Historic Texas Theatre’s Tainted Past, Promising Future

When I was in high school, one of the coolest jobs was being a projectionist at a movie theater. Especially a movie theater that gave you a key because of the long hours. Not only did you get to see first run movies for free and have first dibs on all sorts of uber-cool swag like posters and film trailers, but you got to take your friends to the movies at like three in the morning to see any movie you wanted.

I never worked in a movie theater; but I was the friend of the guy who worked in a movie theater. There was a time where I was seeing every first run print of a movie at no cost and in the wee hours of the morning – oftentimes before the film premiered at the theater. That’s pretty darn neat for a kid who just got his driver’s license.

A mere two days before The SCENE Magazine went to print, Aviation Cinemas, Inc., a brand new venture I’m a part of, signed a lease to take over operations of the historic Texas Theatre in Oak Cliff (south Dallas). Formed specifically to close this deal, Aviation Cinemas is named in honor of billionaire Howard Hughes, who financed the Texas in 1931. The solid concrete, “fireproof” structure was the largest suburban theater in the metroplex at that time and the first in Dallas to have air conditioning. In its heyday, the Texas attracted the Dallas elite with its grand design and state of the art projection and acoustics.

That all ended the day President John F. Kennedy was shot and his alleged assassin was captured at the Texas after not paying for a movie ticket. Soon after that fateful day, the Texas underwent a massive facelift – all of its glorious designs and vibrant colors were covered in plaster, sealing it away from public view. Since then, the Texas has struggled, moving from one owner to another and barely avoiding the wrecking ball. Oliver Stone remodeled the marquee and exterior facade for his 1990 film, JFK, when the theatre was under the ownership of the Texas Theatre Historical Society; and in 1995 the theatre barely survived an interior fire.

Today, the Texas Theatre is under the ownership of the Oak Cliff Foundation and, up until recently, has been a community run theater, holding special events and screening films using modest equipment. On August 30th, the Oak Cliff Foundation officially handed the keys to the historic Texas Theatre over to Aviation Cinemas. Our expressed goal is immediately renovating the theatre by installing a 35mm changeover system, tweaking the existing digital projection system to meet I-Cinema compliance, and installing a new adjustable 40 foot screen. This will allow the theatre to screen movies of various exhibition formats, utilizing state of the art equipment. The large screen will be moveable to allow for other kinds of entertainment including plays and concerts. The old school style film changeover system will allow the Texas to screen repertory film prints that would not normally be allowed to be spliced together on a platter. Additional exhibition for small format films and filmmaking will be supported by the addition of 16mm and Super 8mm projection. Plans also include constructing a concession stand and a separate full-service bar in the main lobby and soundproofing the area between the theatre and the bar.

Future goals include restoring the existing balcony, remodeling additional areas for lounge space and installing a digital cinema 2K and 3D projector. Currently, there’s actually no seats in the balcony area – in fact, it’s rather spooky up there and quite dangerous. We believe that creating a barrier between the balcony area and the lower screening area (which seats 650 people) will be an acoustically sound decision. Filling out the balcony with seats and installing additional projectors will allow us to utilize that space most effectively and provide additional outlets to entertain audiences. There’s also a great deal of space in the building that could be used as lounge areas and/or green rooms for theatre patrons and/or guests of the theatre.

Our hopes are that patrons will not only come out to the theatre because of the movies, but also to come hang out at the bar and enjoy the intriguing space of the Texas. The bar will have an assortment of bottled, canned and draught beers – including some craft beer selections. Additionally, the bar will have wine and liquor – with a variety of movie themed signature drinks. The wall between the screening area and the bar will be made of glass so that patrons can see what’s being screened from the bar area and art work will adorn the walls around them.

Long term goals for the Texas are to continue the Oak Cliff Foundation’s plan to restore the interior of the theatre back to its 1930s era design. The exterior facade and marquee will remain as is – a restoration of the 1960s era. We believe the value of the Texas Theatre is unparalleled because of its rich history. We aim to provide solid movie entertainment while promoting the values, culture and spirit of independent cinema and filmmaking. We’re independent filmmakers who now run a movie theater – what better way to foster the creative and artistic aspects of filmmaking and help cultivate a community of filmmakers?

Although theater expansion is certainly a distance off, we’ve already been discussing potential locations. The Houston area is certainly on the list, given my residence in Kemah. And with the recent closing of the Angelika downtown, there’s an even greater opportunity to succeed.

So, coming full circle, I’ll soon be able to bring my friends out to my movie theater in the wee hours of the morning and have special screenings and parties and all the other crazy events you do when you operate a movie theater. Will you be my friend?

Adam Donaghey is Vice President and CMO of Aviation Cinemas, Inc.

Keep up to date at http://TheTexasTheatre.com and become a fan on Facebook at http://facebook.com/TexTheatre.

Originally published in The SCENE Magazine – September 2010

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Historic Texas Theatre Goes High Tech!

DALLAS, TX (August 31, 2010)—The Oak Cliff Foundation has officially handed the keys to the historic Texas Theatre over to Aviation Cinemas, Inc., a newly formed movie theatre company with the expressed goal of renovating the theatre by installing a 35mm changeover system, tweaking the existing digital projection system to meet I-Cinema compliance, and installing a new adjustable 40 foot screen. This will allow the theatre to screen movies of various exhibition formats, utilizing state of the art equipment. The large screen will be movable to allow for other kinds of entertainment including plays and concerts. The old school style film changeover system will allow the Texas to screen repertory film prints that would not normally be allowed to be spliced together on a platter. Additional exhibition for small format films and filmmaking will be supported by the addition of 16mm and Super 8mm projection. Plans also include constructing a concession stand and a separate full-service bar in the main lobby and soundproofing the area between the theatre and the bar.

“Phase one is to get the theatre in good working condition in order to exhibit films in traditional and digital formats,” said Barak Epstein, President and CEO of Aviation Cinemas. “Long term goals to restore the theatre to its original condition still exist; but in order to realize those goals we’ve got to be on par with competing theaters. Attracting audiences is the only way this theatre will survive.”

Aviation Cinemas, named in honor of billionaire Howard Hughes, who financed The Texas Theatre in 1931, is the brainchild of award-winning independent filmmaker, Barak Epstein. Epstein has been scouting potential spaces in the Dallas-Fort Worth area for several years. Following the Oak Cliff Foundation’s involvement with the Texas Theatre led him to his first opportunity.

Award-winning Independent film producer, Adam Donaghey, is Vice-President and CMO. “Barak and I have been looking for the next project to team up on,” said Donaghey, who’s produced several films alongside Epstein, “and when the opportunity to be a part of a movie theatre with the kind of history the Texas has, I jumped all over it.”

Creative Director for The Oak Cliff Foundation, Jason Reimer, will stay on as a part of Aviation Cinemas, continuing to head up programming and book shows. “When Barak came to us with his ideas for the Texas Theatre, “ says Reimer, “I knew instantly he was the right fit. Coupled with Adam’s ability to scout the latest and greatest on the indie film market, will make for some quality programming.”

While the theatre has content booked through the rest of the year, beginning in October, including the Texas Blood Bath Film Festival in November, the grand opening of the new Texas Theatre is scheduled in January 2011. Following the grand opening, phase two will consist of remodeling the balcony by possibly turning it into two additional screens (ala the Inwood Theater in Dallas), remodeling additional areas for lounge space and installing a digital cinema 2K and 3D projector.

The Texas Theatre is currently booking independent films, concerts, theater programs, parties and events. Book your event by visiting: http://TheTexasTheatre.com

Upcoming Shows

Following are a selection of confirmed shows
all dates subject to change

* Thurs. Sept. 30 – encore showing of Return to Giant (w/ dir. Kirby Warnock)
* Tues. Oct. 5 – Touch of Evil (dir. Orson Welles)
* Tues. Oct. 12 – Harold and Maude (dir. Hal Ashby)
* Tues. Oct. 19 – After Hours (dir. Martin Scorsese)
* Tues. Oct. 26 – Bonnie and Clyde (dir. Arthur Penn)
* Tues. Nov. 2 – Last Days of Disco (dir. Whit Stillman)
* Tues. Nov. 9 – Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia (dir. Sam Peckinpah)
* Tues. Nov. 16 – Jesus’ Son (dir. Alison Maclean)

* Nov. 13/14 – Blood Bath Horror Film Festival

Coming Soon:

* Strange Powers: Stephin Merritt and the Magnetic Fields
* Adventures of Power
* Until the Light Takes Us
* Life During Wartime

Featured Directors of the Month Series:

* Akira Kurosawa
* Jacques Tati
* Alfred Hitchcock

Corporate Bios

Barak Epstein earned a degree in Radio, Television, and Film from the University of North Texas and afterwards moved into independent film production, distribution and Film/TV technology sales and consulting. As film producer, Barak has completed five feature films, which have played at film festivals throughout the world and have international distribution. Recent films include BLOOD ON THE HIGHWAY, which was released internationally in 2009 and EARTHLING, which premiered at SXSW 2010. Barak also works as a senior production consultant at Videotex Systems and has several start-up ventures in various stages of incubation including Film Out Releasing, an alternative independent film distribution company, and Texas MicroCine, a co-op and resource for small format filmmaking in north Texas.

Adam Donaghey, President and founder of Zero Trans Fat Productions, is an award-winning independent film producer from Texas. His work has been seen at festivals and special screenings all over the world and have international distribution. Adam’s latest projects are Independent Spirit nominee Bryan Poyser’s LOVERS OF HATE, picked up by IFC Films, and Clay Liford’s MY MOM SMOKES WEED, both of which screened at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival; Frank V. Ross’ AUDREY THE TRAINWRECK and Clay Liford’s EARTHLING, both premiered at the 2010 South By Southwest Film Festival. He recently wrapped principle photography on Clay Liford’s WUSS and Eric Steele’s UNCERTAIN, TX, and is currently in pre-production on Michelle Mower’s PREACHER’S DAUGHTER.

Jason Reimer is a composer and filmmaker responsible most recently for the multi-media group History at Our Disposal (creative capitalism). Reimer’s also been a member of Ghostcar and the Baptist Generals (Sub Pop), and recorded music for Bridges and Blinking Lights, The Angelus, Raised by Tigers and Center Divider. In 2001 he founded Pyramid Scheme art collective, producing records and art shows for various regional artists. Since 2002 Jason has scored soundtracks for various films, including Dennis Lee’s Academy Award-winning short, JESUS HENRY CHRIST, as well as producing his own installation shorts. Currently, Jason is filming VESPA GIRL with his newly formed Pyramid Scheme Production Group.

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WEBSITE:
http://TheTexasTheatre.com

Check out all the press related to the Texas Theatre on my website!