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There’s a rich history at the Texas Theatre in the Oak Cliff community.  Yes—that Texas Theatre.  As the arrest site of Lee Harvey Oswald, accused assassin of President John F. Kennedy, the theater has carried the infamous burden since the Nov. 1963 incident. 

There’s more to the Texas Theatre than just its notorious past, however.  Reopened in Dec. 2010 by Aviation Cinemas’ Barak Epstein, who recruited the help of Adam Donaghey, Eric Steele and Jason Reimer, the theater is still undergoing vast renovations to make the Texas the destination it was so many years ago.

Entering the theater, the nostalgia is palpable.  It is a strange feeling to imagine the various generations that have gathered in this place.  Originally opened in the 1930s and managed by Robb & Rowley Theatres, which was briefly owned by billionaire film producer Howard Hughes, the Texas was luxury at its finest. 

It featured state-of-the-art projection and sound equipment and a cooling and ventilation system, making it the first air-conditioned theater in Dallas.  Even through northern development and the transition of the Oak Cliff community, the Texas Theatre’s popularity continued well into the 1960s.  The theater’s history, however, would soon be changed forever. 

On Nov. 22, 1963, a man entered the Texas Theatre without purchasing a ticket.  A mass of police officers swarmed the theater, finding Oswald, the accused assassin of JFK, watching the day’s feature along with hundred of patrons. 

Jason Reimer, Creator Director of the Texas Theatre, describes the scene surrounding the event.  He says Oswald chose to hide in the Texas because, due to its popularity, it would be full of people, giving him a better chance of evading the Dallas Police Department. 

Though the entire city of Dallas suffered because of the Oswald incident, the theater wasn’t affected to the point of closing its doors for good.  In fact, Reimer credits the event for the Texas Theatre’s survival.  He says that the theater is historically protected, and that if it were not the location of Oswald’s arrest, the Texas would have been demolished like dozens of similar theaters have been.

To showcase the theater’s most historically known event, Reimer recently began selling T-shirts printed with Oswald’s mug shot.  The T-shirts have been wildly popular to the point where Reimer is unable to keep them in stock. 

As with any major political statement, the T-shirts were sure to be met with criticism, despite the popularity surrounding them.  Reimer defends his decision to print the shirts reasoning that the Oswald event is pure history.  “To me, I think it’s totally fair game,” he says, adding that Oswald’s arrest is “directly related to the theater’s fame.”  Reimer says the criticism he receives comes from individuals who assume he is trying to make a quick dollar by exploiting a national tragedy, but Reimer says that after speaking to commenters about his true motives—the history surrounding the Texas—people are more open to the idea of a Lee Harvey Oswald-inspired tee.

Despite its colorful history, the newly remodeled Texas Theatre is making a name for itself within the film community.  In the past year of renovations, the theater upgraded to a moveable 37 feet by 20 feet screen.  The Texas also acquired a 35 mm changeover film system, making it possible to show repertory prints that would not be shown on standard film equipment. 

According to Reimer, customers seem to enjoy the upgrades.  He describes his customer base as a “foundation group,” adding that the theater’s ability to show rare prints is appealing to “film people.”  The management’s own interests in film sets the stage for its devoted following.  Reimer says, “The first loyal fans were the film geeks.  That’s what we are.”

The Texas plays movies every day of the week, but also holds non-film related events.  In addition to its film features, the theater hosted the Dallas Contemporary Ballet and has presented live theater productions.  Reimer said the Texas has hosted happy hours and DJ parties in the theater’s bar area, giving the local community a destination to gather and hang out. 

Reimer says the Oak Cliff community was an integral part in reopening the Texas Theatre.  “It was very much a community effort,” he says, adding, “I think the community is largely excited,” in regards to the theater’s renewed Oak Cliff identity. 

The Texas Theatre’s transformation is a case of four friends getting together to preserve an integral piece of Dallas history.  “We were just normal people,” Reimer says.  “It just seemed like the right time.”

The Texas Theatre is located at 231 West Jefferson Blvd.  For more information about events at the Texas Theatre, call 214-948-1564.

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