River Oaks Theater, a Houston Historical Landmark
By Joan Whetzel
River Oaks Theater, Houston's last remaining historical cinema, has been honored with multiple local awards. Among the accolades: "Best Film Series" (Houston Press 2010) for its midnight movie screenings, Best Movie Theater (Houston Press 2000,2008 and 2003), Best Movie Theater by Inside Houston in 2001, and The Preservation of a Landmark Facility as a Unique and Special Venue for Art, Vintage and Independently Produced Films (Museum District Business Alliance, 2001). Other tributes include being included in the Houston Chronicle's list of 20 cool things about Houston (2006) and receiving an official proclamation for River Oaks Theater Day by Mayor Lee Brown (3/26/2000) and Mayor Bill White (11/6/2006).
Designed by Pettigrew and Worley, a Dallas architectural firm, River Oaks Theater opened in 1939. It was operated by the Interstate theater chain, under the management of Karl Hoblitzelle. Pettigrew and Worley also designed the Alabama Theater in Houston, which was operated as a book store for several years before being torn down and replaced by a modern strip center as part of an improvement project. River Oaks Theater is now operated as part of the Landmark Theater chain.
The River Oaks Theater is adorned with Art Deco moldings, ceiling medallions surrounding the chandeliers, wall sconces, and special sculptured artwork surrounding the emergency exits on either side of the large screen. These artifacts are still in place in the main theater downstairs as is the original color scheme of maroon and cream. The upstairs balcony, however, has been subdivided and turned into 2 small theaters, allowing the theater to run 3 movies daily.
The first film shown at River Oaks in 1939, was "Bachelor Mother" starring Ginger Rogers and David Niven. Nowadays, the theater shows mainly foreign films and independent movies, as well as the occasional classic film. It has become famous around town, though, for its midnight flicks every weekend. Every Friday and Saturday features a new or old popular film on the main screen downstairs. Although, the second weekend of every month is reserved for Saturday only showings of "Rocky Horror Picture Show" including a shadow cast.
It is currently the anchor for the River Oaks Shopping Center, situated near the prominent River Oaks subdivision. It's located at 2009 West Gray in Houston. When visiting Houston, come see a move at a Houston landmark. Check out the movies and show times on the River Oaks Theater's website at: http://www.landmarktheatres.com/market/Houston/RiverOaksTheatre.htm
River Oaks Theater
2009 West Gray
Houston, TX 77019