People Issue

Jason Reimer, Erik Steele and Barak Epstein: The Reel Man

In this week's Dallas Observer we profile 30 of the metro area's most interesting characters, with new portraits of each from local photographer Mark Graham. See the entire Dallas Observer People Issue here.

It's the movie house that Howard Hughes built, and the one a shlub named Lee Harvey forced into history books. But nowadays Oak Cliff's 81-year-old Texas Theatre is rewriting its legacy with uber-indies, cult classics on 35mm, musical showcases, plays and even its own film festival. If it wouldn't screen at another theater in Dallas, if it's just a little and maybe quite a bit weird, you can find it at the Texas Theatre.

It's been that way since 2010. Jason Reimer (left), a film composer based in Denton, was doing free screenings to raise awareness for the Oak Cliff Foundation, which owns the theater. That's when he met Barak Epstein (right), a local filmmaker who had been looking to put together a small independent theater.

Epstein brought in Adam Donaghey, a UNT grad and producer, to be VP and chief marketing officer. And they approached Eric Steele (center), the former lead singer of indie band Red Monroe and a playwright and actor. (Donaghey is not pictured; he was on location shooting a movie.) (See correction below.)

"We each approach our programming with the idea of 'What would I play for my friends in my own living room?'" Steele says, indicating that he has a very eclectic living room.

What flickers on the theater's screens is equally as important as what flickers in the memories of its patrons. With its gorgeous art deco architecture and general throwback vibe, the theater returns you to a time when going to the movies was an experience, when where you were seeing a film mattered as much as what film you were seeing.

"The fact that there will most likely never be a time ever again that an architect will build a theater in this specific way to watch a film is totally unique," Reimer says.

Aside from reopening the 350-seat balcony, the guys have plans for a 30-person capacity mini-screening room -- tailored, Epstein says, for "really underground films" and film production. They envision the theater not only a place to show films but a place to make them. The end game, Steele says, is to help "emerging Dallas filmmakers get their work out and providing a lab for more projects to be created in and launched into the world."

See the entire Dallas Observer People Issue here.

KEEP THE DALLAS OBSERVER FREE... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
James Wallace
Contact: James Wallace