Local cinephiles are still mourning the loss of Landmark River Oaks Theatre, the city’s prime destination for indie cinema, foreign films and midnight Rocky Horror Picture Show screenings, which shut down due to unpaid lease obligations.
But fans of the theater and other local arts mavens are not taking this lying down. In fact, several of them will convene for “Save Our Landmark: Houston’s Historic River Oaks Theater,” a Zoom panel that will happen this Wednesday night at 7pm.
The panel will feature several prominent figures (including acclaimed Texas filmmaker Richard Linklater, Houston Chronicle arts editor Cary Darling and local theater historian David Welling) discussing the historical, cultural & economic importance and viability of this historic movie theater, which was around for over 80 years.
Another person who will be on the panel is Bun B, the H-Town rap star who also serves on the board of the Houston Cinema Arts Festival. Like so many others, he’s heartbroken over the closing.
“It’s really sad that something that has impacted so many people for so long is no longer gonna be available to people,” Bun B tells CultureMap. “And I feel that cultural landmarks should be as appreciated as historical landmarks. I think that they should be preserved.”
Bun B knows how much the theater meant not only to local film lovers, but the local film community. When friend and music-video director Nahala “Mr. Boomtown” Johnson wanted to premiere his 2017 film Candy, he went to River Oaks. “He wanted to premiere his film locally, and he was having a problem — a bit of pushback — from the chain-cinema outlets. And River Oaks Theater allowed him to premiere his film there. I showed up at the premiere to support him. It was an amazing moment.”
Unfortunately, Bun B feels it’s gonna take one hell of a miracle for River Oaks to get back to being the art-house palace we know and love. “I would imagine that [the landlords] kind of have a retailer in mind for that space already,” he says. “It’s really about money at this point. It’s about a bottom-line situation.”