Different: Star Cinema Grill To Reopen River O.k. Theatre As Exhibit For Indie Films

The curtain goes up on a brand new generation for the vacated River Oaks Theatre.

Kimco Realty, the Jericho, New York-primarily based employer that owns the River Oaks Shopping Center Center where the theater sits,introduced Wednesday that the cinema can be re-beginning as a showcase for art house and independent movies operated through Sugar Land-based totally Star Cinema Grill, whichhas eight multiplexes within the Houston suburbs. Nodate has been set, but it can now not open until the give up of the yr.

Mayor Sylvester Turner made it legit with a press conferenceWednesday eveningin the front of the theater. “What a fantastic day for the city of Houston,” said Turner, noting that his workplace had been flooded with calls and letters about the theater. “The River Oaks Theater is open again and could be preserved for future generations.”

The declaration of Star Cinema Grill as the new tenant comes almost a 12 months after talks broke down all through lease negotiations among the previous River Oaks Shopping Center landlord, Weingarten Realty, and California-primarily based movie chain Landmark Theaters. The Art Deco venue at 2009 W. Gray, built in 1939 and the ultimate of the antique film theaters in Houston nevertheless getting used for its unique motive, shuttered on March 25, 2021, sending shock waves thru the vicinity’s film and architecture communities.

“I wasn’t positive we’d ever get to this area,” said council member Abbie Kamin, whose District C includes the River Oaks Theatre, at the click conference.

While the three-display screen River Oaks is like nothing else in Star Cinema Grill’s cinematic portfolio — the enterprise’s other theaters, inclusive of the 10-display screen Springwoods theater that opened in 2019, are sprawling, modern-day multiplexes located out of doors the Loop — Star Cinema Grill vice president of improvement Jason Ostrow says the plan is to preserve the River Oaks as filmgoers consider it.

“Star Cinema Grill is a Top 10 blockbuster movie chain. We’re playing pinnacle 10 product, and that’s our enterprise, and there’s not a variety of programming creativity that is going into that,” he stated in an interview earlier this week. “This is going to be a great deal greater of what it became before, locating that forte content, uniqueness activities and stay theater events in a combined-use venue. Star Cinema Grill is extra of the business facet, and this can be greater of the passion facet.”

Star Cinema Grill president and CEO Omar Khan has a unique fondness for the River Oaks, Ostrow said. “He’s a neighborhood Houstonian. His family has been within the movie theater commercial enterprise for a totally, very long time,” he stated. “So this is nearly sort of like a legacy undertaking for Omar, some thing that he can preserve in his circle of relatives and pass down, nurture and curate.”

“The plan is to maintain the soul of the theater,” Khan said at the press conference.Nineteen Thirties look, 2020s experience

Kimco, which sold out Weingarten final yr, desires to flip the buying center into a leisure destination.

“It’s an area where human beings on a Saturday will say, ‘Hey, permit’s visit River Oaks.’ Not necessarily, ‘Let’s go to a film’ or ‘Let’s visit this restaurant or that restaurant’ but ‘Let’s visit River Oaks,’” stated Andrew Bell, Kimco’s vice-president of leasing. “We’re seeking to do things that sell that going forward … (The theater) plays thoroughly into what our usual vision is for River Oaks.”

Kimco, which has a ten-year hire with renewal alternatives with Star Cinema Grill, never had plans to place anotherform of retail in the building or tear it down. “I by no means taken into consideration it no longer to be a theater,”said Bell, who grew up in Atlanta and recalls the fight to store the enduring Fox Theater in that city.

The River Oaks will remain a 3-display venue, even though the reworking will include new, large seats in order to probably reduce its ability. “The decor will experience like you’re in 1930, however it’s going to feel very new and up to date and sparkling,” Ostrow said. “So we’re designing custom-made seats for this facility which are handiest going to be in River Oaks.”

The plan additionally consists of a live level. “We’re going to try and locate a few other uses within the space for other programming possibilities,” Ostrow stated. “Those are all things which can be nonetheless being hashed out, planned and investigated to what’s simply feasible inside that space.”

While the movie-exhibition enterprise has suffered at some stage in the pandemic, Ostrow isn’t always worried approximately the River Oaks’ ability to drawa crowd.

“Our enterprise at Star Cinema Grill, we’re up over one hundred twenty percentover 2019,” he said. “Now, we’re seeing positive elements of demographics that haven’t come again to films yet completely, but the bulk of our enterprise has returned, plus a few.”

Star Cinema Grill, which has multiplexes in Richmond, Cypress, Spring, College Station, Vintage Park, Missouri City, Baybrook and Conroe, currently elevated past Texas withlocations in suburban Chicago.‘A massive win’

The outcome pleases Greg Audel, a nearby filmmaker who lives within the neighborhood and just passed off to be on foot by using whilst he noticed the commotion in the front of the theater. “It’s only a brilliant venue to rent for special events or fundraisers due to the fact it’s miles a unique area. It’s now not just on foot right into a purchasing-mall theater,” he said. “You come here and also you sense like you’re coming to an occasion.”

Also glad is The Friends of the River Oaks Theatre, an activist organization formed in the wake of the theater’s closure that consists of Richard Linklater,Wes Anderson andBun B. The institution had made its personal pitch to Kimco to function the theater.

“It’s a massive win,” said Maureen McNamara, a co-founding father of the organisation, noting that Feb. 2 marks the anniversary of the group’s first meeting. “For these men to be certainly making plans on retaining the theater an art house, I assume that’s crucial for the theater.”

She hopes that the Friends of the River Oaks Theatre can still be involved come what may.

“It’s still form of an evolving scenario because anybody’s nevertheless figuring out however all of the portions fit together,” she stated. “But it’s like when any person has half the elements to make a cake, and the other character has the alternative 1/2 the elements to make a cake … Working together we could assist do some thing virtually extraordinary.”

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