Oak Lawn Theatre

2916 Oak Lawn Avenue,
Dallas, TX 75219

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So very little remains of the Oak Lawn that the casual observer would be unable to tell it was once a theatre. The only real defining features are marble blocks which once supported the marquee and exterior rear of what was once the auditorium.

Contributed by Jack Coursey

Recent comments (view all 4 comments)

JackCoursey
JackCoursey on June 15, 2006 at 1:30 pm

Here is a 2006 photo of the site of the former theatre.

Bob Johnston
Bob Johnston on June 19, 2006 at 6:20 am

In 1935 was remodeled by R. Z. Glass, owner, and renamed The Lawn.

matt54
matt54 on November 24, 2010 at 9:27 am

This was originally a Foy Circuit theater – Eddie Foy, the vaudeville entertainer, had several theaters around Dallas.

dallasmovietheaters
dallasmovietheaters on October 5, 2013 at 6:28 pm

The Oak Lawn Theater got off to a tough start when the permit to allow the theater to be built was put in turnaround by the Municipal Court of Appeals in 1922. About 100 residents were concerned about the theater being a nuisance and the appeals board agreed. However, the process was eventually turned around and Oak Lawn Amusement Company behind Irving S. Melcher got its permit to build the house at Oak Lawn and Dickason.

The Oak Lawn Theater opened with the feature film, “The Flirt” on August 7, 1923 at 2916 Oak Lawn Avenue to a capacity audience filling its 511 seats despite the lack of a street car line running to it according to reports. Manager Jack Joyce gave out cigars to the men, flowers to the women and balloons to the children. The same amusement company decided to build a second Oak Lawn theater – this one for the sound era – at Oak Lawn and Wycliff avenues. This theater would be a deluxe 1,000 seat suburban house with cryrooms, upholstered chairs and sound devices for the hearing impaired, the first cinema in the South to have the devices.

Melcher would drop the Oak Lawn when the Melrose opened May 15, 1931. The Oak Lawn would become the first exhibitrix run house in Dallas as Mrs. Blanche L. Cutler became Dallas’ first female film exhibitor. It was Cutler’s third theater with two others in Oklahoma City and Bartlesville. It had a new sound system, the first self-rising seats in Texas that allowed the seat to spring upward, a new screen, and Lew White at the organ. The first feature was “The Lawyer’s Secret” on Sept. 1, 1931.

The Oak Lawn Theater was closed and taken over by R.Z. Glass who also was running the Fair Theater and the Knox St. Theater. Glass rebranded it the Lawn Theater on May 3, 1935 opening with “Hi Nellie” with yet another sound system, drapes, projection and screen. The air conditioning system was billed as repaired and would be operational. Glass ran into labor troubles at the Lawn and Knox properties as people hurled stink bombs to protest some labor-related issues.

In 1937, the Interstate Circuit acquired the theater from Glass. The theater installed a Mirrophonic Sound System to be played with “The Great Ziegfield.” But innovation wasn’t enough as reports said that the theater had “ailed economically” in the shadow of the Melrose Theater. Interstate closed the Lawn on January 14, 1939 for an “indefinite” period. Interstate likely was trying to find a new operator for the theater and would reopen later in the year operating just on weekends. With Paul Scott as manager, the theater tried to become a low budget suburban. It installed yet another screen, improved projection, new front, and tried double feature bills at just 15 cents per ticket at all times expanding to seven days a week. Its first bill on April 10, 1940 was “The Flying Deuces” and “The Desperate Trials.”

Interstate decided to reposition the Lawn as an art facility showing art films and repertory films in the late 1940s. In 1949, the Lawn was a shared space allowing legit theater and becoming home to the Edward Rubin Workshop doing live plays. The last films by Interstate didn’t do much business so Interstate closed perhaps with “Topper” just prior to Christmas and leased the Lawn full time Rubin provided that the plays staged were of a “civic and education character.” In 1952, the theater was renamed “The New Playhouse” and revamped for live theater now seating just 272 patrons. That arrangement ended a little more than five years later as the property was chopped into retail establishment by the end of the decade. The name “Oak Lawn Theater” would come back in the 1970s with a theatre space at Pearl Express Way and McKinney.

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