Houstonians who fear for the future of the beloved River Oaks Theatre, which could shutter by the end of March under a current lease agreement with Weingarten Realty, now have a new way to possibly help.
The Houston Film Critics Society (HFCS) has launched a new initiative, dubbed “Operation: Save Houston Cinema.” The move aims to rally public support for the landmark, as well as preserve the theater-going experience, per a press release.
So how can theater-loving locals help? The HFCS suggests buying a ticket to the River Oaks Theatre online or in person. For those concerned about safety given the new masks-off environment: a representative of Landmark Theatres has informed the HFCS that the venue will continue to enforce COVID-19 mask and social distancing protocols and that the downstairs auditorium will be staged at half capacity.
“If this is just about money, then let the money talk,” said Doug Harris, HFCS president, in a statement. “This theatre means more to a lot of Houstonians than any park, shrine, or statue — and nobody demands increasing ROI from trees. In a city this big, with the resources we have, we cannot and should not lose another classic theatre.”
As CultureMap has reported, many Houstonians agree with Harris, and have even packed the streets in front of the venue to show support. Social media and “email your leader” campaigns have since sprung up in favor of the landmark, which was erected in 1939.
Weingarten Realty, for its part, has not immediately returned requests for comment, but has noted that the theater closed for six months last year due to the pandemic and has since been unable to pay its lease obligations.
“Silver Cinema Acquisition Company has been a key component to River Oaks Shopping Center,” said Weingarten in a previous statement to CultureMap. “We have continued to work with the company who has not paid rent since March of 2020. Conversations have indicated that their business model does not support paying more than a fraction of the previous rent going forward. Unfortunately, the pandemic has caused many businesses in the entertainment industry, such as theaters, to fail.”
Like a true cinematic cliffhanger, time will tell if this new push will rescue the venue in distress.