The next step in River Oaks Theatre’s comeback starts this week. Construction on renovations to the historic movie theater will begin soon with an eye towards reopening by the end of the year.
Movie-loving Houstonians will recall the venue’s saga that played out in 2021 and 2022. Landmark Theaters closed the three-screen theater in 2021 due to unpaid lease obligations that accrued during the pandemic. Houstonians demonstrated outside the theater, calling for it to be preserved.
When it seemed like the theater might never reopen, Culinary Khancepts, a local company affiliated with Star Cinema Grill that operates State Fair and Liberty Kitchen, announced last February that it had leased the space with plans to renovate it. Now, that work is slated to begin.
Plans call for preservation of the theater’s signature Art Deco look, signage, and name while making necessary improvements to the overall interior. One of the major changes will be upgrading the kitchen to provide for in-theater dining along with cocktails and wine.
When it reopens, the theater will screen art house movies and host live performances, according to a release. Hopefully, that includes the interactive Rocky Horror Picture Show performances that had been a signature of the River Oaks Theatre. Whatever the specifics turn out to be, the company understands the significance of the space.
“We felt as Houston’s only owned and operated cinema companies that it was our duty to save this masterpiece. We look forward to serving our community with the best-in-class cinema experiences,” River Oaks Theatre president and CEO Omar Khan said in a statement. “The last year was spent working through design, city approvals, historical preservation, landlord coordination of building improvements, including a brand new roof and prepping the theater for a sprinkler system.”
Culinary Khancepts has donated the theater’s old seats to the non-profit Friends of River Oaks Theatre to sell as a fundraiser. Pre-orders are currently open, priced at $50 per seat with a minimum of two seats per person.