Fine Arts Theater

6815 Snider Plaza,
Dallas, TX 75205

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balcony on March 29, 2011 at 8:53 pm

It is hard to believe that Snider Plaza—quaint, leafy, and congenial—was once the location for a first-class porn theater. But that was exactly what the Fine Arts Theater was for several years. Beginning in the rollicking, wife-swapping, bipolar 1970s, the theater was part of the nationwide “porno chic' circuit, showing XXX films produced in New York and San Francisco. Nevertheless, the Fine Arts Theater maintained a genteel facade. It advertised its double features proudly in the Dallas Morning News ("free parking and coffee”) and its manager boasted about its sophisticated, diverse (adult) audience. One can only imagine the headaches this theater gave the City Fathers of University Park. The posters alone were surreal in the context of this neighborhood. Anyway: one got up the nerve to buy a ticket at the detached booth and entered the impeccable, if rather lived-in, lobby. You took your seat. Then you were made aware of a wild juxtaposition possible only in this era: you were surrounded by the plush “Spanish village” decor, while at the same time the most shameless 35mm pornography unspooled onscreen. Adding to the cognitive dissonance were the large, realistic, gold-framed oil portraits, still hanging throughout the interior. They had been painted by well-known Dallas artist Dimitri Vail and had been put on display perhaps a generation earlier. The dignified-looking businessmen and heiresses depicted in these paintings seemed to look upon the theater’s proceedings with glum disapproval. One other memory: it was quite easy to sneak into the auditorium through the alarmless back door. T

matt54 on July 11, 2010 at 11:56 am

Philbert, do you know at what time this theater was called Plaza? Reason I ask is we know this was the Fine Arts from 1957 on to its closing as a movie theater and there was another theater called Plaza located across McKinney Ave. from North Dallas High School. I always thought this theater was called Varsity from its opening right up to when it was renamed Fine Arts.

matt54 on July 11, 2010 at 11:44 am

Joe – I’m getting a “Page Not Found” for all your recent photo posts (including the vertical one you posted of the Esquire sign under the Melrose listing). Is it just my browser (Firefox)?

Was in the Fine Arts only a couple of times in the ‘70’s, once for Peter O'Toole in The Ruling Class. Great viewing experience, lovely theater. Legs, I remember when it seemed A Touch of Class would never leave. Wonder what the attendance figures were for its last few weeks (months)?

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on December 5, 2009 at 2:38 am

The conversion of the Varsity to the Fine Arts must have taken place not too long before the June 8, 1957, issue of Boxoffice published the photo of the auditorium that appears on the right-hand page here. The seating capacity, the caption noted, had been reduced from 1000 to 720 in the renovation.

JGarland on August 14, 2008 at 12:56 pm

I temporarily worked as a doorman (ticket taker) at the Fine Arts for about three months in 1969 or 1970 (The Delman Theatre I worked at was temporarily closed for remodeling.) It was showing X-rated movies. The manager would not permit me to enter the auditorium because I was only 15/16.

legsdiamond on March 19, 2008 at 8:46 pm

The Glenda Jackson comedy, “A Touch of Class” ran for well over a year at this theater when it was known as the Fine Arts in the 70s…