Richard Linklater and the "Friends of River Oaks Theatre" Group Hope to Save the Historic Houston Cinema

·2 min read

Built in 1939, many Houstonians are hoping to save the beloved River Oaks Theatre in Houston, Texas, which recently closed its doors in the wake of financial losses due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Featuring beautiful art deco design, movie lovers from around the globe have long celebrated this special theater — and now some of its biggest fans are banding together to try and ensure the cinema lives on.

Together, they've founded the Friends of River Oaks Theatre Facebook group to spread the word and do what they can to support reopening efforts. On March 31, the group hosted a Zoom panel featuring some of the theaters most prominent advocates, including celebrated filmmaker, Richard Linklater and Houston rapper Bun B. In the "Save Our Landmark" discussion, the panelists opened up about just how much this theater means to them.

"Right there when it was a repertory cinema. Summer of '81. I had been at college, came back to Houston, had a job working offshore, and I was getting into film and that was it. That was my film school. That was the church I wandered into and had found the holy spirit," said Linklater, beginning at around the four-minute mark. "I was there watching every single one of those double features. It was incredible. I'd get that schedule out and mark all the films. I'd go home and read the history of every writer, director, actor, and I just did that for a couple of years...the River Oaks is a very special place to me and I know so many others. Just everyone who loves Houston film, and has that sense of community. It's just unfathomable that it could be closing. I know economic pressures and all that, but it's just really unacceptable. It's just a big moment, we have to do what we can to have that not happen."

Given that this movie theater is one of the last of Houston's historic theaters — the Alabama Theatre, another art deco theater built in 1939 was converted into a Trader Joe's in 2012 — locals are particularly passionate about preserving this theater, if not as a movie venue, than at least ensuring it gets repurposed for another use rather than demolished.

Watch the full conversation below.

If you'd like to follow along with news from Friends of River Oaks Theatre, like the Facebook page here.

Have you ever seen a film at the River Oaks Theatre? We hope there's a future in store for this Houston treasure.