The Show Must Go On

Star Cinema Grill Will Preserve the Historic River Oaks Theater

The now-closed theater will reopen to screen movies near the end of the year.

By Shelby Stewart February 7, 2022

The River Oaks Theater will now be operated by Star Cinema Grill. 

Image: Corey Watson

After all, what’s a theater without a little drama?

The beloved River Oaks Theatre closed in 2021 after the Houston landmark was caught in a tumultuous back-and-forth with the real estate company Weingarten Realty and Landmark Theatres. 

But now there's good news: Although the independent movie house closed its doors after 82 years last March after struggling to reach a deal on rent, the property won’t stay closed indefinitely.

Star Cinema Grill, the Houston-based dine-in movie theater chain, is taking over the site, located at 2009 West Gray St. in the center of the River Oaks shopping district, with the intent to reopen it near the end of the year. The changeover is being headed by Kimco Realty, which plans to preserve the integrity of the building and has promised to keep the original River Oaks name. 

The latest development is also good news for Friends of the River Oaks Theatre (the group sticks with the original spelling of the theater’s name), which held rallies to save the cinema when it was first set to close. The group will continue to assist in the theater’s preservation, said Maureen McNamara, a spokeswoman for the nonprofit organization.

McNamara, who recalled the yearlong effort to save the theater before its lease ran out, said it was important to preserve the architecture and culture of the local mainstay. 

“As true friends of the theater, we are in this for the long haul,” McNamara said. “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.”

The movie house will be an important anchor for the River Oaks Shopping Center, said Andrew Bell, the vice president of leasing for Kimco Realty, in a statement. “We are thrilled to have found an operator who shares our passion for the history of this theater, and truly understands the River Oaks community and the desires of its residents.” 

Omar Khan, the president and chief executive of the River Oaks Theater, agrees. “Being a part of the Houston community is something we take great pride in, and as the only locally owned and operated movie theater group, we feel very fortunate to further expand our roots within our hometown,” Khan said.

Though under new leadership, the River Oaks Theater plans to maintain its rich history by showcasing “classic features such as The Rocky Horror Picture Show” and hosting film festivals for everyone to enjoy. 

River Oaks Theater is at 2009 West Gray St. A reopening date is yet to be announced. 

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