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Thursday may have been the final showing at Houston's landmark River Oaks Theatre

The theatre had been in business since 1939, but couldn't survive the COVID pandemic

HOUSTON — After pleas and protests, petitions and prayers, Thursday night may have been your last night to watch a movie at the River Oaks Theatre.

It was built in 1939 and has been operated by Landmark Theaters since the 1970s. The theatre might be the latest business to fall because of the pandemic.

Landmark and Weingarten Realty, which owns the property, have not been able to reach a leasing agreement.

The theatre is one of Houston’s last true movie palaces. From the ornate art deco interior, to the retro bulbs outside, the landmark along West Gray is considered one of the coolest things about the fourth largest U.S. city.

Suzanne Wessels began watching movies here in 1975.

“So I’m trying my best to give them my support,” said Wessels.

She’s here for one more movie and one last memory.

“It’s really going to leave a hole in my heart to leave this place,” she said.

The current lease between Landmark Theatre and Weingarten Realty expires at the end of March.

All the revenue lost during the pandemic is helping the business that still owes past due rent, according to the realty company.

Weingarten says there are no current plans to re-develop the theatre and it’s hoping to find an operator for the theatre space.

“You know the future of the River Oaks Theatre is not for certain. You know, we’re not sure what’s going to happen,” said Mister McKinney of Mister McKinney’s Historic Houston.  “Hopefully the building itself can still be here. And that’s the goal now, is to save the venue. Save the building. And get the public to help us in this fight.”

A Facebook group called Friends of River Oaks Theatre is organizing a benefit on Saturday with a panel discussion on Zoom next Wednesday.

We asked you for your memories on social media, and you responded.

Quinton Self said, ‘Rocky Horror Picture Show,’ which played there for years.

“Watching the original La Cage aux Folles I and II with friends who are no longer with us,” recalls Stacy Ronczy

Eric Flur added, “Seeing Quadrophenia when it first came to American theaters and seeing A Clockwork Orange there in that beautiful theater.”

You can see more of the responses here.


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