Public Birthday Party Invitation for the River Oaks Theater on November 20

Although it may be closed for the time being, the River Oaks Theater and its glorious history will be celebrated in the city of Houston when the theater turns 83 on November 20th. (Employee photo)

Although it may be closed for the time being, the River Oaks Theater and its illustrious history in the city of Houston will be celebrated when the theater turns 83 on November 20, and the public is invited to join in the celebration.

The party is being organized by the Friends of River Oaks Theater, a group that formed after the theater was closed during the coronavirus pandemic to fight to keep it from being demolished.

“Over those many years, it has been very different for people, from the cultural aspect to the entertainment aspect to the aspect of meeting like-minded friends to watch movies together,” said Cynthia Neely, one of several co-founders of Friends of River Oaks Theater. “We just want it to continue, in its historical architectural form.”

The event will take place from 7:30 pm to 9:00 pm on 2009 West Gray St. in Houston. Prior to the event, Friends of River Oaks Theater solicited feedback from the public for film clips from films that have seen and impressed people in the theater. These clips will be collated into a clip roll and projected from the Houston History Bus at the party, Neely said. Houston City Councilor Abbie Kamin is also expected to make a proclamation on the theater’s birthday.

Opened in 1939, the River Oaks Theater is known for its Art Deco architecture and for showing a variety of films, including independent and foreign films, during its long tenure in Houston. Houston-born directors Richard Linklater and Wes Anderson gave their voices to help keep the theater alive.

The fate of the theater is still in the air, owner Kimco Realty is negotiating with possible future tenants. Friends of River Oaks Theater are among the groups vying for the lease and have created a business plan that was passed on to Kimco, Neely said.

“We have full confidence in our ability to run and operate the theater as a non-profit organization,” she said. “It has the potential to be great getting back to what we want plus live art events.”

The main goal of the group is to preserve the building and its use as a cinema, said Neely. Even if they don’t get the lease, she said the group, which operates as a nonprofit and is currently receiving their official appointment, would continue to work to make the theater as successful as possible.

“We call it the Church of Film because it offers so many different things to feed our souls,” Neely said. “It’s more than just a building. It’s very important to the community and a part of us.”

As the theater is closed, the event will take place outside behind the theater. Guests are encouraged to visit nearby stores in the River Oaks District for food and drink, Neely said.

Find out more about Friends of River Oaks Theater here.

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