HOUSTON - We may not be able to save the historic River Oaks Theater, but fans of Houston’s arts culture hope to do better at preventing other landmark fine arts venues from suffering the same fate.
A panel discussion was held Wednesday night, days after the River Oaks Theater had its final showing. The three-screen movie house was known for being among the only places to catch foreign cinema, documentaries, and independent films in Houston.
Founded in the 1930s, the River Oaks Theater was recently unable to negotiate a new lease; in addition to pandemic financial impact the landlords, Weingarten Realty, tells FOX 26 the theater’s business model showed they would not be able to afford their rent going forward.
Hosted by Friends of the River Oaks Theater, Wednesday’s panel included Bernard Freeman, better know to Houston as Bun B.
Bun B rose to national fame in the late 80’s and early 90’s as part of music group UGK. He has since used his success to become a prolific and well known philanthropist in Houston. On the panel, he emphasized the value arts being to Houston culturally.
Speaking to FOX 26 anchor Kaitlin Monte ahead of the event, Bun B says he feels Houston needs to get on the same page when it comes to appreciation for what cinema, theater, music, and fine arts offer us as a community. Without them, he says society can start to lose its civility.
While he recognizes there may be little we can do to save the River Oaks Theater, Bun B is concerned other arts venues may soon suffer the same fate. He is particularly concerned about Houston music venues after a year of pandemic shutdowns left many of them financially dry.
Bun B recognized some people may still be hesitant to to attend in-person events as the pandemic carries on. That said, he encouraged Houstonians to do so as much as possible when it falls within their comfort level. Otherwise, he encourages people to buy merchandise from, or donate directly to, the artists and arts venues in Houston.
Many venues have adapted to pandemic safety measures: outdoor seating, separating parties into pods, requiring masks, or reducing audience capacity to allow distancing. Comedian Dave Chapelle provided COVID rapid testing at the door for all who attended his Houston shows during the pandemic. Many efforts continue to ensure live events are being safely offered.
You can watch Wednesdays full panel discussion here.