Curtains Close At River Oaks Theatre


Jack Williams, Staff Writer

It happened. The movie theater in River Oaks has finally closed its doors. The pandemic took quite a toll on the movie industry, especially for theaters, and after a long year of struggling it just wasn’t going to look bright for River Oaks. Many people I know, including my father, are fans of this theater. They’ve been going for years. The humble theater had three screens and a bar area. It first opened on November 28th, 1939. Since then the theater has screened countless independent, midnight, foreign, and other unique films for the public to enjoy. It seemed to be quite a different experience than your typical Cinemark or Regal. 

I always wanted to visit the theater, being a gigantic cinephile, but I was never able to. I never had a ride to take me to a late show all the way up in River Oaks (I live in Dickinson). Even though I never went it still saddens me that a place like this can’t last in today’s economy. It’s no longer seen as important. Cinema isn’t. It reminds me of when another River Oaks establishment, Half Price Books, closed last March due to higher taxes. I visited the bookstore on their last day of operation and nearly the entire community was there. Everyone seemed quite upset with the closure of such a neat little spot that had been there, mind you, for over 30 years. 


I asked local Houston rapper, Lil’ Bailey, who was a longtime visitor of the River Oaks Theater, her thoughts on the closure. “River Oaks stood out because it felt like a relic from a different time, and I could disappear into that time no matter what movie I was watching. I also appreciated that it housed indie, documentary, and foreign films that I often couldn’t find in larger theaters” says Bailey, who is currently waiting to tour again because of Covid-19. 


River Oaks had a great run. Hopefully one day a new independent theater will serve as a successor to what was once Houston’s most beloved cinema. As for now, go watch the Godzilla versus King Kong movie. Now THAT’S a movie.