White Theatre

2720 Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard,
Dallas, TX 75215

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Opened in 1934, M.S. White was the original owner and named the theatre after himself. It was located at the corner of Forest Avenue and Oakland at 2720 Forest Avenue. He sold the White Theatre to Interstate Theatre Corporation within two years, along with his Dal-Sac Theatre.

Two owners, the last of whom change the name to Elite Theatre in July 1955, when it operated briefly as an African-American theatre, brought the theatre to its end. It was converted into a restaurant, but eventually demolished around 1965. As of the 2010’s, it is an empty lot at renamed corners of MLK & Malcolm X.

Contributed by Jack Coursey, David Sedman

Recent comments (view all 13 comments)

matt54
matt54 on September 15, 2010 at 2:03 am

Location of this theater STILL needs to be changed to Forest AVENUE.

matt54
matt54 on September 15, 2010 at 8:49 pm

BTW, Chuck, I do NOT mean to SHOUT when I capitalize – sorry! You are usually right on with your excellent info!

notlesu68
notlesu68 on December 22, 2010 at 10:35 am

I’ll bet you a dollar to a donut hole that there was no White theater at 1628 Forest ave in 1952. There may have been a white theater on Forest Ave but it wasn’t at 1628. !628 would put the theater a block from Forest Ave High School. I went to Forest Ave High School in 1952-53. Lets try to locate the real address of the theater. I know there were no theaters between Forest ave High and the Forest ave theater, so—-it must have been on past the Forest Ave theater. It had to have been. It could have been a mile or more from 1628 Forest Ave. I’m not aware the theater ever existed but I know it wasn’t a block from Forest High school.

matt54
matt54 on August 10, 2011 at 1:24 am

Could this be it (see link)? http://www.flickr.com/photos/66262530@N08/6027614302/in/photostream

matt54
matt54 on August 10, 2011 at 3:10 am

Thanks, Chuck – I still haven’t figured out how to do that – how DO you do it?

matt54
matt54 on January 20, 2013 at 5:38 pm

I just reset the google maps street view to what I believe is the building that once housed the old White Theatre. There is not consensus, however, as notlesu68 has brought up a couple of good points, namely the proximity of the White to the Colonial (1702 Forest Avenue/MLK) as well as to the Forest Theatre (1900 block). His point about the Colonial is in a comment he posted on my flickr site, which I will reproduce below.

My response to the White being close to the Forest is simply that the Forest, being built by Interstate in 1947 with a seating capacity of 1400, replaced both the White (880, though I’m not at all sure the building at 1628 had that capacity) and the Colonial (475) – if the two older Interstate theatres were still in operation when the Forest opened, it’s certain they didn’t last much past that date, certainly not into the 1952-53 era (DMN archives should bear this out) – the whole neighborhood south of the 1800 block was changing fast by the late 1940’s, and even the beautiful Forest would not last long.

Here the link to my flickr page showing another view of 1628 MLK, with notlesu’s comment and my response. From these, you can draw your own conclusions:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/66262530@N08/6027614302/in/photostream

BTW, I truly appreciate such engaging opposing views as notlesu66’s and the thought they provoke.

matt54
matt54 on January 20, 2013 at 9:07 pm

Hi, Chuck – we are having quite a time on our Movie Theatre Lovers group on Facebook trying to find out how we can get copies of “The Book!” Scroll down to the first Randy Carlisle post in the link below, and please join us!

https://www.facebook.com/groups/MovieTheatreLovers/

dallasmovietheaters
dallasmovietheaters on September 25, 2013 at 4:35 pm

The White Theater opened to the public for business January 6, 1934 showing “Saturday’s Millions”. Operated by M.S. White, the original owner of the Dal-Sec, the theater opened with seating for 1,000 patrons. The theater was at 2720 Forest Avenue at the corner of Forest Ave. and Oakland (which would be now MLK Blvd. at Malcolm X Blvd.) and served as a neighborhood second-run house. The Dallas Morning News described the White clientele as the “crossroads of Dallas where toughie and gentleman, gentile and Jew, mingle in harmony in sort of community center.” By the end of the theater’s 21-year run, “toughies” had the upper hand and “harmony” was clearly gone as the theater’s descent was rapid and crime-ridden.

White’s operation of the White was not quite two years as on August 31, 1935, Interstate Circuit bought the White, Forest and Dal-Sec. Interstate opened “In Caliente” as its first show with Joseph Luckett moving from the Melrose to manage the White Theater. Luckett inaugurated midnight shows every Saturday beginning in 1938, experimented with an all-Yiddish film and had live stage shows as added attractions on weekends. His connection with the neighborhood and family night offerings led people to call him simply, “Uncle Joe” as he ran the theater into his 80s up to Interstate’s selling of the theater. (“Uncle Joe” would also manage the Forest Theater in 1949 along with continuing his duties at the White and retired at the Forest at age 87.)

On August 27, 1952, Interstate sold the White to A.J. Vineyard who had a four-day celebration and would also celebrate the 20th anniversary of the theater in the summer of 1954. The celebration would be the last festive event for the White. Multiple armed robberies at the neighboring liquor store had to have taken their toll as Vineyard, himself, was a victim of one of the liquor store robberies. The theater, itself, also was robbed at the box office. So it’s not surprising that Vineyard left the White Theater’s high crime rate area almost immediately after the anniversary celebration and he bought the Trinity Theater rebranding it as the Ewing Theater in August of 1954.

W.M. Burns took on the theater and – under the White Theater nameplate – it ended badly with negative publicity when an 8-year old was locked in the theater overnight and was injured trying to escape. Burns attempted to rebrand the theater as the Elite Theater catering to African American audiences starting in July 1955. Almost immediately, labor protests appear to be the death knell for the short-lived Elite Theater as union protestors picketed at its outset. The Elite Theater also held African American church services at the property under Burns leadership through December 1955 which appears to be the end of the theater’s life. In 1956, the property became split up using the marquee for the Elite Restaurant and another section used for a pawn shop. The Elite was renamed the Seashore Restaurant a decade later. The property was offered for sale in 1965, apparently sold, demolished, and appears on the DCAD in the 2010s as 2720 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. — a vacant lot worth less than $20,000.

In sum, the White/Elite Theater staggered to its ending at just 21 years yet — due to the declining neighborhood fortunes — even that was about a year or two longer than it should have been operating.

notlesu68
notlesu68 on December 3, 2013 at 3:17 am

Can someone post a picture of the White theater? I must have walked hundreds of times past the theater and never knew it was there. I was A Freshman at Forest Ave HS in Sept 52'—-Jun53'. I would walk down Forest Ave toward Forest Ave theater everyday after school. I lived in back of the Forest theater on Pennsylvania. I cant believe I didnt know there was a white theater on Forest Ave that close to my house.

I was aware of the Dal-Sec—-went there hundreds of times over the years. I saw the Cobra Woman there With Maria Montez, Jon Hall, Sabu, Lon Chaney Jr.
As a youngster I love those Jon Hall Maria Montez movies.

I went to the lagow theater many times—-I saw She wore a yellow ribbon there in 51'—-I saw the Francis talking mule movies there. And of course I saw movies at the Forest Ave theater. The one I remember best was Martin and Lewis “Jumping Jacks”.

I would like to see what the White theaer looked like in the 40’s or 50’s.

Thanks!

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on August 8, 2014 at 8:42 am

Although it mistakenly calls the street Forest Boulevard, this item from the “New Theatre Projects” section of the September 23, 1933, issue of Motion Picture Herald is clearly about the White Theatre:

“DALLAS— M. S. White, 508 Largent. Will erect on Forest Boulevard theatre to cost, $40,000. Architect, W. Scott Dunne, Melba Building.”

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