04/29/15 5:00pm



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.


Film House for Sale
02/12/13 9:30am

RIVER OAKS DISTRICT TO SEE ACTION, ADVENTURE The last we heard the River Oaks District was providing “move out concierges” to help Westcreek Apartment residents get off the property west of Highland Village where the upscale mixed-use cluster is going; now it appears that something’s moving in, the Houston Chronicle‘s Nancy Sarnoff reports: Florida-based iPic has signed a lease to build a 560-seat octoplex. It might not end up looking like the rendering shown here, but it will be called “Escape,” reports Sarnoff, and it will allow moviegoers to pick — get it? — among escalators, self-serve ticket kiosks, beers on tap, recliners, and pillows and blankets. [Prime Property; previously on Swamplot] Rendering: Oliver McMillan

07/19/12 1:22pm

FAIR WARNING: ABOUT TO MESS WITH ALABAMA THEATER MARQUEE Publicists for Weingarten Realty want Swamplot readers to know that workers about to poke into the underside of the Alabama Theater marquee aren’t dismantling it. They’ll only be replacing the lights there with new LED fixtures. Doing that will require removing the soffit panels below the Shepherd-facing sign on the soon-to-be first Houston-proper Trader Joe’s. “The marquee will look just as it does today with the only exception being new energy efficient lighting on the underside,” the shopping-center owner tells Swamplot. The work should take about 2 weeks. [Previously on Swamplot] Photo: Weingarten Realty

05/31/12 12:47pm

Triple Tap Ventures officially announced 2 new Alamo Drafthouse Cinemas locations yesterday: One in the fake-Venetian Vintage Park Shopping Village off Tomball Parkway and Louetta (reported back in April), and another in Midtown. The company didn’t provide extensive detail about the planned Midtown location, though: It’ll be part of a new mixed-use development by Crosspoint Properties at 2901 Louisiana St. And it’ll sit on top of a 3-level parking garage. A lobby bar will be visible from Milam St. and feature views of Downtown; there’ll also be a ground-floor lobby entrance.

But a variance request submitted earlier this year for Crosspoint’s development adds to the picture. It included the “conceptual” rendering above — for the new parking structure facing Milam St., one block north of Van Loc Restaurant. A movie theater would sit on the top floor of the parking garage, the variance explained. The parking would serve the theater as well as new retail spaces (on the first floor) and offices (on the second floor) inserted into the 1957 building on the west half of the same block, which faces Louisiana St.:


03/29/12 4:59pm

For the first time since 2008, when Aurora Picture Show left the converted church in Sunset Heights currently commandeered by 14 Pews, the quirky flickhouse founded by microcinema pioneer Andrea Grover will be gaining its own dedicated moviehouse. In the interim, Aurora’s succeeding directors have been organizing film programs from a bungalow on the Menil campus at 1524 Sul Ross. But starting this June, the organization will have a new home with a big screen. It’s a metal-clad building at 2442 Bartlett St. currently used as a studio and gallery by artist and former Aurora board member Molly Gochman, in the small arts compound she owns just east of Kirby.


11/04/11 1:21pm

If any ghosts of Alabama Theater moviegoers were still intent on haunting the spaces once occupied by their old seats, they’d be buried in sand by now. A Swamplot reader and theater buff shows us the current state of the building’s innards — as seen yesterday from strategic views through the front and rear glass doors. On its way to a new level and Trader Joe’s-worthy surface, the auditorium’s basement and raked floor have been transformed into what now appears to be the city’s largest indoor sandbox. (From the photos, it looks like only a single motorized sand toy gets to play in it, though.)

A new, permanent concrete floor ordered by the owners of the landmarked 1939 Art Deco building, Weingarten Realty, will replace the removable raised-floor system put in place in the early 1980s, when the theater at 2922 S. Shepherd Dr. was transformed into the Alabama Bookstop bookstore.


10/31/11 10:14am

It sure looks like it: Here’s a photo of the theater’s west parking lot, sent to Swamplot by a reader who noted that a concrete pour began on Saturday morning. Earlier this month, Weingarten received a permit for “Landlord Improvements — Infill/Leveling,” though the permit’s title doesn’t make it clear what kind of leveling the national REIT wanted to do to the landmarked structure at 2922 S. Shepherd Dr., which is expected to be transformed into Houston’s first Trader Joe’s market.

Why would Weingarten want to pour a thick layer of concrete onto the floor of its historic building — and how much demolition of the theater’s interior might be accompanying this work?


10/27/11 11:30am

Here’s what you’ll want to know about the new Sundance Cinemas taking the place of the shuttered Angelika Film Center in Bayou Place downtown: First, you’ll still get 3 hours of free parking underground. Seating is by single-seat reservation only, but you’ll be able to pick your preferred movie-watching spot (and print out your tickets) from the comfort of your own computer if you want to avoid lines. Adult tix for evening shows are $10.50 ($3 less for matinees), but there’s a tacked-on “amenity fee” that varies from nothing to $3 depending on the time of day and day of the week of your showing. What amenities will you be receiving in return for that little upcharge? Well, there’s the parking, the seat-reservation system, and the facility’s cost of maintaining “as green a facility as possible.” Plus, the 8-screen theater promises no TV-style advertisements before movies start.

And how’s the place looking so far?


10/17/11 4:01pm

According to an unattributed report published today on Culturemap, beer-and-movie pioneer Alamo Drafthouse plans to open its second third Houston-area location at 2500 Summer St. off Sawyer in the First Ward, in David Adickes’s former SculpturWorx compound. But a spokesperson for the movie theater’s owners would neither confirm nor deny the plans either to Culturemap or the Chronicle. And Phil Arnett — who with partner L.E. “ Chap” Chapman announced plans last year to buy and redevelop the 3-building, 3-acre compound and convert portions of it into commercial space — tells Swamplot there’s “nothing definitive” about any Alamo Drafthouse plans. Representatives of Triple Tap Ventures, the theater’s parent company, did look at the space, but nothing’s come of it yet, Arnett says.


06/07/11 4:12pm

Ah, the life of a roadie/curator on a little Houston showboat. . . . Squeezed into this short video: the weeklong White Oak and Buffalo Bayou popup cinema debuts of the good barge Tex Hex from late last month, documenting the rides and drifts of Houston’s first and only solar-powered waterborne movie projection system.

Video: Be Johnny

05/20/11 7:33pm

On Tuesday night, Houston’s first and only bayou movie barge docked at Guadalupe Park off Navigation for the first of 2 “sneak peek” video performances on the banks of Buffalo Bayou. On the opposite shoreline, a few cargo trains and a motorcade of dirt bikes rumbled past, but the night was clear and mosquito-free, show and boat organizer Bree Edwards claims. Plus, she says: The solar-powered cinema setup on the Tex Hex worked flawlessly. Her pix of the scene:


05/11/11 2:15pm

Here’s a showboat custom-made for Houston’s bayous: an aluminum pontoon deck outfitted for exploring inland waterways . . . and screening videos along the way. Assembled by a design-build sculpture collaborative called Simparch, the Tex Hex has its official maiden voyage scheduled for May 21, the night before Houston’s Art Car Parade. The boat will dock in front of the concrete steps where White Oak Bayou spills into Buffalo Bayou, behind the loft building at 1011 Wood St., for a program of films about — what else? Car culture. They’ll be projected onto the Tex Hex’s onboard rear-projection screen. Downtown skyscrapers are expected to hang out in the background, just for effect.


04/21/11 5:42pm

LANDMARK FOR SALE Dallas Mavericks owner and billionaire Mark Cuban, whose company 2929 Entertainment has owned Landmark Theatres since 2003, is putting the arthouse cinema chain up for sale by auction — along with its sister independent-film distribution company, Magnolia Pictures. Landmark operates 55 cinemas with 245 screens in 21 cities. In Houston, Landmark leases the art deco 1939-vintage River Oaks Theatre at 2009 West Gray — from Weingarten Realty. Offers are expected to come in as early as next week, but Cuban tells Bloomberg News he is only “testing the waters . . . We won’t sell unless the offer is very, very compelling.” [Art Attack] Photo: Flickr user Loren-zo

03/31/11 12:58pm

IT’S OFFICIAL: ROBERT REDFORD, SUNDANCE CINEMA TAKING OVER THE ANGELIKA, HOLDING YOUR SEAT Robert Redford’s Sundance Cinema will spend $2.25 million to renovate the 36,000-sq.-ft. former Angelika Film Center space in Bayou Place downtown, according to today’s official announcement from the Mayor’s office. The new movie complex is scheduled to open on November 1 in the former Albert Thomas Convention Center at 510 Texas St. Underground parking will still be free, but movie showings will have reserved seating only. [Previously on Swamplot] Photo: Aaron Carpenter

03/16/11 1:29pm

Never mind the construction work still going on in the parking lot next door: B4-u-eat guesses  El Real Tex Mex No. 7 will open quietly at 1201 Westheimer this Saturday — well, at least for a broadcast of the Southbound Food radio show. Actual opening date for the vintage Tex-Mex venture put together by Bryan Caswell, Robb Walsh, and Bill Floyd in the old Tower Theatre? Uh, “soon.” Chefs were busy pouring on the lard, and waiters were getting some training there earlier this week. If you’re looking for El Reals Nos. 1 through 6, you’ll need to wait a bit longer.

Photo: Candace Garcia