The River Oaks Theatre, Houston



This week, we find our way to The Landmark River Oaks Theatre in Houston. The River Oaks Theatre is a small theatre with 3 projection rooms; two smaller rooms upstairs and a larger art deco auditorium on the first floor. Built in 1939, this theatre remains a relic of an earlier time. More recently, showing a mix of cinema classics and a few indie small releases. I won a Rocky III (my favorite of the series for those of you playing along at home) Soundtrack from Black Dog Records and saw a movie about the real life inspiration for the Rocky films.

I most associate this theatre of the home of regular midnight Rocky Horror Picture Show performances with the aid of The Royal Mystic Order of Chaos, a theatre troop dedicated to make the experience like no other. Without giving too much away, let’s just say that the Rocky Horror crew made waves for Cosplay culture before such fandom was really the monster success we regularly see at Comicons, etc. While I don’t think that RHPS was the first to motivate a fan base to get out in their favorite castmember’s costume, it draws a cult-like following for sure. In the film’s cast is Tim Curry, who has had an illustrious career across many acting . Buzzfeed published a survey which defines your personality by where you know Curry from. For fun, feel free to see where it lands you here.

Prior to the RHPS playing at the River Oaks Theatre, it was seen at the West Alabama Theatre. When discussing this post with family, it was interesting to watch the expression on my mother’s face as she somewhat shook her head and said “that’s what we used to do”. We waxed a little on the subject and moved on in conversation.

As a fan of neon, it’s marquee has always stood out to me as an essential part of Houston. Syd Moen, one of my favorite artists in the area has a series entitled “Little Planets”, which in my opinion did the Theatre’s unique and everlasting beauty justice both in day and night time. I am partial to the day shot, but you can find your favorite of her amazing work here.

Admittedly, I am nostalgic about this place not only because I remember passing it as a child, but because I also know that there could be a repurpose on the horizon. Nearby, a portion of West Gray is being torn down to make way for a new high rise. Where as Weingarten Properties (owners of the strip center) have publicly stated that there are no plans to close the theatre, in 2006 the theatre had many influential Houstonians campaigning to keep the business open after an initial report and then following fallout of a planned closure by Weingarten. Even more than a decade later, I am aware that there is a possibility of change and while I don’t want to admit that I fear it, I know that especially in the places I feel most nostalgic the higher my residual apprehension.

Change can be really hard to cope with. I know that I am not the first, nor will I be the last to identify the above thought. There is a diatribe of self help books and media on the subject. In reference to physical landscape, but specifically in what I have witnessed in Houston, change is in some ways a necessary evil. Old buildings tend to require extended maintenance to just keep their form; sometimes what makes them unique and what makes them recognizable.

Change takes trust, vision and skin in the game. Without any single one of those elements, projects are not doomed but nearly impossible to pull off. Change is not always as simple as “just a jump to the left and a step to the right”. Change sometimes means letting go of what we can familiarize to exchange that for something that will not meet our needs.

The photo was taken with my iPhone SE. Yup, folks, I survive on a phone released in March of 2016. It gets better. The battery is designed to last about 2 years. It’s planned obsolescence.

I get that the photo is backlit. The video is grainy, as I tried to focus on the needle in the groove. I have been planning this post from a much earlier timeframe, as there are times that this blog is not always produced in real time. But, all in all, I think the important part of change is a little grace.

Respect what is there and the people who build it. Support them and listen for ideas that enhance the field in new and exciting ways.

And let’s do the time warp again.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s