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.
Accounts of the theater’s origins describe how it rose on the former site of the Heights Hotel, which burned down in 1919. It’s believed to be the oldest movie theater on its original site in Houston. The 1925 exterior featured mission-style flourishes (above); its house initially held 750 movie buffs. In 1935, an art moderne renovation of the facade also expanded the seat count, to 900, and introduced some of that era’s new-fangled air-conditioning.
In 1969, a suspected protest torching of its screening of the X-rated I Am Curious (Yellow), the theater was mostly destroyed, leaving only the shell. In 1982, its then-owner began the exterior’s reboot. The property’s redemption from near demise continued at the hands of current owners: artist Sharon Kopriva and husband Gus Kopriva, who owns the Redbud Gallery on 11th St.
Behind the doubled doors of the double-wide entry, the floor plan is mostly an open room, currently occupied by tenant Gallery M Squared.
Dividers suggest “rooms” flanking the lobby:
There’s a step-up stage deeper into the space:
The 7,058-sq.-ft. building sits on a 6,600-sq.-ft. lot. In its current listing, the room count suggests a kitchen, 2 bedrooms, a full and half-bath — and a mighty high ceiling. A floor plan of the events venue appears on the Gallery M Squared website.