Friends on Film and a New Dawn for the River Oaks

The saga of the Houston River Oaks Theater has been a long and ongoing one, but with a promising future. At the beginning of 2022, its fate looked uncertain. The classic theatre had closed in March of the previous year as negotiations between Landmark Theaters and Weingarten Realty broke down in renewing their lease. Despite a very large public outcry, the cinema closed its doors.

Months went by. No word of its fate.

That changed quickly with the merger of Weingarten with Kimco Realty in August 2022. Around the same, an agreement fell into place for new operations under the name of the River Oaks Theatre Inc., a company that owns and operates such food and entertainment establishments as Star Cinema Grill, State Fair Kitchen & Bar, and Liberty Kitchen & Oysterette.  The resulting sentiment was summed up well by Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, stating, “What a great day for the city of Houston. The River Oaks Theatre is open again and will be preserved for future generations.”

As we reach the end of March 2023, the theater space is still closed. Work goes on behind the scenes. The waiting game continues. But the theater still stands with an endgame in sight.

One result of the RO closure was the founding of the Friends of River Oaks support group, a vocal entity for the preservation of its namesake theater as well as other historic sites. Its latest endeavor is the Friends on Film podcast, which released its first episode this last month. I’m both thrilled and honored to have been featured in its initial podcast and in the same company as Richard Linklater, Maureen McNamara, Justice Tirapelli-Jamail, Margot Gerber, Robin Jones, Stephanie Saint Sanchez, Dwayne Cathey, and Cary Darling.

You can hear the Friends on Film podcast here:…/friends-on-film/id1675430469


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Cinema Houston celebrates a vibrant century of movie theatres and moviegoing in Texas’s largest city. This weblog is a companion to the Book, Cinema Houston: From Nickelodeon to Megaplex (University of Texas Press, 2007), and website,

David Welling is a Houston-based writer, artist, and graphic designer. His lifelong interest in movies (and the places that show them) led to the writing of Cinema Houston, which included fifteen years of research, and its subsequent website.

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