Downtown Shutdown: Angelika Film Center Goes Noir

Some managers at Downtown’s Angelika Film Center who showed up for work Sunday morning didn’t know any better than customers showing up for the Sunday morning matinees of Eat Pray Love and Farewell that the indie theater had been shuttered overnight. “After 13 years of continued service to the Houston community,” read a note posted on an empty ticket-booth window and papered-over front doors, “the Angelika’s lease has been terminated by the Angelika’s landlord, Bayou Place Limited Partnership, an affiliate of the Cordish Company.” But Cordish officials weren’t even returning phone calls from the Chronicle. Anyone want to tell us what really happened?


Outside the Smith St. box office yesterday, former and current employees — along with folks just showing up to see a movie — tried to piece it all together, but no one had a complete explanation for why the 8-screen theater went dark so suddenly. The Angelika, which originally featured a cafe and bar in the lobby, was part of the first phase of the Bayou Place redevelopment that opened in the long-empty Albert Thomas Convention Center in 1997. The cafe and bar have been closed for a couple of years. Angelika theaters in New York, Dallas, and Plano remain open.

Photos: Swamplot inbox

23 Comment

  • Their lease probably expired, they were month-to-month, and were unable to reach an agreement to new lease terms with the landlord, who wanted more than they wanted to pay. Just a guess.

  • This explains why they wouldn’t fix the air conditioning.

  • NETFLIX killed the competition

  • I rarely went there, but I heard that a lot of the maintenance was being deferred.

  • I’m going to miss the Angelika. It was the only place in Houston (other than River Oaks) where I could go see a movie without sharing seats with a million junior high kids squealing at every scene.

    I just saw Inception there the other week. The AC was not working in the entire place initially, but a manager somehow got it working in our theater after several minutes into the movie. Apparently the problems have continued since.

  • My wife and I saw Inception there too, it as soon as I saw the theater, I knew their demise was imminent. Big movie + small crowd on a Saturday night + disintegrating space = the end is nigh.

    Of course, I’d been saying that for years, but crikey, there were missing light fixtures with bare wires hanging from them.

    C’mon Alamo Drafthouse, this is your big opportunity.

  • I think this is an issue with Bayou Place Limited, from what I understand the Angelika and Bayou Place have been having disputes over who was to pay for the a/c going out and other repairs. The whole Bayou Place seems to be going downhill and the Angelika wasn’t putting up with it anymore. I hope that you will stay on the case Swamplot because to me it seems the landlords and real estate companies are the ones causing these types of venues to leave.

    Any update on the West Alabama Theater by the way? Maybe they could move there.

  • Pay higher rent—–>get problems fixed.

    Fix problems——–>get higher rent.

    It’s that whole chicken & egg thing.

  • This comes as no surprise. The highest and best use for this property is parking. A true visionary would convert this space into a garage a la the old Sakowitz building.

  • I am pretty disappointed by this news, although it’s been obvious for at least a year that the Angelika wasn’t exactly thriving — or at least gave that impression with the maintenance issues. Not only the A/C, but things like entire sections of the men’s restroom being just roped off with yellow tape for weeks at a time.

    It is an enormous space, though, and already configured for a movie theater. The Alamo Drafthouse idea is interesting.

    I work downtown and would hate to lose the ability on a slow afternoon to hit up a movie if I want to!

  • I’ve long believed that an Alamo Drafthouse-type concept could make a pile of money in Houston. And no, the current far-flung locations do not count.

  • A-la-mo! A-la-mo! A-la-mo! I don’t do Facebook so I’ll have to register my support here.

  • Sad to see it go, but I love some of your ideas! An Alamo Drafthouse at this location would be awesome, and I would love to see a smaller version of the angelika open up at the W. Alabama theater.

  • I was at a movie there Saturday night. I noted the lobby was hot, but the theater was nice and cool. I am so sad to hear they are gone. I loved the theater. I do think there was not enough marketing for them, for instance, I didn’t know until a few weeks ago that they validate parking and that you can park right there underneat and take an elevator straight into Bayou Place. Had I known, I would have been a regular there much sooner. What a shame, this could have been quite a success if handled properly.

  • That whole chicken and egg thing may be true. Now they have no A/C = no rent = NO Income. And the whole Bayou Place is going to hell. All the restaurants there suck and the Verizon is crummy venue. It is time to bring in the dozers and turn it into green space.

  • while i want an alamo draft house, im not sure this is the best location. i think montrose, washinton, or midtown would be better suited for a location.

  • While I’ve been suspecting that they were rarely breaking even with the place going downhill, the announcement posted by Angelika’s management is not the same as the landlord locking out a delinquent tenant. This smells of a dispute other than rent.

    The other tenants in the building probably liked having the theater there too as they could get business both before and after the show. At the very least, they don’t want a vacant void. I imagine they could be angry with the landlord right now.

  • Time to weep, Houston film lovers. Now you can only see interesting/foreign/unrated/quirky films two at a time at River Oaks.
    Until it’s torn down….

  • I never quite understood why Albert Thomas never did well as a convention center.

    Don’t remember when it was built but I do remember going to a work related sit down dinner there in the very early 70’s.

  • From PYEWACKET2:

    I never quite understood why Albert Thomas never did well as a convention center.
    Because no one wants to have their conventions in Houston? Especially in the 70s & 80s when downtown was deader than a doornail.

    Does the Brown Convention Center do much business? Do professional trade associations hold conventions there. Whenever I am over there, I only see conventions aimed at Houston consumers (gun shows, bridal shows, comic book conventions), which are fine but don’t bring in the out-of-town guests a professional trade show does.

  • Does the Brown Convention Center do much business? Do professional trade associations hold conventions there.

    Believe it or not I will be at a trade convention at the GRB in October, the 21st Breakbulk Americas Transportation Conference & Exhibition:

    WAYYYYYYYYY more fun than guns or brides and I have colleagues coming from NJ and London.

  • Also in October the GRB is home to the International Quilt Festival. Has been since the Brown opened.

    Folks, men and women, come from all over the world. S. America and Mexico, as well as all of Europe, Japan, India, Australia, parts of Africa and Russia are well represented.

    Quilt Festival has juried shows, vendors, buyers, reps from all sorts of companies that are in any way shape or form fiber related. That extends to any sort of embellishment too, buttons, trims, laces, fringes, anything.

    The Brown does in fact bring huge trade shows to Houston. Quilt Festival utilizes all three floors and all halls and lasts for the better part of a week.

    All the downtown area hotels benefit also. Plus the pedicabs, horse carriages and taxis.

  • OK, good to hear about the Brown. Obviously that’s what you want a convention center for–to help fill up hotels and restaurants and cabs. (The Quilt show sounds really interesting!) Sorry to hijack the thread!

    I think there will be film venues that may move to fill the vacuum left by the Angelika. I wish the Rice Media Center would try harder at promoting its highly interesting film series (as well as showing more movies). With one screen, it would never completely replace the Angelika, but it could successfully draw some former Angelika patrons with what it currently shows–if it made the slightest effort at doing so.

    The Frenetic Theater could do so as well, probably concentrating on some of the weirder films and/or midnight movie kinds of things.

    I mention these two venues because, though relatively small, they are theaters that already exist and are already functioning inside the Loop. And while we’re at it, who knows what the person who bought the old Aurora Theater building will do? Maybe super-niche one screen venues are the answer!