Film and TV

Past, Present and Future to Officially Collide at Tonight's Texas Theatre Ribbon-Cutting

If you need me this evening I'll be at the Texas Theatre for the ribbon-cutting ceremony that officially marks the re-opening of the Oak Cliff landmark. Scissors come out at 5, and it should be an intriguing shindig: Not only will Mayor Tom Leppert and council member Delia Jasso be there, but also attending is late-addition Henry "Hank" Horn Jr., a retired Dallas Police officer whose footnote in history reads: one of the first officers on the scene when Lee Harvey Oswald was arrested at the Texas.

Filmmaker Barak Epstein, among the trio who took over the theater's operations earlier this year, tells Unfair Park they invited some folks with Kennedy connections -- including Gary Mack, curator of the Sixth Floor Museum, and an actor with a bit part in Oliver Stone's JFK -- to underscore the Texas's link to Dallas's past. But then, it's on to the future: The Texas will continue to serve primarily as a revival house, with some bold-faced indie screenings added to the schedule, and it'll host some comedy shows (like the New Year's Eve wingding) and a few concerts.

"Our plan all along was to have a movie theater that would show a mix of repertory and indie films that might play only New York and Los Angeles and not make it to Dallas," he says. "That's been our goal, and we'll keep trying that, and then mix in other events every once in a while. But we'll be 95 percent movies."

Epstein says that despite its current set-up, which allows for 16mm and digital projection, there's still an audience of hardcore cinephiles awaiting the installation of a 35mm projector. It's a-comin', he says. But it may take longer than expected.

"Some things have gone over budget," he says, referring to the just-completed overhaul that included the installation of a new bar. "We have to completely redo the projection room -- there's no air conditioning, no electrical, no nothing. That'll take longer than I'd hoped. We have a pretty good-looking 16mm set-up, and our digital set-up is pretty good too. It's better than the Angelika's and not as nice as the fancy DLP the Magnolia has."

Epstein acknowledges that the lack of a 35mm projector may have something to do with sparer-than-hoped-for crowds. Some screenings are well-attended, he says -- Bonnie and Clyde, shown earlier this week, drew 80 folks. Not bad for a school night. But a recent Akira Kurosawa fest didn't draw many at all: "Nobody came."

"And Throne of Blood was a great print," Epstein says. "I posted a picture of me holding the print, and  60 people 'liked' it, and 20 people posted comments saying it was the coolest thing ever, and 12 people came to the show. The novelty of certain screenings is cool, but the hardcore cinema nerds want us to have 35mm, and we're working to it. We did a 16mm print of Eyes Without a Face, which 12 people came to. Maybe 18. And we did it as a double feature with Band of Outsiders. I don't know if the hard-core cinephiles are saying, 'I'll wait till you get a print.' Having the 35mm up and running will help. And it'll happen.

"But then something like Enter the Void happens," he says, referring to Gaspar Noé's hallucinogenic and "very, very loose and highly symbolic adaptation of The Tibetan Book of the Dead," which is back on the schedule. "We did that for a week, and we were going to do one show, because I thought Angelika was going to show it, and every time we showed it more and more people came. And then when we stopped, people kept calling wondering when they could see it."

So, see you tonight? Swell. They're showing Plane, Trains & Automobiles after the ribbon's done been cut. I can't stay. Bringing the boy, and I don't think I'm quite ready to let him sit through this scene. We'll probably just walk down to the Charco Broiler for dinner.

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Robert Wilonsky
Contact: Robert Wilonsky