions. Rather than changing the type of films back to unsuccessful sub-runs, first runs or art runs or possibly something new, the theater threw in the towel ending a litigious final seven years and 14 altogether for the Farmers Branch Showcase / Showcase Cinema 1 & 2.
The theater has been home to many non-profit houses of worship over the years. The 2015-era owner took down the attraction board in front of the cinema which still has its original box office, movie poster boxes, doors to cinemas one and two and interior attraction boards. But the fortunes for the hidden retail spot are rather subpar as the Dallas County Appraisal District lists the former showcase theater’s valuation at just $5,220. But the theater looks pretty similar to the way it did back in the day and audiences still come once or twice a week so that’s not too bad for the 40-plus year old facility.
The 862-acre Canyon Creek subdivision was given approval by the Richardson City Council in 1962 to include a golf course, shopping center, apartments and single-family housing. In 1974, it had its first theater named the Canyon Creek Family Theater 1 & 2 located within the Canyon Creek Square Shopping Center. The theater was at 911 Canyon Creek Square next door to the Bonanza Steak House. The theater was known for showing first-run family fare and featured midnight cult and cult-to-be films. The theater also had a world premiere at its location. Palmer Rockey’s “It Happened One Weekend” had a two-week engagement at the Canyon Creek beginning October 11, 1974 making $696.25. But soon after as the theater underachieved, it was switched to a dollar house. The theater limped to its end as an English-language cinema failing to find its core audience in November of 1982. The theater became the Victory Theater beginning in 1983 showing Asian films though not making it into the 1990s. The space was converted for other purposes and then was demolished.
Probably not much to add to the fine comments already here but the the theater’s grand opening was Sept. 17, 1999 with the largest auditoriums seating 475 in highback plush chairs with stadium seating and 56' wide screens with smaller auditoriums holding 125 to 225 patrons. UA installed an experimental concession stand bringing expanded products through high-tech devices. But the 80,000 square foot UA MacArthur Marketplace 16 was a megaflop as megaplex overbuild was a problem for many circuits. UA was among many exhibitors filing for bankruptcy protection.
Philip Anschutz took over controlling interest in United Artists and Regal, as well as Edwards Theaters in October of 2001 and the economy worsened. The Regal Circuit shuttered 30 theaters with 208 screens in 2003. Among them was the McArthur Marketplace shuttered very suddenly on June 30, 2003 just prior to some of the year’s biggest summer flicks. To punctuate that they weren’t coming back, they even took the seats all the way to Garland to place in their aged UA Northstar theater. Regal wanted no part of the MacArthur property ever again providing less than four years of service at the location.
Developers Diversified Reality which owned the space had to find another owner quickly. In a surprise move, Marquee Cinemas out of Beckley, W. Virginia announced within two week’s time that it would re-open the theater possibly within the month targeting July 25, 2003 as a possibility. Finding the theater stripped of so much, Marquee’s opening would be set back to February 13th, 2004 and an amazingly high price tag in the three million dollar range. Theater sizes dropped a bit to 100, 200 and 425 in stadium seating configuration. But it was all trick and no treat as Marquee fled the twice-bitten loser Marketplace on Halloween of 2005 not making it two full years.
Portland-based circuit Hollywood Theaters – which had properties including the Town Center Cinema in Fort Worth and South Freeway 14 in Burleson – reopened the theater as its third operator inside of seven years on June 23, 2006. The theater’s Bollywood / Hindi films drew audiences and the theater experienced an overall uptick in business.
On February 19, 2013, Regal purchased Hollywood Theaters circuit and almost unbelievably had returned one of its most notable liabilities back into its portfolio. Regal almost immediately announced the name change of the theater as the Regal MacArthur Marketplace Stadium 16. The Hollywood signage stayed longer on the attraction sign and facade although the logo was quickly dispensed with at the concession stands replaced by Regal cups and popcorn bags. The operation continued with the same first-run and Bollywood offerings.
The first films were Top Gun, Three Amigos, Name of the Rose and Stand By Me all released in 1986 and General Cinema didn’t announce its lease agreement on the property until March of 1986 so that pretty much leaves out the other two suggested opening dates. Grand opening ad of 12 December 1986 posted to clarify. But the date discrepancies are why I started provided information about theaters in my area so agree with the point. As for the closing of the theater as AMC v. GCC, the 5 October 2000 date is more than a year prior to the AMC buyout of GCC on 8 December 2001. Definitely a GCC property from open to close.
Saenger (typo above)
Many cities have their Lakewood Theater. It’s that suburban single screen theater that somehow was neither twinned nor demolished or gutted to the point of losing its original features. In Dallas, the Lakewood and Circle were two Interstate theaters fitting this category. But because the Lakewood was part of a well-identified neighborhood and part of a shopping center, it had a more successful history.
The H.F. Pettigrew architected theater constructed by George P. O’Rourke Construction was probably Eugene Gilboe of Franklin & Gilboe’s most flamboyant mural painting and interior decoration of his many Dallas/Fort Worth theater and hotel works. Gilboe’s full-mirrored ceiling and mural work using Dallas artists Perry Nichols, Harry Carnohan and Victor Lallier was what made the theater experience at Lakewood memorable. Dallas sculptor José Martin’s life-sized statutes adorned each side of the stage. Loveseat seating, a first in Dallas, only added to the ambience. And the exterior flourish that will likely live on as long as the building survives was its 100 foot tower by Texlite with 7,000 watt power to operate its colorful neon. Harold H. Wineburgh considered his firm’s Lakewood signage with porcelain enamel front, flashing tower and markee ceiling his best and most difficult sign. Pettigrew would be recognized by Architectural Record magazine with honorable mention for his architectural work on the Lakewood.
Opening October 27, 1938 with “Love Finds Andy Hardy,” the Lakewood was a hit for Interstate Theaters Circuit. Its success was found in connecting with its tight knit local community. Allowing the hosting of local church services, establishing low cost Kiddie Club Saturday screenings, hosting events including a WW2-era paper drive in which boy scouts brought over 18,000 pounds of paper, fielding a city-winning bowling league, and allowing all sorts of local live acts ranging from pets to Southern Methodist University (SMU) plays were all on the table for the community-minded suburban theater. But films were mostly where it was at as Interstate scaled back live stage shows and mostly ran second-run fare and lots of family films in the first ten years of the theater’s operation. But as Interstate opened theaters to the north in Dallas, the circuit changed with the age of its neighboring residents to art films post World War 2.
In 1956, the Lakewood was the first theater to install an automatic parking gate by Parking Service Company and patrons received a token for free parking to avoid the 25 cent fee. That same year, Lakewood also created a space for wheelchair accessibility and had hearing aids for the hearing impaired. Interstate ran the theater for 35 years – likely a 15 year initial lease and two 10-year re-ups and left at the end of the 35th year. Sam Chernoff of Theater Corporations took on the theater in September of 1973 put $25,000 into refurbishing the theater allowing SMU to run art films under its Cinematheque nameplate and showing mostly older and quality films. It ran Columbia Pictures’ 50th Anniversary Retrospective series in 1974. But that wasn’t the answer and the film was relegated to dollar house status, the first Dallas dollar house in 1974. It was a hit for K-Co Corp. as dollar mania hit Dallas as General Cinema’s Big Town Mall, Oak Cliff’s Aquarius, the nearby Granada, Oak Cliff’s Texas Theater, and the suburban north Park Forest Theater would all follow suit. Facing competition as a single-screener, the Lakewood switched to double-feature status and the theater’s biggest success was Rocky. When the 10-year lease was up, the now $1.50 Lakewood was without an operator and closed just prior to its 45th anniversary after a double feature of Cujo and The Man With Two Brains.
On Sept. 26, 1984, the theater came back under Burt Barr after a $500,000 renovation including Dolby sound, a 1927 theater organ, and new electrical system. As a nice touch, the first feature was “Love Finds Andy Hardy” with live musicians harkening back to the first day of the theater’s original operation. The Theater Organ Society played mini-concerts before the show. The theater’s first run policy faded over time and the theater went dark again on Halloween of 1993. After three years, the theater reopened in December of 1996 as a live performance and occasional film venue under manager Keith McKeague. A screening of Pearl Harbor was a huge success and live shows were often well attended.
The live booking space became even more crowded when the Granada switched from films to live events and many new places opened around the city. The theater operated all the way until January of 2015 when a comic heroine themed burlesque show was booked as the final event. The theater’s lack of historical designation provided many options for its owners and its interior faced an uncertain future. However, the owners vowed to keep the Texlite tower signage.
The movie palace era that launched theater row in downtown Dallas started on Thanksgiving Day, 1912 with the opening of the Washington Theater. But the Washington was soon overshadowed by the far superior 800-seat Queen Theater by architect I.A. Walker. The $47,000 project was on the books in 1911 with Earl H. (“E.H.”) Hulsey converting an existing retail building at Elm and Akard with a five-year lease beginning in August of 1912.
The Queen opened to the public on January 24, 1913 at Elm and Akard with an over-capacity crowd which had its high expectations more than delivered. Commenters of the pre-Yelp era were astonished by the improved definition of the Queen’s projection described as “flickerless” machines projecting bright, sharp pictures on the wall. Reviews said of the Queen that it was the “most completely equipped and elegantly finished photo playhouses in the country.” Life-sized sculptures of Queen of Carthage, Queen Dido of Carthage and Queen Isabel of Spain along with Cleopatra were nice touches. Assigned seating with ushers was another. And a cigar parlor for those watching in the boxes showed class and spotlighted the theater’s fireproof construction. A $20,000 pipe organ with many special effects, grand piano and a six-person orchestra of “first-class musicians” accompanied the program which was upped to 12-person orchestra. William T. Street was brought in from London to play the pipe organ. And the management pledged to assure the “moral protection” of all children. The Queen was a hit.
The Queen was also in touch with its Dallas populace. The Queen produced some local moving pictures shot by manager E.V. Richards Jr. on the streets of Dallas and his first film’s storyline conveniently ended at the Queen Theater. That film was shown for four days in 1913 which was considered a success back in that era. Richards soon left and would run 200 theaters as general manager of Saenger Amusement. Just three months into the Queen’s operation, Louis Bissinger (known as Uncle Lou) took over managing the theater and the showmanship continued with little drop-off. The theater would become home to first-run silent Paramount and Realart Pictures before more stringent on booking procedures. The Theater’s tagline was “crowned with public favor.” The name of Queen Theaters was so popular in Dallas and around the country that an Oak Cliff Queen theater was opened called the Cliff Queen in 1915. Hulsey renewed for another five-year lease in August 1917 but a major fire on Sept. 27, 1917 caused $22,000 in damages and led to renovations to the theater including new fixtures, paintings, roof, and ticket booth, as well as a lawsuit about the actual damages to the building resolved seven years later.
In its tenth year, Uncle Lou and Joe Bissinger subleased the theater from Hulsey and it finally adopted a general admission seating policy instead of assigned seating as the theater began to slip in stature. Larger, more modern theaters had surpassed the Queen as Dallas' theater row matured along Elm Street. By October of 1926, the theater became a second run house with discount ticket pricing. The theater finally received sound equipment in 1930 and played “The Cock-Eyed World” as its first talkie using the Western Electric sound on film technology. Uncle Lou acquired the lease from operator Earl Hulsey’s estate in 1931 after Hulsey’s death. Lou Bissinger was recognized by The Variety Club of Texas which celebrated his 30th year of operating the Queen.
In post-War Dallas, the Queen was becoming decrepit and programmatically had lost distinctiveness. As freshly-built suburban theaters were being opened that would siphon audiences away from second-run and badly-aging facilities like the Queen, something had to be done. Uncle Lou was gone and the Queen Theater marquee came down in September of 1948 when after 35 years, the theater was renamed the Leo Theater under the Joy Houck circuit that also operated the Strand in Dallas. The Cliff-Queen carried the Queen’s moniker a year and a half beyond the original Queen for the city of Dallas. The former Queen now Leo was completely remodeled, renovated and playing to desegregated audiences. Though trying to find its footing as a family second-run house at the outset, the Leo soon found the freedom to experiment under its new name, even playing exploitation and “adult” fare as the former Queen was no longer concerned about quality audiences / “public favor.” They just needed people to come through the turnstile.
The rebranding didn’t work. Much as the film industry was in retreat, the Leo was swept under as other theaters would convert to Cinemascope or VistaVision, the Leo was simply old school. In 1953, the Leo was flailing and turned to live 10-act vaudeville under the direction of Richard Crane perhaps to change its fading fortunes. Crane promised no burlesque at the Leo, just vaudeville for 60 cents. When that didn’t work, the Leo tried the combination of films and burlesque for two months thereafter. But nothing worked and the theater was shuttered on April 15th, 1953 after 40-plus years of total service though less than five as the post-regal Leo.
The Dallas Federal Savings and Loan Association (Dallas Fed) secured the site planning to bulldoze the Queen Theater in 1953. But that project was delayed at the last minute apparently left the city with what locals called an unfortunate eyesore for two years: a shocking turnaround for the former palace. Only the cigar store associated with the theater soldiered on until the bitter end of the building’s life. The Queen was finally abdicated on November 4, 1955 when the wrecking ball struck. Because all references to the Leo were removed from the building in 1953, the theater’s demolition coverage only referred to to it as the former Queen Theater. In some respect, that was a nice final touch recalling the theater’s glory days which had left such a lasting memory to Dallas' moviegoers and provided classy showmanship in silent film exhibition in the 1910s and 1920s. And onward to progress, the Fed’s modern 17-story skyrise was scheduled to be completed in 1957 in the Queen’s former spot.
By the way, the Garrick Theater marquee is at the right prior to its 1924 exit from Elm Street’s theater row. Hughes-O'Rourke bulldozed the Garrick beginning on July 5, 1924 to make way for a 7-story building with retail on the ground floor. And beyond the Queen you’ll see the Jefferson Theater visible and if your eyes are good, the Old Mill and Palace marquees further in the background.
The first phase of the Corrigan Center was built in 1948 from 1001 Shaw Ave. to the Capitan Theater’s 1045 Shaw Ave. address in the north section of Pasadena. Architected by Raymond F. Smith, the Capitan would open Nov. 19, 1949 by Phil Isley of the Isley circuit and who would open the very similar Granada Theater in Houston. The first films were “Impact” and “San Antone Ambush,” with star Monte Hale of the latter film in attendance. The murals by Colville Smythe of L.A.’s Nat Smythe & Son had oceanic-themed walls with Neptune on a sea horse and Europa riding a bull among the dolphins while the ceiling had a giant mermaid and compass. Seashell-themed carpeting and a spacious and inviting lobby had to be a pleasant surprise for moviegoers. The 11,529 square foot theater was quite a jewel for Pasadena.
Just across the way in 1956, the second portion of the Corrigan Center opened so that in addition to the Capitan, adding a J.C. Penney’s, a W.T. Grant five & dime variety store, and an A&P supermarket. The Corrigan Center had become the economic center of Pasadena and the 1,600 seat theater was a major focal point despite playing mostly second-run fare. But by the end of the 1960s, the Gulfgate Plaza had become the Gulfgate Mall and the Almeda Mall opened six and twelve miles away, respectively. Times were changing quickly and audiences were driving to the General Cinema Gulgate Cinema I & II and the AMC Almeda 4 to see the latest releases. The Capitan was in trouble along with its neighboring Pasadena single screeners. So in 1970 — during the porno chic era of movie exhibition — the Pasadena would switch to X-rated films and – because the city’s Red Bluff Drive-In was also in that space – the Pasadena would even show XXX fare, as well, and would also try Spanish language films before stopping film exhibition around 1976.
The Capitan became a church for a period in the 1970s and when that ended, new theatrical life came from Hispanic film exhibition in the 1980s. That would be the last film projected in the theater. The three-time loser combined with the economic downturn of the Corrigan Center area left the theater in deep trouble and boarded up. In a last ditch effort to salvage the theater, the City of Pasadena bought the Corrigan and devoted $190,000 to fixing the exterior of the theater which remained beautiful from the outside from 2000 to 2014 awaiting a new owner. But the city’s gamble didn’t pay out as the interior of the theater deteriorated and the city’s economic fortunes weren’t too bright. Given the theater’s dismal track record over the past 45 years, the city sold the Corrigan Center for a loss in July of 2014 to a chemical company based in New Jersey. Just prior to the announcement, the theater’s marquee, theater boxes, doors and many other elements were stripped from the premises. There was little doubt that the theater – though still standing in 2015 – would be a casualty in the near future barring an a miracle by Neptune, Europa, or a contemporary capitalist.
The Palace had three iterations. It was conceived of when Greenwall’s Opera House sustained storm damage. Henry and Phil Greenwall of the Greenwall Circuit teamed with A.T. Byers to build the Byers/Greenwall’s Opera House architected by Marshall R. Sanguinet and Carl G. Staats and built by the Texas Building Company. The Byers Theatre opened in 1908 as the Byers Opera House at 7th and Rusk Street (now Commerce St.). The $150,000 facility launched with a mixture of live sporting events, music events, and live plays with seating for 1,600. It became known as the Byers Theatre when it became exclusively a movie house with some live acts interspersed. The Byers main claim to fame was an Edison light bulb mentioned in earlier comments that wouldn’t burn out. Installed in 1908 by electrician Barry Burke, the bulb outlasted the Byers nameplate.
The theater was purchased by the Hulsey Circuit and given a major makeover of just $25,000 for its renaming and reopening on October 19, 1919 as the Palace Theater (advertised and sometimes referred to as Hulsey’s Palace Theater in the early days). The improvements included a fireproof projection booth with Simplex projectors, a new color palette which was rose and grey with blue panels and medallions and usherettes' uniforms to match, and a wayward Pilscher pipe organ which was lost in transit and installed a month late. The architect of the Palace Theater was Raphael A. Nicolais and his iteration is seen in two photos.
In June of 1936, only one wall of the theater was left intact as Interstate Theaters created a modernistic, streamlined designed theater with air conditioning and luxury seating. George P. O'Rourke Construction did the work for the theater which reopened September 24th of 1936 with “Patsy, the Second” now with 1,000 seats as 300 lower floor seats were added when the stage was eliminated. That theater’s exterior can be seen in yet another picture.
The Palace’s Edison light bulb then became national news as Guinness Book of World Records (incorrectly) listed it as the longest burning light bulb. In 1974, ABC Interstate Theaters sold it to John O'Hara who tried to make it a revival house unsuccessfully. After the Palace’s closure in November of 1974, it became home to a jazz club called, “Daddio’s.” Daddio’s owner moved to the Land Title Block Building when the Palace property was sold and demolished in May of 1977 to make way for a parking garage. Those plans would change when the nearby Aviation Building was demolished in 1978.
At its demolition, the original sign – an artifact from the previous incarnation – the Greenwall’s Opera House Call Board remained in place as you can see in another picture. The entire block would become home to the skyscraper known initially as Continental Plaza, then UPR Plaza, then Carter Burgess Plaza, and as of 2012-forward 777 Main.
The Byers' bulb (aka “Eternal Light") outlasted Burke, the installing electrician (dying in 1964) and the Palace ten years later. So the bulb was acquired by an Irving, TX man and then onto the Stockyard Museum within the Livestock Exchange Building and is considered the second longest burning bulb in the world.
Homart had the 112-acre site for the Arlington Park Mall since the 1970s but didn’t announce its anchors or plans until January of 1983. The long-gestating project finally had a 1986 targeted opening date and prompted Cambridge Co. Development’s announcement in August 1983 to develop its Arlington Park Square on Arabrook across the street from and in support of the Homart’s Arlington Park Mall. General Cinema was signed on for a 31,500 square foot theater and would open the GCC Arlington Park just across the street from the northern most anchor of the new mall. But the Arlington Park Mall and its anchors didn’t sprout up as anticipated.
The General Cinema theater opened December 12, 1986 as the Arlington Park Square 8. But the building of the Arlington Park Mall was slowed by inability to get tenants signed on quickly and wasn’t even approved by the Arlington City Council until 1987. By the time the mall opened in 1988, the project was changed to “The Parks at Arlington” as “mall” was already becoming something of an overused term and sometimes had negative connotations. So unlike the GCC Seminary, GCC Town East, and GCC Valley View – the previous Homart shopping complexes with GCC cinemas carrying the moniker of the centers they adjoined or were in and opening at about the same time as those facilities – GCC’s Arlington Park didn’t jive with the new name of the mall. And GCC had to await the traffic from that new mall for more than a year.
But the theater did well with competition coming exit by exit to the west with the UA Bowen and the AMC Green Oaks. With the Parks opening in 1988, the theater thrived. The theater was not far on foot from the Foley’s (which became Macy’s) northeast exit door though driving was far safer. Even when the megaplex boom hit in 1994/6, dooming General Cinema’s multiplex business model, nobody was building a megaplex in south Arlington. United Artists was going to convert its aging/dying UA Bowen to a multiplex but the circuit ran into financial issues and the project never happened. GCC’s Arlington Square looked safe as it approached honoring its original 15-year lease. That would not happen as in 1999 AMC announced a megaplex to be housed inside of the Parks at Arlington to open in 2002 and General Cinemas ran into severe financial issues.
On October 5th, 2000, General Cinema shut theaters all over the country taking down all of Tarrant Country’s remaining locations including the Arlington Park Square, as well as Fort Worth’s Ridgmar Square and Bedford’s Central Park. Though the Central Park and Ridgmar would re-open under different ownership, the Arlington Park Square’s movie days were over as the theater sat vacant with nobody wanting to take on the AMC Parks using the aged facility with fairly limited parking. Finally the Arlington Independent School District took over the facility making it home to its Arlington Professional Development Center which was still functioning in to the mid-2010s.
Three drive-ins were announced to open in 1941 in the Dallas-Fort Worth market and would become the first drive-ins in North Texas. Two were in Dallas — the Northwest Highway Drive-In and the Chalk Hill Drive-In with this entry for the Bowie Boulevard Drive-In that opened July 18, 1941. All were part of the Underwood Ezell circuit which included the the Drive-In Theatre opening in 1940 in San Antonio and Houston’s South Main Drive-In. The screen tower was 60' high and made of steel utilizing a 35'x50' screen with RCA equipment. Cones in the ground provided the sound and ushers guided cars to spots which were tilted upward on ramps. The project was said to have cost $50,000. Ezell would partner with Interstate Theaters Circuit to improve those theaters' operations that same decade.
To comply with the Paramount consent decree, Ezell and Associates and Interstate Theaters divvied up their 12 theaters and the Bowie headed to Interstate along with the South Main and the Shepherd in Houston, Buckner Blvd. in Dallas, Mansfield in Fort Worth and Cactus in Pharr. Ezell kept the Belknap in Fort Worth, the Northwest Highway in Dallas, the Circle in Waco, the Irvington, Hempstead and Winkler all in Houston. On December 1, 1955, the Bowie was ordered out of the Interstate portfolio and became part of the Cinemart Theaters circuit. Cinemart ran the theater as a sublease with Interstate holding on to the property. The Bowie lasted right at 20 years with its last day on October 23, 1961. Interstate Theaters sold the theater which was razed for a retail venture.
Andrew Zucarro operated the Venice Theater two blocks away and decided to build a new fireproof theater. The Queen Theater launched on May 20th, 1913 showing “The Stars and Stripes Forever.” Zucarro was jailed at least three times while operating the theater. Once for opening on Sunday which wasn’t allowed by the city of Fort Worth and twice for showing films that were banned by the film censor board. Andrew Zucarro operated it for five years possibly on a five-year lease before changing hands in 1918. William Capps took on the theater for four years.
The theater appears to close for a period of time and is acquired by the Ideal Theater group which was founded in 1922. They would change the name to the Ideal Theater whose name appeared on the marquee until the theater’s closure on March 30, 1960 and demolition thereafter. It boasted a mirror screen, the only one south of St. Louis installed for a cost of $10,000.
The General Cinema Corp.’s Seminary South Cinema I & II officially opened on Thursday, Christmas Day 1969 with searchlights, a ribbon cutting and the Kennedale High School Band playing tunes. Opening features were “The Sterile Cuckoo” rated M and “Viva Max” rated G. Manager Bill Ellis explained that the theater would always have one family feature and one film for older audiences. The GCC Seminary was the city’s first twin screen indoor theater. It was named for the shopping center announced in June of 1960 when Sears not only decided to build its first retail store within Fort Worth, it created an entire subsidiary called Homart Development to construct shopping centers. The first of which was Seminary South Shopping Center on an 88-acre tract that opened in 1962.
In 1969, General Cinemas Corp. decided the time was right to construct two theaters simultaneously adjoining shopping centers. They were the Seminary South Center I & II in the Homart plaza and the Six Flags Cinema I & II in nearby Arlington, TX, a project that had delays opening in August of 1970. GCC also opened in Homart’s other properties in DFW: inside of Valley View Mall in Dallas, outside of what would eventually be called the Parks Mall in Arlington, outside of the Town East Mall in Mesquite.
The GCC Seminary had 1,600 seats with Cinema I holding 1,031 customers and the smaller Cinema II holding 617 people. The theater had an art gallery, smoking areas, pushback reclining seats and picture window screens. The GCC would expand in the 1970s to three screens as auditorium two was twinned becoming the GCC Seminary South Cinema I, II & III. The Seminary South shopping center struggled due to competition from new enclosed malls in Fort Worth, Arlington, and North Richland Hills. Locals disparagingly referred to the area as “Cemetery South” as the center shed stores and hurt General Cinema’s revenues. But there was hope for General Cinema.
In 1985, Homart finally sold the underachieving shopping center to the Texas Centers Association which spent $25 million to purchase the property and another $25 million to convert the open air shopping center to an enclosed mall designed by Altoon and Porter, architects from California. The architects had a spot for GCC on the second floor right by one of the mall’s main entry points on the East side just up the escalator. The mall project finally opened on September 4th, 1987 as the Town Center Fort Worth with great optimism. Not long thereafter, General Cinema completed work on its new GCC Town Center 8 which opened and the chain closed its exterior Seminary South I, II, III. The location became home to a Bingo parlor and also housed some church functions. It had long stretches of emptiness but was still standing as of 2014.
In 1967, Loews’s announced the first downtown Dallas theater built in 30 years since the Tower Theater at 1005 Elm adjoining Griffin and Pacific. The A. Warren Morey and Associates architected project in Elm Place would have 70mm Cinerama, D-150 capability, and Century projection with 6-track stereo. Decorator Joseph Schuler bathed the 980-seat theater in colorful purple, Kelly green aqua and black. Distinctive Griggs pushback purple seats with 702 downstairs and 278 in the loge balcony. A Patrick Casey mural with movie stars, a smoker loge, and attached not free parking lot were features. Construction took place in 1968 and 1969 to the invitational screening of “Those Daring Young Men in Their Jaunty Jalopies” on June 5, 1969 and public grand opening on June 6th. The director and a lot of jalopies were present for the opening. And a second theater was added to the Loews portfolio within months in Dallas when the Adelman Circuit was purchased which included Dallas’ Delman Theater.
In 1975, the theater shut down to become a three screen theater renamed the Loews Studio 1-2-3 (then the Loews Studio Triplex in June of 1977 just prior to the opening of the Quad / Park Central) opening March 29th with “Lenny,” “The Yakuza” and “The Reincarnation of Peter Proud.” But the Loews found its audience when it played Emmanuelle on one of its screens which played for more than 10 months followed by Emmanuelle 2. The first film was so popular that the sequel opened on another of the Studio’s three screens while the original was still playing. “The Erotic Adventures of Candy”, another porno chic film, played for 25 weeks. From that point on, the Loews would generally have an adult film, a Blaxploitation film and a mainstream film unless the mainstream films were dropped for martial arts films or another adult feature.
In April of 1978, Loews dropped the Studio Triplex. At first, the screenings under independent operation were identical to the Loews offerings. However – and this is said endearingly – the Triplex devolved into one of Dallas’ most memorable grindhouses playing continuous double features of Blaxploitation, Adult and Martial Arts that allowed sneaky customers to pay one price and stay all day and night to see if they could work in five or even all six exploitation shows for their $2. The Studio Triplex closed at the end of April 1981 with Guy From Harlem/Kama Sutra; Hammerfist/Lord of the Dragon and Adios Amigos/Joshua. (BTW: If you did the films in precisely that order, you could get to all six shows for $2 by sneaking from studio 1 to 3 to 2.) Exploitation film fans and transients were delighted but the majority of film-goers were not.
After a brief period of closure, the theater reopened in 1981 and ended its life as Cine Central Three run by Herb Hartstein of Texas National Theaters. He had also run the Jefferson Drive-in during its Spanish language period. The Cine Central 3 lasted until closing in February 1985. The space was retrofitted to be incorporated into the existing hotel. Downtown would not get another movie theater until the short-lived West End Cinema in November of 1993.
On December 18, 1981, it was the grand opening of the Loew’s at Plano theater. Settling on the Loew’s Chisholm Place as its name within the 75-acre area at North Central Expressway and Park Blvd., the theater had two 575-seat auditoriums, one 550-seater, and two 375 seat houses. The lobby had a round island refreshment stands with multiple lines around it. A mural in that lobby 10' by 75' featured Chaplin, Monroe, Bogart, Gable, Wayne, Garbo, Harlow, and Bing Crosby. Its neon lighting effect ensured that theatergoers would have a different look as they came repeatedly to the facility.
Competition for the best bookings came in the form of competition less than a half mile to the north when AMC opened its seven-screen Central Center (renamed the Central Park). But by the 1990s, the multiplex era was replaced by the megaplexes and both AMC and Loews aging multiplexes were waiting for the bad news. It would be from Cinemark in June of 1999 when it opened its 24-screen Legacy just north of the two multiplexes. Business turned quickly as audiences gravitated to the far-superior CInemark theater and within four months, AMC should close the Central Park.
Somehow, the Chisholm soldiered onward despite Loews going into severe financial difficulties and Cinemark decimating the Chisholm audiences. But like the Loews Preston Park, the Chisholm got the dreaded “vote of confidence” in late October of 2000 as Loews said neither theater was going to be closing anytime soon. Patrons walking into the Nov. 9, 2000 screenings found the candy removed from the concession stand within two weeks of Loews vote of confidence, both Loews Plano theaters closed quietly and would be converted for non-theatrical purposes. The Chisholm ostensibly stayed open for a 20-year leasing cycle and became a house of worship.
Announced in February of 1985, AMC signed a lease to build a seven-screen theater in Plano at the northwest corner of North Central Expressway and Park Boulevard. The Central Center Shopping Center would house the AMC Central Center 7 which had been scheduled to open by Christmas 1985 as part of a 32-acre development. The project was delayed as portions of the development were sold but Talmadge Tinsley Co. finished the 32,260-square-foot AMC Central Center in late May of 1986 and the theater opened on June 6, 1986.
It had a mirrored lobby with neon and high ceilings to give the appearance of older theaters along with graphics on the walls and a circular box office to give that impression. It opened within a half mile of the 1981-launched Loews Chisholm and the two chains would have booking wars within the territory. The theater would change its name just months into its existence settling on the Central Park nameplate. It hosted many fundraisers, honored local athletes, and was a part of the Plano community even mores than its Loews neighbor. But when the multiplex era gave way to the Megaplex boom in the mid-1990s, it was only a matter of time until someone took out the AMC Central Park and Loews Chisholm.
That competition came in 1999 when Cinemark opened its 24-screen Legacy just north of the two multiplexes which opened at the end of June that year. Business turned quickly as audiences gravitated to the far-superior CInemark theater and within four months, AMC quietly shuttered the Central Park. The Chisholm by Loews would somehow soldier on for more than a year outliving the AMC Central Park. The theater was repurposed in 2006 as a church.