Houston’s Historic River Oaks Theatre to Reopen

by Jessica Fuentes February 11, 2022
A photograph of the marquee sign for the River Oaks Theatre. Above the sign are large neon letters that spell, "RIVER OAKS." On the marque the words read, "Just when I thought I was out they pull me back in."

River Oaks Theatre marquee. Image credit: Corey Watson

Houston’s historic River Oaks Theatre, which closed in March 2021, has recently announced plans to reopen.  

Kimco Realty, a real estate investment trust based in Jericho, New York that holds properties across the United States, acquired the River Oaks Shopping Center, which houses the theater, in August 2021. Since that time, it has worked to develop a plan to restore the center, which originally opened in 1937, to be a destination for shopping, dining, and entertainment. 

The closure of the theater was in part due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which largely affected restaurants, movie theaters, and other service industries. In spring 2021, the art-house cinema chain Landmark Theatres, which was operating the River Oaks Theatre at the time, was unable to come to an agreement with the River Oaks Shopping Center’s then-owners, Weingarten Realty. The crux of the issue and the reason for the theater’s closure was because the two companies could not come to an agreement when renegotiating rent for the space.

A photograph of a man and a woman each dressed as movie ushers in black, red, and gold outfits. Each person holds a tray of popcorn.

River Oaks Theatre movie ushers. Image credit: Corey Watson

As a part of this new plan for the theater, a newly formed company and affiliate of Houston-based Star Cinema Grill Group, River Oaks Theater, Inc., has signed a lease agreement to operate the theater. According to the press release, the new company intends to run the theater as an arthouse cinema, screening classics like The Rocky Horror Picture Show and hosting film festivals. This is essentially a return-to-form for the space, which was the city’s last remaining independent theater regularly hosting these types of screenings. Additionally, the new owners will preserve the Art Deco design of the building while bringing in new amenities.

Andrew Bell, Vice President of Leasing for Kimco Realty, shared in the release, “We are thrilled to have found an operator who shares our passion for the history of this theater, appreciates our vision for this shopping center, and truly understands the River Oaks community and the desires of its residents…we look forward to continuing our relationship with the City of Houston and the community of River Oaks as we invest in and reposition this flagship asset for future generations of Houstonians.”

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner added, “The River Oaks Theatre is a historical and cultural pillar in the city of Houston. We are pleased and grateful that with the help of the city, all parties were able to come together to ensure Houstonians will once again have their favorite and most treasured theater back open soon. I thank Kimco, Omar Khan, Friends of the River Oaks Theater and all the cinema lovers for coming together to save this cherished landmark.”

Maureen McNamara, community member and Friends of the River Oaks Theatre spokesperson shared, “After a solid year’s effort to save this architectural and cultural landmark, our community-based nonprofit group… is eager to assist Kimco and the new River Oaks Theater team in preserving the theater’s value to the Houston arts community. This is a gift to Houston’s cultural center, and as true friends of the theater, we are in this for the long haul. We look forward to applying our knowledge of the film community and of historic and independent cinemas to collaborate with all involved on our shared vision for the theater’s bright future.”

A reopening date has not been shared at this time, but Glasstire will continue to provide coverage of details as they are available.


You may also like


Connie Jarrett May 15, 2022 - 12:38

I’m anxiously waiting. It’s been three months since this article. So what’s up? I want to see a good foreign or indie.

david June 23, 2022 - 15:43

Same here. Have you been able to find any new updates? I haven’t. 🙁

Cameron Tumlinson June 14, 2022 - 21:05

I loved this place and it’s atmosphere. The staff was always curious and friendly. I can’t wait for it to open so I can enjoy it with my children and Friends.


Leave a Comment

Funding generously provided by: