Speed Reads

raise the curtain again

Community rallies to save historic Houston theater closed because of COVID-19

The lights are turning back on at the historic River Oaks Theater in Houston.

The Art Deco theater closed its doors in 2021 after 82 years in operation, unable to keep going amid the coronavirus pandemic. The River Oaks was known for showing foreign and independent films, and director Richard Linklater called it his "film school."

Local movie lovers weren't ready to give up the theater without a fight, and formed an organization called Friends of River Oaks Theater. They met once a week on Zoom to discuss ways to get the River Oaks back open and contacted anyone who might be able to help.

For many of the group's members, they experienced so much loss during the pandemic that they couldn't imagine saying goodbye to this community institution. "The world is very uncertain right now," member Kyle Vaughan told The Associated Press. "It becomes really easy on your little hierarchy of needs to say no right now, we just need to survive. I just don't think it's worth it when you come out the other side, there isn't art, there isn't something to look forward to."

Their efforts paid off, and last month, the Star Cinema Grill theater chain announced it is reopening the River Oaks. Some upgrades will be made to the theater, but it will retain its Art Deco charm and continue to offer films you can't see just anywhere. "To me, preserving something like the River Oaks ... it's self-preservation, for the community, for the soul," Linklater told AP.