The Isis is 103 years old this month, even though only a few remnants remain of its theatrical incarnation. The Isis Theatre was Houston’s first truly deluxe motion-picture theatre. Built in 1912, it brought audiences from the nickelodeons into a larger, plusher world. When it opened on April 16, the world was still reeling from the news of the Titanic, which had sunk only four days earlier.
The theatre never made it to the talkies. By 1928, the Isis had closed down, and the space later converted to retail. However, in 1998, the structure was given a chance for renewal. The former theatre space reopened as the Mercury Room and the Mercantile Brewery. When the drop-down ceiling was removed, a long-hidden artifact from the Isis days was discovered. On an upper sidewall was a highly detailed sculpture running the length of the room, with ornate flourishes and five faces spaced throughout. Although in need of restoration, this decorative element would become a highlight of the finished brewery, earning it the “Best Atmosphere” listing in the Houston Press’s 2000 “Best of Houston” issue.
Since that time, both venues have closed, only to reopen under different names. Most recently, the space has been given new life as the Prohibition Supper Club and Bar, featuring food, drink, and most importantly, live entertainment – the first time that the former theatre has functioned as a theatrical venue since its closing in 1928.
For more information, see the Prohibition website at www.prohibitionhouston.com.