Village Theatre

32 Highland Park Village,
Dallas, TX 75205

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dallasmovietheaters on October 18, 2021 at 7:30 pm

The Village Theatre closed on March 16, 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The operators believed that they would reopen and move “Onward” harkening the venue’s final new film bookings entitled, “Onward” and “I Still Believe.” At the 10th year of the lease came and went along with the village’s 85th Anniversary, the theater’s phone was disconnected and the venue did not show any signs of reopening.

No posts had been placed in social media since the March 2020 closure leading movie lovers to say, “I No Longer Believe…” that the lightly-attended yet venerable movie location was reopening. The Village Theatre clientele was forced to move onward for their moviegoing.

DavidZornig on May 8, 2020 at 12:05 pm

Per the Highland Park Village Theater WebSite:

“In 1934, Karl Hoblitzelle set out to build his first-ever luxury suburban theatre. While the façade was designed to perfectly complement the center’s Spanish architecture, a spire was created to represent a Moorish tent. Boasting 1,350 seats with hand-painted murals depicting the history of Texas, the interior exuded extravagance with textiles like the terrazzo floor and heavy oak doors. Eight decades and counting, the theatre is still showing the most acclaimed films for all generations to enjoy, and remains an integral part of our community.”

rivest266 on May 2, 2020 at 1:42 pm

March 11th, 1988 grand opening ad posted.

Babboo65 on June 16, 2018 at 4:14 pm

OH hell – this is where I got auctioned off for my first RHPS viewing – WHAT a great theater and what a great memory! Very glad this movie house is still operating. A real treasure.

DavidZornig on January 29, 2016 at 5:23 pm

Circa 1960 photo added courtesy of the AmeriCar The Beautiful Facebook page.

frank gagliano
frank gagliano on August 25, 2014 at 1:11 am

Thanks for the extensive history on the Village Theater. I saw The Natural at this theater in 1983 in the converted balcony theater. On my way out I peaked into the main auditorium which was still in original form at the time, it was exquisitely 1930s and had a great feel.

It was a real loss that this theater was gutted and its original architecture lost, but at least it can be said that people have been enjoying cinema in this building for nearly 80 years, that’s quite a run.

Obviously, the theater’s spanish mission architecture was inspired by architect S. Charles Lee who designed such theaters all over Southern California. In fact, this Dallas theater is similar in many, many ways to the Village Fox in Westwood next to UCLA, which was built in 1930. Check out its photos on this site to see the resemblance.

The value of theaters like the Village, when preserved in their original state, is immense. They provide a sense of character to a community that no multiplex will ever provide, no matter how fancy or large. Just tonight, I saw a showing of Frozen at the El Capitan in Hollywood, an incredibly beautiful movie palace that is leased and operated by Disney. The theater was as much an entertainment as the movie. See photos of it too on this site.

JackCoursey on November 3, 2013 at 8:19 am

To be clear, nothing of the original interior remains in place. The theater was completely gutted, top to bottom. The four conventional auditoriums on the second level are architecturally on par with just about every mall multiplex designed between the late 1970s and early 1980s. It is a rather basic venue at best and a real shame nothing could have been done to keep the place intact. Still, it does have a nice exterior.

dallasmovietheaters on November 3, 2013 at 7:33 am

The Highland Park Spanish Village Shopping Center was an ambitious and many say the second ever shopping center created in the United States. The $1.5 million center started construction in 1930 with a theater in its original planning. In May of 1931, the Hughes-Franklin Theatre Circuit led by Harold B. Franklin and Howard Hughes which had built the Texas Theater drew up a 1,400 screen theater at a cost of $250,000 that was to be that theater. However, Franklin left the company and plans dissolved.

The Village shopping center opened in 1933 without a theater. Those same plans were picked up by Flippen-Prather Stores which leased the theater to the Interstate Theater Circuit which did cost-cutting reducing the 1,400 seat theater to a $150,000 house. The theater’s Spanish architectural style perfectly matched the shopping center’s design. Inside, the lobby had large murals depicting the history of Texas to present by James Buchanan “Buck” Winn Jr. Blue walls and ceilings, terrazo floor and heavy oak doors with leather panels gave the interior its look at its grand opening on November 15, 1935 with the film, “The Dark Angel.”

Interstate ran the theater as a second-run suburban and did a remodel of the theater reducing seat count to 1,164 wider seats and new wall treatments. It repositioned the theater as a first-run house in 1957. That policy continued into 1960 when it played a Disney film that was outgrossing the larger downtown houses. Interstate ran family-oriented fare to huge profits throughout the 1960s. A 1966 fire ruined the theater’s original spire and the building now in the hands of Henry S. Miller spent $85,000 to make the repairs.

Interstate successfully ran the theater for 40 years but decided not to renew its lease and dropped the theater. In 1976, the B&B Circuit took over under Fred Beirsdorf and Harold Brooks. They made two decisions that extended the Village’s life: 1) they twinned the theater creating a balcony screen and a main screen and 2) they added midnight shows in 1976 starting with “Gimme Shelter.” The latter moved proved beneficial because the theater booked “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” in 1977. Locals protested to the theater owners and Henry S. Miller about the types that were coming to the show to no avail. “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” ran a nine year engagement into the summer of 1986, unprecedented to that point. B&B had declared bankruptcy in 1985 and there was some finger pointing over the closing of the Village in July 1986. Rumor had it that the days of theatrical were over as the theater would become retail space and that the relator were to blame; others pointed the other direction.

Things settled down in 1987, AMC created a four-plex in the Village signing a lease with Henry S. Miller with one stipulation: there would be no showing of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.” All screens were up a short escalator flight up through the concession area with the largest screen now 250 seats and the other three had 110 and 120 seats for 600 total seats. AMC successfully operated it for more than 13 years.

Regent Entertainment took over when AMC left the Village in 2001. Operating one of the most unusual venues in Dallas film history, the Regent Village set a box office mark that was seen as quite remarkable when the film Zzyzx Road took in just $30 during a run in 2006 made worse by refunding of $10 to two people who had worked on the film. Regent played many Dallas exclusives that either played nowhere else in the United States or at just its Regent screen in Los Angeles. For independent film lovers, the Regent offered an eclectic mix along with general first-run fare. On its last day in 2009, you could choose to see a film called $9.99 or The Hangover.

When the Regent closed in 2009, the shopping center was under new ownership and there was concern that the theater might not continue. But the owners found a new operator and the theater was gutted and reopened Dec. 18, 2010 by Twomey Concepts. As of the 2010s, Twomey operated the theater as a high end restaurant/bar with screens and viewing lounges mixing predominately family fare with some independent films.

dallasmovietheaters on October 28, 2013 at 6:01 pm

One of the original murals is hung at the TXCN headquarters downtown and all survived.

rivest266 on October 23, 2013 at 3:32 pm

November 15th, 1935 grand opening ad uploaded here.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on October 16, 2013 at 11:28 am

Plans for the Village Theatre preserved in the Interstate Theatre Collection at the Dallas Public Library were drawn by architects Fooshee & Cheek (Marion Fooshee and James B. Cheek.) The firm designed the Highland Park Village Shopping Center, which was established in 1929 and gradually expanded. Cheek’s friend, artist Reveau Bassett, painted the murals in the Village Theatre. I’m not sure if any of the murals have survived. on September 6, 2011 at 9:51 pm

This theatre listing is duplicated here.

TLSLOEWS on December 25, 2010 at 1:35 pm

Thanks for the photos Jack.

JackCoursey on December 25, 2010 at 1:22 pm

Curious as to what modifications have been made to the interior. The theatre was completely gutted in 1986 with only the façade left intact. The four cinemas which were built in the former balcony area only accommodated 475. If the operation was having difficulty realizing a profit with a four screen mini cinema how will it be successful with only half the auditoria and fewer seats? Photos from 2006:
1, 2, 3

CSWalczak on December 19, 2010 at 1:01 am

This theater has reopened as of Dec. 18. 2010, essentially as a twin though there are also two private party screening rooms; a restaurant and in-theater dining will be coming soon. There is a story here: View link

kencmcintyre on August 16, 2009 at 10:44 pm

Closed but not demolished, I don’t think, unless it was torn down after they took the Google maps photo a couple of years ago.

lrostochil on June 17, 2009 at 11:57 am

I think that half of the teenagers in Dallas spent the 70’s and early 80’s going to see “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” here as the midnight movie on the weekends. I also remember seeing “Pink Floyd’s The Wall” here and a revival of “Tommy.” It was THE place to be on the weekends if you were a teenager in those days.

I don’t live in Dallas anymore and had no idea that this great theater had closed. So sad.

kencmcintyre on February 24, 2009 at 5:54 pm

Here is part of an article from Park Cities People dated 7/10/86:

The end of an era flickered out of existence Tuesday night July 8, when the Highland Park Village Theater closed its doors. The community landmark, erected in 1935, is due to reopen early next year, according to a spokesperson for Henry S. Miller Company, who is remodeling the facility to include retail shops downstairs and two or three small movie screens upstairs. “It will never be the same,” said present operator Fred Biersdorf. “They don’t make movie houses anymore like the Village Theater.”

Biersdorf, president of HP Cinemas, bought the theater from the Howard Corporation 10 years ago. The Howard Corporation sold the shopping center to Miller, who has been leasing Biersdorf the space. Biersdorf, along with partner James Bramlett, will open up new movie houses in areas around the metroplex, but he does not know if he will be operating the Village Theater when or if it reopens. “I have given the negotiations with Miller my best shot, but he has not decided”, Biersdorf said. Biersdorf also operates the Cinema Group, a movie distribution company. The Miller spokesperson said Miller has been in negotiations with various movie operators but has not made a decision on who will operate the theater.

The feeling among the theater employees was shock and depression and a little bit of bitterness exhibited toward Miller. “We all are a little bit sick about the theater closing,” said Connie Byers, who has been working there five months. The theater manager is Wayne Hicks, a two-year employee. The Village Theater employed 15-16 persons. Byers, who has also worked security for Henry S. Miller Company, said she feels Miller is underestimating at how much business traffic the movie generates for the shopping center. She is not convinced Miller will reopen the theater as a theater.

“He seems to be looking at strictly what he can receive in rental from retail shops. When he brought his plans before the Highland Park Town Council, not enough citizens attended to show their support for the movie theater. It would not surprise me to see them lose it,” Byers said. Miller was out of town this week and could not respond directly to fears that the theater might not reopen. He has, however, publicly stated before that he intends to have a theater operate in the space. For the better part of a year, however, Park Cities citizens will have to look outside Highland Park or University Park for their movie entertainment.

Don Lewis
Don Lewis on February 1, 2009 at 8:07 pm

Correction to Gene Autry promo. The Village was featuring Gene Autry in “Cow Town”.

Don Lewis
Don Lewis on February 1, 2009 at 8:02 pm

A 1950s movie poster ad from the Village Theater promoting Gene Autry in “Riders of the Whistling Pines”.