The 81-year-old Texas Theatre in Oak Cliff may be known historically as the movie house that Howard Hughes built or the scene where police found Lee Harvey Oswald holed up on that fateful day in November, but for the past two years it's been known as the place to go to see films that won't run anywhere else in Dallas. From indies to festival favorites to 35MM print screenings, the Texas Theatre - run by a group of Texas-based filmmakers known as Aviation Cinemas Inc. - has made a name for itself by shaking things up in the DFW film community and being anything but mainstream. So leave it to them to make good on their rebel reputation by carrying the biggest, most mainstream movie exploding on the screen this summer: The Avengers. Didn't see that coming, did you?
And it's a brilliant move if I must say so myself. Sure, you could flock to your neighborhood mall megaplex like everyone else this weekend. Or you could take the rare opportunity to see what is arguably the biggest movie of all time in arguably one of the most beautiful movie houses still standing in the US - really the only of its kind operating in the metroplex. It's a chance to return to form, when going to the movies was about not only the experience of what you saw but where you saw it. Not to mention support the worthy cause of the Texas Theatre and what it represents in our hometown film community. (Could someone get me a tissue? Because my heart is bleeding here.)
After all, times are hard, especially for a one-screen, independently owned and operated venue like the Texas Theatre. But the challenges have forced Aviation Cinemas to get creative, using the theatre as a multipurpose space such as a musical venue - hosting intimate shows for the Grammy-winning Civil Wars, Sonic Youth's Thurston Moore, and Oak Cliff-born Jimmie Vaughan (brother of Stevie Ray) - along with featuring comedy shows, plays, parties, and other live events. And now the movie event of the year. So why this? Why now?
AC founder Barak Epstein says "The Avengers is not just a random Hollywood movie. It's one a lot of movie fans (myself included) have been looking forward to for some time. Plus, it's directed by the genre hero, Joss Whedon." Genre fans are something the theater has never had trouble attracting, that's for sure.
Epstein added "We have been an outlet for a lot of very indie films, but we have realized that there is a lack of "mainstream" theaters in the Southern part of Dallas. People who live in Oak Cliff or near downtown would normally need to drive all the way to the mall to go see a big movie. We think there is an audience for big movies in our neck of the woods as well. And yes, we will be proudly screening The Avengers in 35mm."
But other than it being a smart business move, the true influence for Epstein and Co. is the love of film, something it's very hard not to be romantic about. "Many people like coming to movies at the Texas Theatre cause it always feels like an event. You'll be walking through a legendary space and seeing a big movie on a classic big screen. Old school theaters bring instant movie memories to a lot of folks. I can remember and name every movie I've ever seen at the Paramount in Austin or back in the 90's at the Lakewood in Dallas. Also we have a full bar!"
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As for if this is the first of many or just a limited engagement, that remains to be seen. "I'm not sure if we'll continue to look at programming big tentpole films. We'll have to see how this one fares. The major studio requirements are such that we really need to feel confident in the film to consider booking it. We do have our eyes on at least one other big movie this summer that we think will play awesome in 35mm. You'll see a trailer for it if you come see The Avengers here."
Full bar. The chance to get a peek at what may come. And of course the rare opportunity to not only watch but truly experience a huge film in a historic venue (and support the local scene while you're at it). Well, that's what going to the movies is all about.
The Avengers opens at the Texas Theatre with a midnight screening on Thursday and will run through Thursday, May 10th. See their official website for times and to get tickets.