Comments from dallasmovietheaters

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dallasmovietheaters commented about Apollo Twin Drive-In on Dec 6, 2013 at 8:49 pm

The Garland Road Drive-In kicked off on April 7th, 1950 with searchlights and a circus calliope band wagon featuring Charla. Opening feature was “Oh You Beautiful Doll”. Dallas-Fort Worth was in a drive-in boom period with the Garland, Hines Blvd. and South Loop opening within a week of each other. And this was the first of three drive-ins to be opened by C.D. Leon’s fledgling Leon Theatres Circuit that season proceeded by the Hampton Road Drive-In on May 12th and the Denton Road Drive-In on June 23, 1950. The Garland Drive-in got a boost when the Briley Heights addition brought 400 homes in 103 acre tract just west of the ozoner adding potential customers. Some notables: While playing the film, “Once a Thief” on May 9, 1952, the theater was robbed of $350. In the early 1950s, the First Methodist Church held their Sunday morning services at the drive-in. In 1957, Leon applied to show first-run movies into Garland homes in early pay television experiments.

At the end of the 1958 drive-in season, Leon subleased the Hampton and Denton Road locations to Claude C. Ezell’s newly-reformed Ezell Theater Circuit / Bordertown Theaters Inc. But Leon held on to his Hampton Road location. The Garland Road closed at the end of February 1966. Garland residents wouldn’t be without an ozoner for long as Tri-State Theaters / McLendon Theaters continued its space-aged theme of multiscreen drive-ins at the location. The operators of Gemini and Astro drive-in also opened the Apollo Twin Drive-In.

The Apollo was a $1.8 million location designed by H.A. Jordan on a 31.5 triangular acre lot for a reported 1,800 cars and could accommodate another 175 walk-ins at the patio. The curved 132 foot by 80 foot screens were dubbed by McClendon as “Specturama screens” that were more than 10 stories high. A candy cane-striped 7,000 square foot air conditioned restaurant. Two separate patios with speakers at the tables allowed walk-ups. The twin had two entrances, one on Shiloh Road and the other at Garland Road. The Apollo Twin Drive-in launched with a two-day Grand Opening on October 3, 1968 with “The Lost Continent” and “The Vengeance of She” on the North Screen and “The Detective” and “Come Spy with Me” on the South Screen. Actor Big John Hamilton was there with KLIF AM radio. The “Motion Picture Herald” said that people were amazed at the opening calling the ‘big double A’ the “ultimate of ultimate” in drive-ins.

The theater ran into trouble with the Garland City Council in 1972. The city approved a ban of nude scenes shown at a drive-in if the screen could be seen by passing cars. McLendon had been voluntarily cutting offensive portions from films shown at the Apollo but said mandating the cutting of the films gravitated the situation from self-censorship to censorship. One film sent “by mistake” had lesbian love scenes and had led to the action. A classic court line occurred when a medical doctor testifying n behalf of the City of Garland said, “It is hard for almost any man to go by the theater without being distracted.”

In the 1980s, the Apollo added a new sound system so that patrons could listen to the sound track on the car’s AM radio instead of the speakers. After B.R. McLendon died, the estate of B.R. McLendon sold the Apollo outright to Tri-State Theatres Ltd. Partnership at the end of 1986. That was also the last year of the Apollo Drive-In as the theater was demolished to make way for a new retail superstore. On December 28, 1988 Hypermart – a superstore combining Wal-Mart and local grocery store chain Tom Thumb into a large 24-hour concept store, the first of two built in the Dallas-Fort Worth area and five in the nation. Walmart would go it alone on future 24-hour superstores. The Garland store fulfilled its 20-year lease transitioning to a Wal-Mart prior to closing in 2008 and the company followed its standard practice of abandoning the property to build another nondescript location elsewhere; the Hypermart remained empty into the 2010s. But to some locals, that spot will remain a drive-in destination that produced around 35 years of memories.

dallasmovietheaters commented about Richardson Square 3 on Dec 6, 2013 at 6:48 am

Richardson Square Mall was an Edward J. DeBartolo single level, 739,000 square foot shopping complex. And General Cinema was an original tenant of the mall opening one day after the Mall’s October 20, 1977 launch. General Cinema opened two theaters within a week of each other. First up was the Red Bird Mall Cinema I-II-III-IV in Oak Cliff which sat just outside of the mall. And inside of the Richardson Square Mall and opening a week later was the Richardson Square I-II-III opening October 21, 1977 with “Oh God!”, “The Other Side of Midnight” and “Young Frankenstein.” The theater was General Cinema’s ninth at that point in Dallas and its immediate suburbs with Big Town, NorthPark 1 & 2, NorthPark “East” aka 3 & 4, Valley View, Town East, Irving Mall, Treehouse (formerly Lochwood), Red Bird and Richardson Sq. The three auditoriums were equal in size with 325 seats in each auditorium. One of the biggest hits for the theater was “Saturday Night Fever” which played more than 20 weeks.

Reviled from the outset as being cramped, ill-sized, and totally lacking any charm, Richardson residents got a break ten years later when General Cinema provided a better designed theater across the street with the Richardson 6 theater. As one newspaper critic said, the theaters were an improvement over the Richardson Square Mall Cinema but “almost anything would be.” General Cinema tried to wring ever dollar it could from the Richardson Square Mall property converting it to second run and running it into the mid-1990s. When General Cinema shuttered the location, it was repurposed into a Barnes and Noble. When Barnes and Noble moved to the Firewheel shopping complex, the mass exodus was already on and the Richardson Square Mall, itself, became a casualty falling to the wrecking ball though leaving its major anchors standing and in business.

dallasmovietheaters commented about Kaufman Pike Drive-In on Nov 25, 2013 at 6:56 am

The Kaufman Pike was a 600-car capacity drive-in opened July 1, 1949 for Charles W. Weisenburg. The Kaufman Pike opened with “Montana Mike” the same day that the Hi-Vue Drive-In opened by W.P. Moran. Weisnburg’s first drive-in was the Palo Duro in Amarillo but he would add five drive-ins to the Dallas Fort Worth area during the drive-in boom of the late 1940s and early 1950s. He also owned the Crest Theater, an indoor operation less than 15 miles away in Seagoville. While playing mostly second run double features, throughout the 1950s, the Kaufman Pike exhibited first-run B films, as well. John William “Wild Bill” Tucker brought his cowboy shooting and sound effects touring show to the Kaufman in 1953. The President of Jacksonville College hosted an Easter sunrise service at the drive-in in 1954. In the 1960s, the Kaufman would also get some first-run films from major studios in what were termed “saturation releases.”

in 1978, Weisenburg auctioned off his Kaufman Pike, Linda Kay, Bruton Road, and Lewisville 121 Twin drive-ins as he was retiring from his circuit that had 38 theaters at its apex. The Kaufman Pike closes in 1979. It has a grand re-opening by its new operator, Global Pictures Ltd., on June 6, 1981 showing “Texas Lightning,” “Graduation Day”, and “Bobbie Jo and the Outlaw”. The theater made it to its 35th anniversary on July 1, 1984. When it closed for the season at the end of 1984, it didn’t appear to re-open in 1985.

dallasmovietheaters commented about Medallion 5 Theatre on Nov 24, 2013 at 8:08 am

Interstate Theatres built the Medallion in 1968 opening with Butch Cassidy on October 30th, 1969. Notable exclusives there were The Godfather, The Sting, MASH, American Graffiti, Deliverance, and Chinatown. Downtown theatres struggled as the Central Zone (NorthPark, UA 150 (later Cine) and Medallion) thrived. Medallion held sneak of Jaws and Steven Spielberg cited the Medallion as his “good luck theater” and one of his most memorable moments. He also sneaked Close Encounters and 1941 before moving his sneaks to the nearby NorthPark I & II.

In 1978, Plitt acquired many of Interstate theatres and the Medallion became a Plitt property. Competition became fierce in what was known as the Central Zone as multiplexes opened nearby in the 1980s.

The Medallion was sold to United Artists, in 1986. UA closed the Medallion for two months on March 20, 1986 converted it to three auditoriums. The original screen remained intact on the south side of the theatre and two smaller screens were located on the north side, adjacent to the newly remodeled and expanded concession stand. The two northern houses remained until its closure, holding 300 and 140 patrons. When the high tech UA Plaza opened in May of 1989, the Medallion became a second run bargain theatre and the nearby UA Cine became an art house.

The Central Zone was negatively impacted in the mid-1990s when the megaplex era began. UA gave up the Medallion in 1993. Dallas-based Trans-Texas Theatre Company took over the Medallion and two other failing movie houses, Cinemark’s NorthTown and Skillman 6. Trans-Texas turned the three-screen house Medallion into a five-screen house as the original silver-beaded screen was split three ways. The move proved somewhat successful prior to the theatre being sold to the Hollywood Theatre chain in 1997.

Under Hollywood Theatres management, the theatre experimented with second run art house movies and attracted the Vistas Hispanic-oriented film festival. The owners noting the down-turned discount movie environment deleted weekday matinees before abandoning the DFW area temporarily in early 2000.

Premiere Cinema Corporation became the next owner of the Medallion. Premiere brought back matinees, regularly showed classic films and experimented with midnight films aimed at the nearby SMU college audience. It continued its connection with the Vistas Film Festival before closing the theatre.

The seventh and final operator was an independent under the management of George Jones. It became an outlet for low-budget, locally produced films, promotional showmanship (including live hypnotists, clowns, and other gimmicks used to attract moviegoers in the 1930s and 1940s) along with second run features. The theater was given a minor updating in its concession area, including a party area and paintings of movie stars.

The Medallion’s last day was December 13th, 2001 ending a 32-year run. In a nice touch, one of the Medallion’s last films was the very first film shown there, Butch Cassady and the Sundance Kid. The theater sat deserted for three and a half years until being torn down in May of 2005 to make room for a Kohl’s Department Store.

dallasmovietheaters commented about Lone Star Drive-In on Nov 24, 2013 at 7:45 am

If the trivia question were to be asked, “What Dallas drive-in theater had the longest run?” the documentable answer is none other than the Lone Star. The Lone Star Drive-In Theaters circuit run by E.L. Pack had opened Lone Star named drive-ins in El Paso, Houston, Lubbock and Waco before opening the 650-car Lone Star Drive-In at 5506 Military Parkway (though advertised as 5500 Military) in Dallas on November 3, 1951. Fireworks opened the evening followed by the main feature of “Broken Arrow.” On March 23, 1961, the Lone Star’s address was 4600 Lawnview Avenue where it was advertised until its closure.

The Lone Star’s traditional fare gravitated to adult content in 1966 where it continued successfully for more than twenty years into the home video revolution. Locals often referred to the operation as “The Porn Star.” Totally lacking in marketing, nostalgia or publicity, the Lone Star and Linda Kay were the final two adult drive-ins in Dallas into the mid-1980s with the higher-visibility Astro as the last remaining traditional ozoner in the city. The L-K went down in 1986. And the end of the line was coming for the Lone Star but it was the city that was calling and not necessarily lack of patrons.

In November of 1987, the city of Dallas filed suit seeking a temporary injunction against the Lone Star because its sexually-oriented business license expired. The operator said that it had applied for a renewal. A December 18th hearing took place and that appears to be the end the drive-in’s run. At just past 36 years of operation, the Lone Star was Dallas' winner for longest-running drive-in theater. The Astro was the last drive-in to be in operation in Dallas surviving 30 years to 1998. And arguably the Jefferson was the last standing drive-in tower torn down in 2004 after years of inactivity with the Lone Star and its brethren demolished much earlier.

dallasmovietheaters commented about Arapaho Road Drive-In on Nov 23, 2013 at 11:18 pm

On March 21, 1956, Mr. and Mrs. J.B. Roberts opened the Arapaho Road Drive-In. The Roberts had owned the Ritz since 1942 and expanded to the Arapaho with Desi and Lucy’s feature, “Forever Darling.” Trouble came early when Mrs. Roberts reported and testified about spikes were thrown maliciously to damage tires at her drive-in. The Roberts decided against hiring a union projectionist and spikes were thrown in 1957 at both the Arapaho and the Linda Kay Drive-In, which also didn’t hire a union projectionist. The perpetrators were jailed but the sentence was reduced when the overall tire damage was estimated at just $75. The theater was home to an annual Easter sunrise service each year through 1971 which appears to be the drive-in’s last year.

The drive-in’s number was up when the land owners decided to request and received a zoning change to allow a multiple residence dwelling on the site of the drive-in. The Arapaho would be demolished and the site would house a senior citizen complex in the future. It’s also possible that the Roberts had a 15-year lease on the drive-in property since it times out to 15 years of bookings.

dallasmovietheaters commented about Linda Kay Drive-In on Nov 23, 2013 at 9:13 am

Frank Gillespie launched the Linda Kay in Dallas' incorporated town of Kleberg near Rylie on June 29, 1956 with “The Last Hunt” and “Red Sundown.” (The drive-in would later be listed as being in Rylie, TX followed by Dallas in ads.) The Linda Kay was another drive-in on the Kaufman Pike (Highway 175). With the main drive-in spurt in Dallas being 1948-1951, the Linda Kay had the advantage of opening as a CinemaScope enabled screen at the outset. A nasty incident in 1957 reportedly led to 75 cars with wrecked tires when an activist spiked the drive-in because Gilespie refused to hire a union projectionist. The perpetrators were found guilty but got a reduced sentence when the actual tire damage was said to have been just $75.

Charles Weisenburg bought the theater adding it to his circuit. In 1978, Weisenburg auctioned off his Kaufman Pike, Bruton Road, Lewisville 121 Twin and Linda Kay drive-ins as he was retiring from his circuit that had 38 theaters at its apex. The Linda Kay under new ownership would turn to porn and survive into the home video era. It earned its stripes as an adult theater by being raided by the police on February 19, 1982 with the film, “The Starlets” seized and 40 customers sent home. (Given that one could see the screen from the road – and after showing over a hundred adult films – this one must’ve had a particular scene that just outraged someone nearby.) As the adult film industry was decimated by home video in the mid-1980s, the Linda Kay would be denied a happy ending though surviving a very impressive 30 years. She outlasted many other area drive-ins that had far more publicity but not the longevity. The L-K was demolished at a listed address – though perhaps incorrect – of 11950 CF Hawn Freeway.

dallasmovietheaters commented about Crest Theater on Nov 23, 2013 at 4:13 am

Phil Isley Enterprises theater circuit opened the Crest at 2603 Lancaster Road in the Cedar Crest Shopping Center on March 30, 1948 with the film, “Cass Timberlane.” T.N. Childress was the manager of the 1,200-seat suburban in Oak Cliff. Two nights later, the Isley Circuit launched its new Avenue Theater at 4923 Columbia Avenue. Youth stage and talent shows along with matinees connected with the audiences. The Crest showed mostly second-run films, horror films, and westerns. Art Dorner brought his traveling Frankenstein stage show to the Crest on October 22, 1948. Dorner was the stand in for Boris Karloff in “Frankenstein” and “Bride of Frankenstein.”

In 1965, Rowley United acquired the Isley Circuit but would eventually divest itself of Isley’s Avenue, Kiest Drive-In, Big D Drive-In, subleased the Heights Theater, and would sublease The Crest. Big Tex Theatres, Inc. took on the Crest which operated the it through 1971. Rowley United stepped back in and appears to have completed the Crest’s run on June 8, 1973 with a double-feature of horror films. The Crest appears to have ended as a film theater in 1978 operating as an independent and showing chopsocky and Blaxploitation double features as a grindhouse. Because that works out almost exactly to 30 years, it could have been an end-of-lease closure and the double bill of “Dragon Squad” and “Super Weapon” could be the final films. From that point forward, The Crest was used as a nightclub and special event house sporadically and was vacant for many years prior to its demolition in 2008.

dallasmovietheaters commented about King Drive-In on Nov 23, 2013 at 3:53 am

The original Grand Opening for the Cinderella Drive-In was held December 16, 1950. It was the last of the Dallas' area drive-ins to open in the year 1950. The boom year saw the opening of the Hines Blvd. D-I, Jefferson D-I, Hampton Road D-I, South Loop D-I, Garland Road D-I, Denton Road D-I and – just four days earlier – the Samuell Boulevard D-I. At the Cinderella, the kids got free Lash LaRue comic books and they opened with “Return of the Frontiersman.” They say that they had 2,000 parking spaces and sported a five-story high theater. Another pledge was to be a family friendly drive-in. While it didn’t end that way for the Cinderella when it became the King, the original owners stuck to that business plan.

The Cinderella did play its first world premiere film in 1952 with the exploitation Tower Films' release, “Teen-age Menace.” New owners Ed Bowen and Ted Lewis took on the theater in January of 1958 equipping the Cinderella with its 50x100 panoramic screen with relatively new speakers and had a grand re-opening of the “new” Cinderella with “Baby Face Nelson,” “Running Target,” and “Gun Glory.” Appears as though new owners were in place in March of 1959. The theater closes in the 1960s as the neighboring Starlite, an African American drive-in, just continued to draw audiences.

The Cinderella would go after the Starlite audience relaunching as the King Drive-In and is taken on by the McLendon circuit re-opening July 29, 1970 with Jim Brown’s “The Grasshopper.“ McLendon dropped the King after a Dec. 1975 double-feature of “TNT Jackson” and “The Big Bird Cage.” It becomes an independent who adds a second screen and transforms from Blaxploitation to an adult theater at its end. The King would be abdicated with its closure and demolition.

dallasmovietheaters commented about Starlite Drive-In on Nov 22, 2013 at 11:08 pm

The Starlite theater was a true survivor in the history of Dallas cinema exhibition. It was Dallas' first African American drive-in theater and therefore was not covered or listed in the local Dallas newspaper movie clock listings or ads until a few studio ads for Blaxploitation films listed the Starlite in the mid-1970s. With its 60' screen and labeled as the “Southwest’s finest for colored entertainment,” the theater played films for more than 25 years. With no ads, passerbys probably knew it best for its jet mural or its red and blue neon.

The theater also survived nearby competition from the Cinderella Drive-In which was opened in 1950 and re-launched with panoramic screen and grand re-opening in 1958. Owner Ed Bowen and his Starlite survived a major fire associated with its neon lights. A hailstorm broke the neon lights and were likely responsible for a Friday the 13th April 1962 blaze at the screen tower. The Cinderella was demolished and replaced by a state of the art twin-screen King Drive-In. When the Blaxploitation genre began and martial arts films were big, the nearby King Twin and Starlite battled it out for the best bookings. And, yet, the Starlite — with just one screen and an undersized 350-car lot (though listed at 500) just kept co-existing with the nearby King until finally ending its successful run and being demolished. The Starlite is probably one of the most historically important drive-ins in the history of Dallas.

dallasmovietheaters commented about Samuell Boulevard Drive-In on Nov 22, 2013 at 10:58 pm

James Riggs' owned Samuell Boulevard Drive-In kicked off on a Tuesday night, December 12, 1950. It was the second to last new drive-in in what turned out to be one of the Dallas' area’s most busy years in drive-in development. Preceding the Samuell Boulevard were ozoners including: the Hines Drive-In, Jefferson D-I, Hampton Road D-I, South Loop D-I,Garland Road D-I, and Denton Road D-I. And the Cinderella D-I would open just four days after the Samuell. The main decoration theme for the Samuell was listed as “wrought iron.” It had a playground, bottle warmers for infants, and opened with the film “Copper Canyon.” It soon added a swimming pool, a wading pool, and a lighted picnic area with outdoor cooking facilities.

On May 21, 1954, the Samuell went big screen equipping the screen for CinemaScope opening with “The Command.” All advertising and bookings end at the end of March 1959 for the Samuell.

dallasmovietheaters commented about Jefferson Drive-In on Nov 20, 2013 at 9:59 pm

The Jack Corgan architected 670-car Jefferson Drive-In opened on June 17, 1950. The theater was operated by Harold Gibbons who ran the Pike Drive-In in Fort Worth. The opening night feature was “Captain China.” The theater had a large patio with seats for walk-ins in addition to its 600 spots. Most distinctive was the neon mural on the tower featuring chorus girls, a piano player, a trumpet player and kettle drum player all set on a porcelain enamel cut out on the tower. It was said to have been the first area drive-in with in-car heaters. It also featured a 250-person seating area for walk-ups or people who didn’t want to sit in their cars.

On May 12, 1953, it had its first 3D film with “Bwana Devil.” Ray Thompson was the manager and he and two employees were tied up after a 1954 armed robbery in which the thieves took $1,398. Both thieves were caught and one received two 50-year prison sentences and the other ten years. Unfortunately, just three years later Thompson suffered a fatal fall from the Jefferson’s tower while doing routine repairs. A.E. McClain was another manager of the Jefferson until his death on November 14, 1966.

The Jefferson became part of Rowley United which became United Artists which ran it much as previous management had. But under its next operator, Texas National Theatres’ Herb Hartstien, the theater made a successful transition to exhibiting Hispanic films. Hartstein said that between the Cine Centro Three and the Jefferson, a hit film might bring in $30,000 a week. Texas National had nine theaters in Texas showing Spanish language films to lead the state in the early 1980s. The Cockrell Hill police department also profited from the Jefferson’s success. The police set up a sting outside of the Jefferson in 1979. That arrested 50 immigrants and charged them $50 for their freedom and $25 for their cars. To fight back, Jefferson manager Ramon Flores instructed patrons to make sure they had IDs or enter from the Grand Prairie side to avoid the Cockrell Hill shakedowns. That didn’t always work as the police continued that practice into the 1980s. The dollars rolled into the police department despite not having any Hispanic officers on staff which didn’t sit well with the Hispanic population which was reported to be over half of the community’s population. The theater closed in 1987 going dark until 1989.

One of the most prestigious events took place under its final operator who tried repertory film. That event happened on Bastille Day, July 14, 1989 when the USA Film Festival sponsored “A Date at the Drive-In” at the Jefferson. “The Girl Can’t Help It” was the film. That operator came back for one more season in 1990 and then the Jefferson sat empty for 14 years. It was said to have had the distinction of being Dallas County’s last standing drive-in before being torn down for a school in 2004.

dallasmovietheaters commented about Belt Line-67 Drive-In on Nov 20, 2013 at 9:25 pm

C.D. Leon of Leon Theaters was back in business with the late 1964 opening of the Town & Country Drive-In and the March 1965 opening of the Belt Line – 67 Drive-In. The former operator of the Garland Road Drive-In, as well as the Hampton Road and Denton Road drive-ins, Leon co-owned the Belt Line – 67 with James McQuad. Leon billed it as the first drive-in in the Southwest equipped to run 70mm film. The theater opened with 1,000 spaces and 1,000 speakers. The theater was included in a $4 million spurt in Dallas area movie theaters. The first two features on March 11, 1965 were “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad World” and “Beauty and the Body”. It appears to close for the season at the end of October 1973 and there are no more advertisements for the Belt Line 67.

dallasmovietheaters commented about Denton Road Drive-In on Nov 20, 2013 at 7:28 am

The 840-car Denton Road Drive-In kicked off on June 23, 1950 with searchlights and featuring its opening film of “Montana” with Errol Flynn.This was the last of three drive-ins to be opened by the Leon Theatres that season preceded by the Garland Road Drive-In on April 7th and Hampton Road Drive-In on May 12th. It featured a picnic patio directly in front of the screen for people who wanted to watch outside their car. The theater was managed at the outset by Cecil Winston Starks but in August, Mr. and Mrs. Herold Goodman managed the drive-in for Leon Theaters. They would stay there 17 years until Mr. Goodman moved on to the Carrollton Chamber of Commerce in 1967.

At the end of the 1958 drive-in season, Leon subleased the Hampton and Denton Road locations to Claude C. Ezell’s newly-reformed Ezell Theater Circuit / Bordertown Theaters Inc. Ezell with his partner had opened Dallas’ first drive-in in 1941. But Ezell sold his portfolio in 1955 to Bordertown circuit. The Ezell/Bordertown acquisition gave Ezell 38 Texas drive-ins. That represented the largest drive-in chain in the state. The clout brought with it a new policy allowing the drive-ins to get films just 31 days after their initial plays in traditional theaters instead of the six-month window. But in 1964, Ezell dropped the Denton Road from the circuit. The theater was now in the hands of the Stanley Warner Circuit.

The theater’s history reads like a police blotter of unfortunate incidents and robberies including one in which the two features were stolen on May 4, 1966 with thieves making off with “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” and “The Silencers.” The Denton Road Drive-In became part of the Texas Southwest Drive-In Theatres circuit with the Buckner and Chalk Hill in 1972 but is taken on by McLendon Theaters in May of 1973. The theater becomes an discount drive-in with $1.99 carload and some 99 cent carload nights as McLendon tries to get what it can out of the fading location. When Showtime Inc. Theaters and McLendon circuits melded, the Denton Rd. Drive-In was dropped in February of 1974. It re-opened in early May after a short closure as an independent and appears to have closed for good in December 15, 1974 with a final feature of “Dead of Night.” If so, that’s an appropriate title to exit with for the almost 25-year old o-zoner. It was demolished and replaced by a gas station in the 1978 which, itself, was demolished and replaced by a strip shopping center.

dallasmovietheaters commented about Lisbon Theater on Nov 18, 2013 at 9:21 am

At the corner of Lancaster and Lisbon, a shopping area was developed opposite the new U.S. Veterans Hospital as Dallas expanded to the South. The concept of the theater plus two adjoining retail stores was from Jack W. Jones Agency. Raymond F. Smith architected and Arthur K. Garwick built the 40’ x 115’ Lisbon Theater managed by Irving Lambert under the O.K. Theaters nameplate. The theater’s name was from the Lisbon creek just about a block from the back of the auditorium. On July 11, 1940, the Lisbon launched with “Broadway Melody of 1940” as its first feature.

The Lisbon showed second run features as a traditional suburban. O.B. King replaced Lambert and while remaining fairly consistent did – on March 12-14, 1951 – show the Lisbon’s first foreign language film showing “Devil in the Flesh”. King said that if the public wanted more foreign fare, he would deliver. Apparently they said, “non.” Since art films weren’t what the audience sought, King rebranded the Lisbon as an African American house serving the community until closing in 1958.

After being empty for a period, in 1959, the Isley Theater Circuit took on the Lisbon giving it new carpeting, projection, sound, and reupholstered seating. It opened with “Onionhead” and “White Wilderness.” The neighborhood was indifferent and the new Lisbon floundered within the calendar year. A classified ad on January 14, 1960 offered all of the theater seats in the Lisbon Theater for sale at $1 each. “First come, first served.” Demand must’ve been lackluster because the ad repeated a week later. The theater was converted into usage as a garage by Emery’s Automotive Service which operated into the late 2000s before being bulldozed. And the street containing the theater’s namesake is also no more.

dallasmovietheaters commented about Avenue Theatre on Nov 17, 2013 at 10:10 pm

The Avenue continued the suburban tradition of its neighbor, the Rita Theatre. These locations combined for an incredible nine decades of film exhibition in the 4900 block of Columbia. The Rita (originally the Columbia) ran thirty years from 1918-1948. Isley Circuit bought the Rita and constructed the neighboring Avenue in 1947/8 and opening April 1, 1948. It rebranded the Avenue as The Guild arthouse in 1968. It closed prior to one year’s operation. It then became the highly successful Guild Art Adult Theatre which ran through the 1980s. It then became the Cine 2 spanish language theater. That converted to Video Centro which was a spanish language video store. And the location became a retail shop that contained a pawn shop and cash advance location that ran into the 2010s.

Phil Isley Enterprises theater circuit took over the Rita Theater at 4945 Columbia in a lease-purchase arrangement on July 3, 1946 managed by C.V. Caver. Isley began construction at a neighboring lot at 4923 Columbia beginning in April 1947. The 1,000 seat Avenue Theater was architected by Pettigrew & Worley and built by Major Construction. Complete with balcony, indirect neon lighting, large cry room, adjoining parking lot, and new projection and sound, the theater’s original façade was porcelain and tile. The project was delayed but was supposed to be timed with the closing of Isley’s Rita location. The Rita closed on March 8, 1948 with The Avenue Theater delayed opening of April 1, 1948 with Caver as manager. Its first movie was, “Sleep My Love.” And it was Isley’s second grand opening in three nights having just launched The Crest in Oak Cliff two nights earlier. There were some events at the suburban theater. Bill Boyd and his Cowboy Ramblers featuring Jim Boyd appeared in person showing “Tumbleweed Trails.” The event was carried live by local station WRR radio.

After 20 successful years, the theater was acquired by Rowley United which shut down the theater temporarily June 9, 1968 just long enough to rebrand the theater as an art house called Guild Theater. Its facing was completely redone and the interior also redecorated. Because Rowley United had taken the Granada to art and had a ten week success with “The Producers” out of the gate, they thought the Guild would deliver as an art house. It started with, “Carmen Baby” opening June 14, 1968. That concept lasted less than a year as the theater was dropped by the circuit and closed in 1969.

As an art house, the Guild did have at least one hit with the X-Rated “Vixen” late in 1968. With that in mind, new operator Cinne Arts Theatres, Inc. took on the Guild as its second theater in Dallas in February of 1970 adding it to its 1709 S. Ervay theater, The Cinne Art. Cinne Arts hit a home run with The Guild Art Theatre / Guild Adult Theatre, one of Dallas’ most successful and long-running adult houses. And one of the most raided which could be considered a badge of honor. Cinne Arts ran more than 15 years at Columbia and was in the court system challenging the constitutionality of adult zoning laws and obscenity enforcement.

The most famous incident for the Guild occurred on February 7, 1979 when after just two shows into its six scheduled shows daily, “Debbie Does Dallas” was confiscated by Dallas police. Looking back at almost ten years of titles played at the Guild, one can surmise that you just don’t mess with the image of the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders. It was a front page news story and the lead story for the TV newscasts. The Guild had hit the big time. And it would continue operations right up to the home video revolution that would be the demise of the remaining large adult theaters in Dallas such as the Guild and Fine Arts. The Guild would be replaced with Hispanic film operators who launched Cine 2. The location showed film in five decades before becoming a video store, Video Centro and then a retail store that included a pawn shop.

dallasmovietheaters commented about Rita Theatre on Nov 17, 2013 at 10:27 am

The Columbia Theater was built at 4945 Columbia Ave. at Collett Ave. It was a 500-seat silent picture house with organ and run by Eddie Foy Jr. beginning at least in August of 1918 when listings begin continuously until 1935. (A grocery store was at the address in 1916.) As part of Foy’s Neighborhood Theaters circuit, Foy tried to bring as many first-run films that weren’t being shown at the downtown theaters as he could. He would give the films multi-screen releases before that was a common practice. The Columbia would begin to attract an African American audience while also showing traditional neighborhood fare. The theater added sound on disc technology on May 19, 1929 with a showing of “My Man.”

On Nov. 14, 1935, the theater was sold to P.G. Cameron and L.E. Harrington and they closed for a week switch to sound on film technology and apply acoustical treatment in the auditorium. The theater switched names to the Rita Theater on Nov. 22, 1935. Cameron had run the Melba and Melrose prior to Interstate’s acquisition of the theaters.

Phil Isley Enterprises theater circuit took over the Rita in a lease-purchase arrangement on July 3, 1946. C.V. Caver was its manager. With the Rita being almost thirty years old, Isley decided to purchase a neighboring lot to build a new theater. Because of its age and possibly because of an expiring lease, the Rita was shut down. The nearby Avenue Theater was the new theater opening April 1, 1948 and Caver moved over the operate it for Isley. The Rita appears to have shut down following the March 8, 1948 showing of “Slave Girl.” No further bookings or listings are shown.

The next active tenant in the space was the unusual Zombie Castle lounge by Michael and Lawrence Burch that was billed as Texas' first 3D Lounge opened in 1953 during the 3-D film era with jungle murals in 3-D Strobolite by Marvin Norton. The nightclub was robbed in 1953 and burglars got $600. One year later, the nightclub was robbed and the burglars got $7. That trajectory follows 3D film exhibition. The building was up for lease a year later and became several businesses including a tile store in the late 1950s and 1960s, a flea market in the 1980s, and dance hall / special events place. As of the 2010s, the building appeared to be modified somewhat with the facade of the theater seemingly now at 4941 Columbia doing business at that time as a Hispanic sports bar.

dallasmovietheaters commented about Heights Theater on Nov 16, 2013 at 11:17 pm

The Loupot Heights neighborhood in Oak Cliff within Dallas was established by Herman Loupot who also created the million dollar shopping center known as the Westmoreland Village in 1949. The Heights Theater was in the original construction plans for the shopping center and was architected by Pettigrew, Worley & Co. The 800-seat theater was designed to serve the immediate 10,000 residents within the Heights neighborhood.

The Heights Theater opened for Oak Cliff specialists' Robb and Rowley Theatre Circuit on October 28, 1949 with “The Girl from Jones Beach.” It had a crying room for kids and “bodiform” cushioned seats. The theater played suburban fare for 12 years before Rowley United (the partner, Robb, had passed away) decided to concentrate on its other theaters, particularly the Wynnewood.

In 1961, Rowley United subleased it to a new operator, E.W. Savard, who ran the Heights as an independent for two years and closed it. Rowley United decided to refurbish the theater reopening it June 3, 1965 as the “new” Heights playing, It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.“ Since Rowley had acquired the Isley Circuit earlier in the year, it eventually divested itself of Isley’s Avenue, Crest, Kiest D-I, and Big D and — later that year — it subleased the "new” Heights to another owner in 1965 who operated it as an independent. That operator survived negative publicity when fumes in the newly reopened theater sickened people and sent them to the hospital.

The Heights closed again under the second independent operator and Rowley United — now called United Artists — resumed operation from 1968 through its last showing which was October 31, 1970 with a double feature of “The Love Bug” and “The Jungle Book.” In 1971, the Heights became a Spanish language theater for a period of time. The theater’s name was changed out becoming multiple houses of worship one of which was still in operation in the 2010s more than 60 years after the theater’s original opening.

dallasmovietheaters commented about Big D Drive-In on Nov 16, 2013 at 11:07 pm

The 600-car, Big-D Drive-In began as the Hines Blvd. Drive-In in 1950. In March of 1951, it opened for the season as the Big D Drive-In. The rebranding under manager Neil Gordon was to reach a wider audience. Gordon pulled out all of the stops to attract audiences including a weekly talent show prior to the screen show called Robert Rutland and Herald ‘Cuz’ Goodman’s Hillbilly Circus Amateur Night, he hosted the “Miracle Horses” doing amazing acts, mystic Curtis Hayes would perform prior to shows, and for the exploitation film, “Street Corner,” Gordon promised nurses in attendance for anyone who passed out. But in December 1951, Gordon sold the Big D to the Phil Isley Theater Circuit. And there was no drop-off under Isley for showmanship as Isley installed Joseph Noble as its manager.

On November 22, 1952, Joseph Noble created the first Dallas-Fort Worth indoor heated auditorium for patrons. Plate glass 48' wide and 7' high looked out at the big screen. Unlike the auditorium and the Brazos Drive-In in Granbury, TX which had separate projection and snack bar, the Big D’s adjoined its snack bar and shared the existing restrooms. Noble plastered signs all over the area promising free lemonade and you could stay for Cecil B. DeMille’s “The Greatest Show on Earth.” Noble also had cake on hand to celebrate the theater’s anniversaries or kid’s birthdays. The theater also applied to provide pay movies via coaxial cable when pay TV was experimented with in 1957.

The theater was robbed often but the most exciting was in 1952 when a thief told of a non-existing hold-up at the Big D. Dallas police swarmed the Big D and searched the entire parking lot. While that was occurring, thieves went to the Northwest Drive-In and robbed it of $650. Almost unbelievably, the crooks didn’t stop at that rouse telling of a hold-up at another drive-in; but this time police sent patrol cars to the all area drive-ins and caught the trio of burglars at the Big D.

On March 19, 1965 John Rowley’s Rowley United Theaters purchased the Isley Circuit including the Big D and also the Granada, Kiest D-I, Crest, Major and Avenue theaters. Within a year, Rowley had dropped the Avenue, Crest, Kiest D-I, and Big D from its portfolio. The Big D was operated independently by Big “D” Theatre Company for the remainder of its lifespan. The company was part of a lawsuit with all of the Rowley theaters amongst others against the city of Dallas in 1965 concerning the timely screening of films to Dallas' censor board. The Big D appears to have closed after the 1970 season which would work out to exactly 20 years and likely signifies an end of lease closing. This was common in land speculation deals and bolstered by the Big D’s demolition and the land is now used by the University of Texas Southwest Medical Center.

dallasmovietheaters commented about Park Plaza Cinema on Nov 16, 2013 at 3:05 pm

The Park Plaza shopping center opened without a theater in 1959. In 1965, General Cinema announced its 1,200 seat theater that would be added to the north side of the property and the center would continue with additional properties to the east. The delayed project came to fruition with theatre’s grand opening was May 26, 1966 with a ribbon cutting and its first movie was “Harper” with Paul Newman. It was General Cinema’s 15th Texas theatre and fourth in the area with the Big Town, NorthPark and the Lochwood which had opened just one month earlier. Art gallery and smoking section which wasn’t uncommon for General Cinema locations into the 1970s.

Another common occurrence was to twin the single screen which GCC did with it, Big Town and the Lochwood. The theatre was under intense competition in the multiplex era when General Cinema dropped the theatre. The theater made it into the megaplex era and was operating as a discount house with each twin twinned to make it a four-screen house. It finally closed Feb. 28, 2002 with “Ali”, “Jurassic Park 3” and two other second-run features. I believe its operator then took over the nearby Festival (formerly the AMC Forum) in its final stretch. The theater was oddly excised from the shopping center leaving a hole between the north to south strip and the east to west strip of the Park Plaza as of 2008.

dallasmovietheaters commented about Delman Theatre on Nov 15, 2013 at 3:35 pm

The Isadore B. Adelman Theatre Circuit may have been most known for its indoor Delman theaters in Houston, Tulsa, and Dallas though he had theaters in Abilene, and Fort Worth (Tivoli) by the time the Delman opened on Sept. 26, 1947. Deanna Durbin’s “A Hundred Men and a Girl” launched the Delman. The theater’s address was 3319 Raleigh Street with 1,150 seats. The theater was community minded hosting high school events, allowing a church to hold sermons, and showed the annual Southwest Conference films featuring local college Southern Methodist University.

Almost immediately in 1947, Adelman sued Interstate and nine film studios for what amounted to collusion in obtaining rights to show pictures. Adleman complained that he was only able to gain access to feature films 40-to-52 days after their initial release and often he was allowed to run only third-run films. That suit was a $750,000 protest lost in 1953 when the court said there was no conspiracy and appealed. He also filed suit in 1948 a $2.4 million suit alleging that booking practices caused him to close three theaters in Houston. He won $20,000 in the first phase of that suit in 1955. At Christmas of 1967, the Delman battled General Cinema’s NorthPark with “Valley of the Dolls” v. “The Graduate” for box office supremacy with NorthPark winning that round with “The Graduate” selling more tickets.

When Loew’s entered Dallas with the Downtown theater, it soon purchased the Delman theaters in Houston, Tulsa and Dallas which was approved on Nov. 21, 1969. Loew’s spent $50,000 closing the theater for refurbishing in December re-opening early in 1970. The theater struck a chord with “The Last Picture Show” among other hits before Loews dropping the theater in 1978. After film exhibition was completed thereafter, the Delman became a disco and music nightclub in the 1980s prior to being demolished.

dallasmovietheaters commented about Walnut Theaters on Nov 15, 2013 at 1:29 pm

The Walnut Twin’s groundbreaking ceremony was in 1973 and the theater opened on March 1, 1974. Texas Automated Theaters was behind the theater and McBroome-Bennett were the engineers of the project. The automated theater concept was where small theaters would be located adjacent to – or inside of – hotels or other high traffic areas and run with minimal personnel. They were often franchised. The Walnut was one such theater. It was designed to be a four-screen concept with two mini-theaters completed and two more mini-units added later. That expansion never happened. The theater sat behind the newly completed Colonial National Bank shielding it from view from passer-bys on Walnut Street traveling east to west. As a result, a sign was placed on Walnut St. in an attempt to attract customers. Auditorium One had 298 seats and Two had 224 seats for a total of 522 seats. That’s the way it stayed from 1972 to 2012 when the theaters were converted to allow for booked parties and other events.

Texas Automated found its operators in independents Don and Betty Christenson, their first theater. They had actress Charlotte Westmoreland of “Kristi and the Legend of Mt. Shasta” as one of the few personal appearances hosted at the theater. Under their operation, the Walnut Twin would transform from first run to discount, dollar screen in the early 1980s. The couple said that 1996 was one of their better years financially as a discount house but closed the theater on Nov. 19, 1996 due to the owners' health concerns. Because the 9/10 screen United Artists Galaxy, UA Northstar 8, and Cinemark Hollywood 15 were all within five miles of the Walnut, many thought the aged twin-screener would not reopen. That proved false.

Sanjay Chandahas bought the theater six months later in 1997 installing a state-of-the-art sound system with speakers in the ceiling and sides returning the theater to first run status. The original white quartz theater which had attracted graffiti in the down time was painted a lime sherbet green. Chandahas rebranded his business as Walnut Theatres, continuing operations into the 2010s. Under his direction, the Walnut drew crowds with “Rocky Horror Picture Show” but maintenance issues caused by unruly patrons forced the discontinuation of that booking. As noted, Chandahas redesigned the theater in 2012 to accommodate non-theatrical bookings in hopes of extending the viability of the Walnut Theatres.

dallasmovietheaters commented about Washington Theatre on Nov 14, 2013 at 7:35 pm

Dallas movie pioneer and capitalist W.D. Nevills was an innovator with Dallas' nickelodeons with the Candy, Princess, Palace, Empress, Dalton, and Nikelodeon. Nevills decided the time was right to move past the “store-show” concept and project to more people simultaneously. Nevils launched the Washington as the first movie palace built for photoplays in Dallas seating 600 people. It opened Thanksgiving Day 1912 and movie goers must have been impressed by the Hellenic Pantheon design with bronze and marble goddesses overlooking the box office and the large auditorium just past the lobby. The theater was designed by R.A. Bennett of Chicago was said to be finest at the point in the United States. Bennett was well known for designing 10 buildings for the St. Louis World’s Fair.

With 2,000 lights on its exterior, the theater had no marquee probably thinking the lights would be enough to draw a crowd. But with time came competition and a marquee was added to provide current feature information. Inside, Bennett’s mural frieze, “The Spirit of Knowledge, was said to be the first original mural for a photoplay house. Nevills’ idea turned out to be good so he renewed his original 5-year lease for 10 more years. “The Queen of Sheba” played for a full month at top price which had never been done in Dallas. And many thought that record would stand for decades – which obviously turned out to be an incorrect assumption. Other hits were “Connecticut Yankee” and “Over the Hill.”

Design-wise, Bennett and the Washington had style and future competitors took notice quickly. Theaters spouted up and down Elm Street and left the 600-seat Washington in the dust. With competition from the Queen, Old Mill, Crystal, the Palace practically right next door, Capitol and, finally, the Majestic, the Washington seemed small and aging. The Washington was downgraded to second-run features and westerns. Nevills closed the theater at the end of 15 years of leasing on July 3, 1927 as its sole owner. The theater did have a short life with sporadic sermons and speeches after the Washington left. The building was bulldozed thereafter. The Washington’s former spot was home to two long-standing clothing stores but as of the 2010s was even easier to spot as the home of Thanksgiving Tower, the 50-story building at 1601 built in 1982.

dallasmovietheaters commented about Rialto Theatre on Nov 14, 2013 at 11:35 am

The original Rialto Theater was located at 410 N. Bishop in Oak Cliff and it opened as part of the Ed Foy Neighborhood Theatres circuit in 1919. After a second renaming, it became the Astor Theater in 1934. Dallas didn’t go for long without a Rialto though and this entry is for the Old Mill Theater which opened June 24, 1913 for the Southern Enterprise Circuit. The Old Mill had giant fans at the front which was its cooling system and the theater was architected by I.A. Walker with 1,874 seats.

On October 25, 1928 the Old Mill finally installed a sound system choosing Vitaphone and Movietone. It narrowly beat the Capitol by one month as the last regular major downtown movie theater to install sound. The Mill’s first soundie was “Midnight Taxi” using Vitaphone.

In 1933, Interstate took over much of the Southern Enterprise circuit ultimately adding the Old Mill to its portfolio. Interstate decided to spend $42,000 to modernize the Old Mill. It would keep the walls of the theater and rebuild a new theater and front. The final picture to play the Old Mill was on May 4th, 1935 with “The Florentine Dagger.” That was followed by a five-month rebuilding project.

On Sept. 14, 1935, the theater opened as The Rialto with “Annapolis Farewell”. La Roche & Dahl architected the modernistic streamlined look which was a marked departure from the Old Mill predecessor. Live radio coverage by WRR radio and a special appearance by actor James Dunn along with fireworks added to the festivities. RCA Photophone equipment and 1,500 new U-16 floating comfort theater chairs helped give the feel of a brand new theater. The programming was lesser run films and second-run fare.

Louis Novy’s Trans-Texas Theaters took on the Rialto and Capitol as part of the second phase of Interstate divestitures in the Paramount consent decree in 1953. They would also get the Varsity and Melba. Trans-Texas took over operations and closed the theater to install improved projection, sound, and a VistaVision screen. 1,500 new seats, new decor showed Trans-Texas' faith in the Rialto. It was positioned as a first-run theater after the Melba was dedicated to Cinerama for the immediate future. Its first program as the “new” Rialto was June 10, 1954 with “The Mad Magician” in 3-D. But the first run model wouldn’t last even to the end of the decade as Trans-Texas gave up the Rialto. By decade’s end two more new operators tried to revive the five-decade old theater. They tried second-run double-bills to no avail as the theater staggered to its final closure.

The Rialto lasted until March 23, 1959 before closing its doors. The final films played-a double feature of “Unwed Mother” and “Joy Ride.” The closure was rather quiet for a 45-plus year old fixture on theater row. The Rialto was scheduled for demolition along with the Capitol for a parking lot in 1959. But on May 20, 1959, the theater was engulfed in a major fire. The charred remains were removed. The Capitol was bulldozed and the next theater to go was the Strand early in 1960.

dallasmovietheaters commented about Hampton Road Drive-In on Nov 14, 2013 at 11:08 am

The Hampton Road Drive-in launched with “Colorado Territory” on May 12, 1950 with spaces for 750 cars. It was the second of three back-to-back-to-back openings for C.D. Leon’s fledgling Leon Theatres Circuit. The Garland Road Drive-In opened on April 7th and the Denton Road Drive-in opened on June 23d. In addition to and probably because of the business at the Hampton, the theater was robbed often in its first five years. And Leon’s company made news in Garland when it tried to get involved in pay television service.

At the end of the 1958 drive-in season, Leon subleased the Hampton and Denton Road locations to Claude C. Ezell’s newly-reformed Ezell Theater Circuit / Bordertown Theaters Inc. Ezell with his partner had opened Dallas’ first drive-in in 1941. But Ezell sold his portfolio in 1955 to Bordertown circuit. The Ezell/Bordertown acquisition gave Ezell 38 Texas drive-ins. That represented the largest drive-in chain in the state. The clout brought with it a new policy allowing the drive-ins to get films just 31 days after their initial plays in traditional theaters instead of the six-month window. While that helped most of the locations, Oak Cliff was theater-rich which likely gave the Hampton Road a little less bounce than was anticipated.

Ezell held most of his theaters but dropped the Hampton Road at the end of 1963 with Leon back in charge. Leon quickly identified a new operator and would soon sell the drive-in to Rowley United Theater Circuit on Feb. 28, 1964. During the period of operation, Rowley became United Artists which operated the theater. With theaters closing around Oak Cliff, the Hampton enjoyed its best years since the 1950s. But there was some trouble. Don Snyder who managed the Hampton Road when the Uniform Time Act went into being in 1967 lobbied against Texas’ honoring the act. He worried that drive-ins like his would be put out of business due to late summer starts and loss of concession revenue. That complaint went unheeded, however.

UA used McClendon to book the Hampton Road and other drive-ins beginning in 1972 but would divest itself of the Hampton two years later. The Hampton, Town & Country Drive-In and Jefferson Drive-In would form the Southern States Theatres circuit for would be the Hampton’s final consecutive years of operation ending in 1975. It appears as though “Summer School Teacher” and “The Student Teachers” is the double feature that ends Southern States’ run with the Hampton. The Hampton Road Drive-In comes back for one more season in 1978 as an independent wrapping up its lifespan just shy of thirty years. That’s likely its original lease. The drive-in was demolished and was home to both a family practice medical building and the neighboring South Hampton Community Hospital that were operating into the 2010s.