Colonial Theatre

1702 Forest Avenue,
Dallas, TX 75234

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dallasmovietheaters
dallasmovietheaters on October 31, 2013 at 6:24 pm

The Colonial is one of the rare theaters whose patronage so exceeds its expectations that its success leads to its demise not once but twice. In its planning stages, this theater was known as the Colonial-Forest. The reasons were two-fold. First, the well-known Colonial Theater in downtown had run from 1907 into the 1920s at 334-6 Elm. The second was that the Colonial-Forest Theater was at the corner of Colonial St. and Forest Ave.

The previous Colonial on Elm St. in downtown Dallas was the 32d house for the Lone Star Theater Company based in Dallas. Their primary aim was to operate vaudeville shows for the Charles Hodkins vaudeville circuit. The Colonial opened on Feb. 18th, 1907 in the Hite Building including illustrated songs and moving pictures at its outset. Leaning on family entertainment (shows for “women and children”), the Colonial was branded toward the upper echelon of vaudeville as opposed to male-centric burlesque leanings. Marcus Loew would purchase a number of the Lone Star theaters in 1919. By 1922, the Colonial was part of the Foy circuit and was then spotlighting full-length theatrical films.

Meanwhile, in 1930, the Forest Avenue Theater had announced a plan to expand to 1,000 seats along with modern heating and cooling, wide screen projection and sound. However, the original Forest built for Harry J. Gould more than 15 years earlier just needed too much retrofitting to be brought into the modern sound era. So just a month later, another plan was opted for in which a brand new $70,000 playhouse would be constructed. The Colonial-Forest Theater opened at 1702 Forest Avenue at the corner Forest and Colonial Avenue with Eph Charninsky as its operator in 1931. Based on all available reports, the theater was known as the Colonial for a short period and appears to be branded as an African American house in its first days. When it becomes part of the Interstate Circuit, the theater is rebranded as a second-run neighborhood house and renamed the Forest Theater.

As the Forest Theater, Interstate found its audience and its steady business led Interstate to build an even bigger, better theater just two blocks away. Known as the New Forest Theater at 1920 Forest Avenue in 1949, the New Forest marquee was still present as of the 2010s at the renamed 1920 Martin Luther King Blvd. 4,500-5,000 people showed up to the opening events of that theater though the original Forest now back to its original Colonial nameplate had lost its audience.

On July 29th, 1949, the Colonial had its first double-feature but the magic was gone. Its operation was short as a second-run, second-status theater and was dropped by Interstate. Though the now-dated Colonial died just two months into its run, its ability to draw audiences for nearly two decades helped it attract a new owner almost instantly.

In December, Dave Tobin and Norman Kantor redeveloped the space into “The Theater Lounge” with tiers of tables replacing the theater seats. The African American music nightclub would sell out its first show but transferred owners shortly thereafter and switched to a burlesque house with strippers. Barney Weinstein’s establishment made stars of Candy Barr and Pixie Lynn while featuring traveling artists from all over the globe. The burlesque concept and his “School for Strippers” was so successful and so infamous that after seven years of operation its owner moved moved the Theater Lounge to 1326 Jackson at Akard in March of 1959 and incorporated a year later. As a result, the Colonial’s success of drawing crowds twice led to its own demise.

From an entertainment standpoint, the Theater Lounge was the end of the Colonial’s almost 30-year run. But the Theater Lounge would continue onward and remained one of Dallas’ most infamous nightclub spots.

matt54
matt54 on January 20, 2013 at 5:41 pm

Nice shot, Randy – why don’t you post it to this page under “PHOTOS.”

Driveintheatre2001
Driveintheatre2001 on January 20, 2013 at 7:58 am

A PHOTO I took back on Jan 16 2013 of what once was The Colonial Theatre. Located at 1702 MLK (aka Forest Ave) in Dallas Tx..

Randy A Carlisle Historical Photographer RAC Photography

matt54
matt54 on February 10, 2011 at 1:31 am

Now, Chuck, doesn’t that look like an old theatre building? Ha-ha, this is so much fun!

matt54
matt54 on October 22, 2010 at 3:32 am

Chuck: to answer your question – yes. The Colonial was at one time in its existence operated by the Interstate Circuit, headquartered in Dallas, at various times under the auspices of, or in partnership with, Publix Theaters, which was Paramount’s exhibition branch.

That also goes for the White Theater.

I know things get confusing with similarly named streets in the same city, especially when the names are eventually changed altogether. The Forest Lane area didn’t even exist when these theaters were built.

matt54
matt54 on October 22, 2010 at 3:27 am

Everyone’s making the same mistake about the Colonial’s address that they made about the White Theater, just up the street, namely, you’re calling old Forest AVENUE Forest LANE. They are two different streets in two completely different parts of town. Forest Avenue is now called Martin Luther King Blvd. The Colonial is at the corner of MLK Blvd. (Forest AVENUE) and Colonial Avenue. Looks like the building is still there.

Please change the addresses of BOTH these theaters from Forest LANE (not even developed when these theaters were current) to Forest AVENUE.

Bongopete
Bongopete on April 23, 2009 at 5:05 pm

Im just guessing here, but I would bet that this theater was certainly pre 1960’s. Forest Lane on its western end was disrupted by the construction of I635 (LBJ Freeway)which was built in the early 60s. As an example, there was a small civil airport that sat on the southeast corner of Forest and Denton road that was closed due to the construction. So I assume that the theater site is now under the expressway.

kencmcintyre
kencmcintyre on December 19, 2008 at 3:52 am

This doesn’t map out. Forest Lane starts at about the 2100 block. Before that it’s Reeder Road.

William
William on June 1, 2006 at 2:26 pm

The Colonial Theatre seated 400 people.