Texas Theater in trouble - Group hopes to save it from foreclosure

The Dallas Morning News - Saturday, February 1, 1992
Author: Enrique Rangel, Staff Writer of The Dallas Morning News: THE
The financially shaky Texas Theater is in trouble again.

The landmark cinema faces foreclosure Tuesday unless the Texas Theater Historical Society makes a $5,000 mortgage payment.

The Oak Cliff Chamber of Commerce and other community groups said they would agree to save the theater, but only if the 14 members of the society resign and allow the chamber and other community groups to manage the theater.

Dennis Hamilton, president of the Texas Theater Historical Society -- a non-profit organization that owns and manages the theater -- said the group will have an emergency meeting Saturday to explore ways to raise the needed money.

Mr. Hamilton said the society purchased the theater from United Artists Co. for $175,000 and still owes $120,000.

For the time being, "United Artists just wants a payment,' he said. "They notified us two weeks ago that if we don't make the $5,000 payment, we will be foreclosed.'

Lee Harvey Oswald was arrested in the theater shortly after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 1963.

Joel Eastman, a Dallas attorney representing United Artists, said he could not comment on the possible foreclosure or any other deal that UA may work out with the historical society.

Because of the sluggish economy, Mr. Hamilton said his group has had a hard time keeping the theater financially sound.

"We've fallen on hard times like everyone else,' he said.

But Bob McElearney, president of the Oak Cliff Chamber of Commerce, said the theater is in trouble because the society hasn't done its job.

"They haven't managed the facility properly,' Mr. McElearney said of the historical society.

The Chamber of Commerce will rescue the theater on the condition that the society's membership resigns, Mr. McElearney said.

He said the Chamber of Commerce has asked the Jefferson Area Association and the Old Oak Cliff Conservation League to help manage the theater.

Each of the two community organizations has agreed to appoint three members to the society's board if the current members agree to resign, Mr. McElearny said.

Mr. Hamilton said he and the other Historical Society members are disheartened at the chamber's decision.

"It's kind of sad that the chamber of commerce is taking this position,' he said.

But Mr. McElearney said the chamber is asking for the resignations because the Texas Theater is a major landmark in the community and needs to be saved.

"It goes beyond the Kennedy assassination,' he said.

Built by the late billionaire Howard Hughes, the Texas Theater opened in 1931 at 231 W. Jefferson Blvd. For many years it was regarded as one of the finest theaters in the state.

The movie house became internationally known on Nov. 22, 1963, when Dallas police captured Oswald there. Witnesses said he fatally shot police Officer J.D. Tippit and then tried to hide inside the theater.

United Artists closed the cinema at the end of 1989. The Texas Theater Historical Society bought it a few months later.

Even before the purchase of the theater was final, the society had problems raising the money needed for a down payment or renovations.

But someone has always come to the rescue.

On Sept. 9, 1990, a black-tie gala at Red Bird Mall raised more than $50,000 for the restoration.

Mr. Hamilton is asking the public to respond once again and help the society save the historic cinema.

Those who want to help can call 946-2162 from noon to 10 p.m., he said.