A theater goes dead in the night
Cold blooded closure: Angelika employees tell of being locked out and left onthe sidewalk with no notice
Things go bump in the dead of the night — and in Houston, that's apparently when art theaters close down too.
Angelika Film Center employees showed up on Sunday morning, expecting to work — having no clue what happened overnight in the movie theater version of the Colts leaving Baltimore while the town was sleeping. Two different Angelika employees tell CultureMap that the staff of the theater was even more blindsided than the movie goers who showed up early Sunday afternoon, expecting to see a flick — only to find brown paper completely covering the full-length glass doors of the lobby, the marquee completely blackly blank and theater closed signs all around.
"We came in (Sunday) morning and everything was all boarded up," an Angelika employee who asked that his name not be used told CultureMap. "It was all closed up. And someone was there to tell us that we were done. We were just left there."
The Angelika employee talked to CultureMap on the phone from an impromptu mourning/remembrance party Sunday night that some of the suddenly out-of-work staffers organized on their own. "We're having a little get-together here," the employee said. "Just to sort of say goodbye and try and deal."
When asked what he'll do from here, the Angelika worker paused.
"I'm obviously not prepared to be out of work," he finally said. "And I'm out of work now."
The employee who worked at the Angelika for three years in a full-time position said that all the Saturday movies went on as scheduled and that staff closed up as usual, thinking it was just another day. "They must have waited for everyone to leave," he said.
Saturday night to Sunday morning is one of the quickest turnarounds the Angelika does all week, with movies ending after 1 a.m. and beginning again shortly after 11 a.m. Employees show up even earlier Sunday morning to prepare and by the time any of them arrived, the Angelika was papered up and the theater was officially dead.
Another Angelika employee confirmed the chain of events to CultureMap. It was only when employees who were scheduled to work Sunday morning showed up that any employees — including managers — were told that the the theater had shut down. Many employees who weren't supposed to work Sunday found out that they no longer had jobs from co-workers and news reports.
"I mean, I knew they were having trouble," the full-time Angelika employee said. "Things weren't going well financially. They weren't making any repairs. But I didn't expect them to just close down. It was a big surprise. And to have it happen like that ..."
A white sign with the distinctive Angelika helmet logo hangs in a box office window, reading "We regret to inform you that The Angelika Film Center has closed today. After 13 years of continued service to the Houston community, the Angelika's lease has been terminated by the Angelika's landlord, Bayou Place Limited Partnership, an affiliate of the Cordish Company."
Neither the Angellika's California-based parent company (Reading International) or Cordish returned calls on Sunday.
CultureMap first reported that the Angelika was without air conditioning in two of its theaters and the lobby — and not making repairs while still charging full price — on July 25. Still, even as Angelika workers saw Houston's downtown art movie jewel fall into disrepair around them, they didn't expect a no-warning end.
"I liked to work at the Angelika," the full-time employee said. "It was good movies and good people. We can't afford to lose things like this in Houston."
Watch an KTRK Ch. 13 report on another side of the story, the taken aback would-be movie goers: