Never pass up a chance to sit down or relieve yourself. -old Apache saying

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Greenway Theater closing 12/31/07

Geez...they're already trying to close down and demolish River Oaks Theater, the oldest movie house in Houston, and now I learn that Monday, 12/31, is the last day for the Greenway Theater. When they were arguing over what to do with River Oaks, we thought, well, if they demolish River Oaks, at least we'll still have the Greenway. Not so after all. It seems like there is an all-out assault on indie movie houses. This is not good. This would leave but one - Angelika in downtown Houston. Surely, the void would be filled, somehow...

Houston & Texas News
Movie patrons buy snacks at the concession stand at the Greenway Theatre on Monday in Houston. The theater will close on New Year's Eve after more than 30 years of operation.
James Nielsen: Chronicle

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Dec. 25, 2007, 12:47AM
Houston's landmark Greenway Theatre to close

The Greenway Theatre, which has screened films in the basement of Greenway Plaza for 35 years, will close at the end of this year.

Employees say Landmark Theatres lost its lease at 5 East Greenway Plaza. Landmark, a chain that specializes in independent and foreign films, has operated the Greenway since 1994.

A board designated for patrons' reviews of offered films has turned into a makeshift memorial as people protested the closing.

Written lamentations of "We will miss you" and "NO" in bold, penciled script were posted, along with a message from a self-described 30-year patron who simply offered: "We are sorry."

Less than a dozen patrons were found in the green-walled establishment Monday evening.

Ron Shefman said he started coming to the theater when it first opened. He expressed sadness at the news of the closing, recalling past visits.

"We're crushed. We come here all of the time — it doesn't have the craziness that other theaters have," Jill Gentsch said.

Just a few blocks away, a large national chain of theaters drew far more Monday evening moviegoers, causing traffic to stall on nearby streets.

But Gentsch and Shefman said they both prefer the subterranean cinema.

"The Greenway attracts a 'more mature' audience," Gentsch said.

Landmark informed theater employees Saturday, two days before Christmas, that they'd be laid off. A sign taped to the ticket booth announces the closing and refers all questions to Landmark's corporate office.

It also reads: "Hope you remember us fondly."

On Christmas Eve, representatives for both Landmark and its landlord, Crescent Real Estate Equities, were unavailable.

The three-screen Greenway is Houston's second-oldest movie theater, behind River Oaks Theatre.

When the Greenway opened in 1972, it was hailed as an important part of developer Kenneth Schnitzer's Greenway Plaza. The development's mix of uses —office space and retail with entertainment such as the theater and a basketball arena — was considered visionary.

The Greenway's last screening will begin at 7:30 p.m. on New Year's Eve.

Chronicle photographer James Nielsen contributed to this report.

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