Oak Cliff People
Texas Theatre Set To Reopen
by Chuck Cox
Staff WriterOne of the most famous landmarks in Dallas is about to be open for business for the first time in nearly 20 years.
Final preparations are being made for the Texas Theatre to be ready to open Nov. 18 for a screening of the Public Broadcasting Service’s documentary Oswald’s Ghost.
Staff photo: Allison SlomowitzThe renovated Texas Theatre is set to open Nov. 18. The film will be presented by the Sixth Floor Museum as part of this year’s 44th anniversary remembrance of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.
Lee Harvey Oswald was arrested at the theater Nov. 22, 1963, and charged with the assassination.
The theater’s reopening comes after six years of efforts by the Oak Cliff Foundation, which is taking out a $600,000 loan to have the building ready to go next month.
Hosting the movie helped the foundation decide to take out the loan.
“We’ve been working toward that slowly for about six months,” said Oak Cliff Foundation board member Ninette McDonald. “This just escalated things and boosted us into getting the job done.
“The situation with our foundation is that every board member is also an employed person in a fairly highly-placed position, so they only have a certain amount of time to add to this theater,” she said.
“The fact that funding has also been very slow — there are so many needy causes out there that it’s difficult to get the finish-out work — that’s why we opted to do the loan.”
Once the theater opens, McDonald expects funding to pick up steam quickly.
The foundation has spent $1.6 million in federal grant money to restore the theater but still needed between $400,000 and $500,000 to complete phase one of the project.
After Oswald’s Ghost is shown, the Texas Theatre, which opened in 1931, will host live performances run by Dallas Summer Musicals Management, which will also handle the day-to-day operations.
“We’re hoping to generate interest and generate donations that will hopefully retire that loan sooner than we planned, as well as operating capital to do the performances and the further enhancements that will be necessary to get this into a full-blown live performance theater,” McDonald said.
“Right now, it will be a rented sound system and lighting, which is coming over by way of DSM Management. We will also need to purchase a curtain.”
Once the theater is open again, it will also be available for weddings and other special events within the community.
McDonald also hopes to have tours available, especially around the anniversary date of the assassination.
“It’s our mandate to not only do the live performances … but we’re also obligated through our loan from the federal government to open the theater to non-profit organizations, local entities, special events, and that sort of thing — full usage,” McDonald said.
“It’s exciting as well as kind of a relief. The burden will shift more toward Dallas Summer Musicals, which will leave us to do what we need to do and put a face out there and raising money.”
Several Oak Cliff residents are thrilled by the reopening. Alice Reece, for example, grew up in Oak Cliff and was a regular at Saturday matinees. “It was an all-day mix of cowboy movies, serials, cartoons, and on-stage events,” Reece said. “It looked like snow with balcony dwellers tossing popcorn over the balcony edge.
“On the Texas stage were yo-yo contests sponsored by the Cheerio or Duncan Yo-Yo companies. The most memorable were the personal appearances of cowboy movie stars including Alan ‘Rocky’ Lane [who scared everyone by firing his six-shooter], Sunset Carson, and even ‘Hopalong’ Cassidy. Lash Larue gave a demonstration with his whip …
“I’m very pleased that the theater is re-opening, and I plan to check out the renovated Oak Cliff landmark,” she said.