It used to just be a buck, until “about 10 years ago it went to $2,” writes a moviegoer. By then the theater had already been around for decades in the back of its namesake Wind Chimes Shopping Center at Westheimer and Eldridge — once the setting itself of a movie shot by a local production company. Following roughly 40 years there, “It was just about the last dollar movie open in Houston,” the former patron declares. (Still around, notes the sign, is the North Oaks Cinema 6 at FM 1960 and Stuebner Airline — where the same owners will sell you a $2 ticket to see any of 8 selections right now.)
What that price got you at Windchimes: admission to feature films that hadn’t quite made it to DVD yet after finishing up their time in first-run theaters. And on top of that, arcade games:
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HOW POST OAK’S NEW ROOFTOP MOVIE SCREEN PLANS TO GET TEXANS BEHIND IT
Tickets sales start today at noon for the first movie to hit the new Rooftop Cinema Club screen atop the Whole Foods BLVD Place garage on October 3: Dirty Dancing. Following a few more blockbusters like Coming to America, Back to the Future, and Footloose the London-born chain will begin courting Texans with a home-grown lineup including Rushmore, Reality Bites, Dazed and Confused, Selena, and The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas (with a showing of Black Panther thrown in there on October 16 just because). At the end of its second week, the theater takes a hard turn out of state with
Mel Brooks’ Mike Nicholls’ South Beach feature The Birdcage, only to come back in a big way with Texas Chainsaw Massacre the day before Halloween. [KHOU; previously on Swamplot] Photo of Whole Foods at 1700 Post Oak Blvd.: Dung L.
A POST OAK PARKING GARAGE SOLUTION TO THE DEMAND FOR DRIVE-IN THEATERS The head of the company now bringing a movie theater to the top of the BLVD Place garage at Post Oak and San Felipe tells the Chronicle’s Ileana Najarro that he “hopes to offer a social experience for those nostalgic for drive-in theaters.” What better place to do it than in Houston, where people drive in and out of buildings all the time? The catch: you’ll have to get out of your car and amble up to the garage’s top floor above Whole Foods and other retail, where it might get noisy — especially with that bus lane construction happening now on Post Oak. But there’s a solution: wireless headphones for each audience member — which Rooftop Cinema Club’s head says will “replicate the intimate setting of one’s car,” just like the old days. [Houston Chronicle; previously on Swamplot] Photo of Whole Foods at 1700 Post Oak Blvd.: Dung L.
14 PEWS’ SURPRISE NON-ENDING
On her way into a new job as executive director of a larger church-turned-arts center in Portland, Cressandra Thibodeaux appears to have had a change of heart. Which means 14 Pews — the microcinema and performing arts venue that picked up where the Aurora Picture Show left off 8 years ago — will not be closing any time soon. The original movie house at 800 Aurora St. took over the building from the Sunset Height Church of Christ in 1997 and hosted screenings, plays, workshops, and art exhibitions there (as well as a few weddings and memorial services) before turning it over to Thibodeaux in 2010. Since then, programming has continued along those same lines — even as audiences anticipated the venue hitting the market in mid-Februrary. With that plan scrapped, Thidobeaux writes: “We are now teaming up with community leaders to curate several film series, as well as talking with other organizations about bringing unique festivals to Houston.” [14 Pews; previously on Swamplot] Photo: Ed Schipul [license; modified from the original]
NEXT XSCAPE HEADING FOR THE FAR REACHES OF KATY The second of the 2 Xscape multiplexes planned for the “Houston” area will land at the far southwest corner of Katy, reports Virtual Builders Exchange — in an update to its story identifying the Kentucky-based theater chain’s Woodlands location. A 12-screen facility (marked down a couple from the typical 14 of the prototype) and accompanying 540-space parking lot will settle down at 26616 FM 1093, just east of FM 1463, in the southwest corner of the Westheimer Lakes North subdivision and across from Cross Creek Ranch — if contractors get their bids in to the company by the August 1 deadline. The plans for the 51,968-sq.-ft. Katy building appear virtually identical to those for the Woodlands theater. [Virtual Builders Exchange; previously on Swamplot] Rendering of Xscape prototype: Patoka Capital
XSCAPE TO THE WOODLANDS BY NEXT FALL One of those 2 “Houston” locations a small, Kentucky-based movie-theater chain named Xscape is building will be in The Woodlands, reports Adolfo Pesquera. Last week, investment firm Patoka Capital announced that it was still in the process of acquiring land for a pair of $15 million, 55,000-sq.-ft., 14-screen theaters in Houston — its first in Texas. But Pesquera notes that contractors have been given until this Friday to bid on construction of an Xscape complex and accompanying parking lot at 16051 Old Conroe Magnolia Rd., just north of a planned Del Webb Woodlands development. The Woodlands location will be slightly smaller than the Xscape prototype (pictured above), with only 12 screens. It’s scheduled to open in the fall of 2018. [Virtual Builders Exchange] Rendering: Patoka Capital
Tilman Fertitta’s Harlow’s Food & Fun arcade-bar-restaurant, located since the mid-aughts inside the southwest corner of the Edwards Greenway Grand Palace 24 on Weslayan St., is now closed forever, a woulda-been visitor reports. The entertainment-complex-within-an-entertainment-complex shut down by New Year’s Eve, and signage has already been pulled from the main entrance (though the explanatory yellow placard shown here is still visible behind the space’s security grate at the other entrance). The Harlow’s website has already been scrubbed and redirected to the main Landry’s page; some folks operating out of a Landry’s-branded pickup truck were spotted this afternoon cleaning up at the scene (above).
The signage on the Norfolk St. side of the theater has been removed as well:
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Grand Palace Exit
ALAMO DRAFTHOUSE SAYS IT’LL OPEN 4 MORE HOUSTON SPOTS NOW THAT VINTAGE PARK IS OFF ITS HANDS Alamo Drafthouse followed up this week’s confirmation that its Vintage Park theater is becoming a Star Cinema Grill by announcing that it plans to open 4 more Houston area locations. Details on where and when are still murky (other than a reiteration that plans for the Imperial Market spot in Sugar Land are still on), but a rep told Kyle Hagerty earlier this week that the company has already signed 3 leases. That may or may not include the 10-year lease signed back in 2013 for a spot in the long-stalled Regent Square development — which did get some permits this fall, as somebody at Morris Architects previously claimed would happen. [Previously on Swamplot] Rendering of proposed Alamo Drafthouse in Sugar Land: Imperial Market
As of a few minutes ago, Star Cinema Grill has officially announced its purchase and takeover of the Alamo Drafthouse in Vintage Park, plus plans to redo the interior with some “modern decór”. An unusually-light-and-getting-lighter December schedule tipped some movie hounds off to an impending change, though neither company was ready to confirm anything by the end of last week; Alamo closed as Alamo for the last time on Sunday, however, and as of earlier today the theater appeared to have completed its Facebook identity swap (and to have fielded answers to at least one skeptical Alamo customer’s since-deleted commentary on the matter).
The shift knocks Alamo back down to just 1 Houston-area location in Mason Park, following several years of floated potential expansion plans for Midtown and maybe-moving-forward-again Regent Square; the Austin export still has plans listed for a new theater in Sugar Land’s Imperial Market complex. Star Cinema, meanwhile, says the Vintage Park spot will reopen under the new name by Friday, and claims the chain’ll be up to 6 Houston-ish locations by the end of 2017.
Photo of former Alamo Drafthouse in Vintage Park: Casey W.
Workers have begun attaching wire netting to the façade of the 4,344-sq.-ft. retail-turned-office building at 3715 N. Main, which county records indicate was built in 1940 and a nearby resident believes once served as a post office for the adjacent neighborhoods of Norhill and Brooke Smith. The netting is in advance, it appears, of a new stucco or stucco-like overcoat for the brick-front structure.
The Iglesia de Restauracion, an affiliate of El Salvador-based pentecostal ministry Mision Cristiana Elim Internacional, bought the building last fall; previously it served as the law offices of voting-rights attorney Frumencio Reyes. In stuccoing the structure, the neighborhood church will be following the pattern established earlier with the successive stuccovers of its own main sanctuary building, the former North Main Theater across the street at 3730 N. Main.
Here’s how that movie theater, which was built in 1936, once looked:
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Famous Beige Overcoat
COMMENT OF THE DAY: A MONUMENT TO WHOLESOME AND SEEDY TURNOVER IN RICE VILLAGE “The Village Arcade sign was a nod to the Village Theatre marquee (which was promptly razed in January of the year after a Jim McConn-administration moratorium on demolition of historic structures expired). . . . There was, actually, some effort to save the Village Theatre and its block of shops (including World Toy and Gift), but it came to naught. It was a nice MacKie & Kamrath neighborhood theatre design, but by the time of its demise it was probably irretrievably tainted by its waning days as a porn house.” [marmer, commenting on Hanover Montrose Move-In Day Nears; Rice Village Arcade Sign Comes Down] Photo of Village Arcade sign: Swamplot inbox
TINY IPIC THEATER WINS INJUNCTION AGAINST GIANT RIVAL OVER CLAIMS OF ANTICOMPETITIVE CONDUCT
Florida-based iPic Theaters, reports Olivia Pulsinelli, has won a temporary injunction against Knoxville-based Regal Entertainment in a Harris County court last week. The boutique theater chain, whose first Houston location opened at 4444 Westheimer Rd. in the River Oaks District shopping center last November, filed a suit late last year alleging that Regal and fellow competitor AMC were muscling the new theater out of the market through ‘anticompetitive and unlawful conduct’, including demanding exclusive rights to show certain films or refusing to screen films also offered to iPic; Regal opted not to screen several major releases (including the latest Hunger Games installation and December’s Star Wars episode) at many of its Houston locations. iPic’s 12 theaters nationwide generally screen fewer films than its larger competitors while offering pricier amenities, such as dine-in service, pillows, and semipartitioned 2-recliner “pods”. A trial date for the lawsuit is set for October 3rd. [HBJ, Houston Press] Photo: Liz J. via Yelp
No fewer than 11 pairs of scissors reached to cut the ribbon in front of Fifth Ward’s DeLuxe Theater at 3303 Lyons Ave. as it formally reopened yesterday. The 1941 movie-theater-briefly-turned-art-gallery, which has sat empty since 1973, will now host plays, classes, and other community and art events put on by Texas Southern University; TSU jazz students performed at the ribbon-cutting ceremony.
The original facade and marquee have been restored and updated:
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Now Playing Off 59
FLOOD NIGHT AT THE EDWARDS CINEMA GREENWAY PARKING GARAGE SUV-deprived Woodland Heights resident Mimi Swartz explains how she and her husband came to spend the very wet night of May 25th reclined in the front seats of their Honda Civic in the parking garage of the Edwards Greenway Grand Palace 24 at 3839 Weslayan St. — with a flank steak thawing in the wayback. They were on their way to a dry, refrigerator-equipped hideaway at the Hotel Derek when a stalled train and some high water blocked their tracks: “Next thought: About 0.7 miles to the south was a multiplex. We could catch a late show. Afterward, surely, the rain would have stopped and the water receded. If not, this place at least had covered parking. All during the 10:45 show of ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’ — four other rain-soaked refugees had had the same idea — I couldn’t help thinking that if we’d had a truck like that of Charlize Theron’s character, I’d be asleep in bed instead of wondering how someone had managed to digitize her arm out of every shot.
By 12:45 a.m., the rain had not stopped. For a while, we stood in the parking garage beside the car, and I tried to snap cellphone photos of the lightning. The street below us displayed an impressive current. Finally, John and I got in the car and put the seats back as flat as they would go. Thirty years ago, this would have been exciting.” [NY Times] Photo: Cinema Treasures
The asking price for the Heights Theater on bustling 19th St. in Houston Heights in today’s live-or-work listing is $1.9 million. The owners last toe-tested the reel deal in 2008, at $1.3 million. In the interim, surrounding neighborhoods have tipped even more hip. Though the future of the historic (but not protected) property is up for grabs, its past scrolls like an old film roll, with scenes of early prosperity, seedy decline, suspected arson, and restoration.
The exterior’s revamp earned the current owners a Good Brick Award 20-ish years ago. The interior, a shell space since its near destruction by fire in 1969, has been used for live theater, retail, events, and galleries. In the former lobby’s crossroads sits an original projector (top), a sculpture standing as both a testament and witness to passing eras.
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Film House for Sale