Esquire Theatre

3415 Oak Lawn Avenue,
Dallas, TX 75219

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dallasmovietheaters
dallasmovietheaters on November 11, 2013 at 12:40 pm

The Melrose Theater opened May 15, 1931 with “Kiss Me Again.” The theater closed in March of 1947 for refurbishing that would be the Esquire Theater. The Esquire era opened August 1, 1947 with “Sea of Grass.” For Interstate Theater Circuit, a one-year period in which openings of the Wilshire (Oct. 1946), Inwood (May 1947), Esquire (August 1947), and Circle (Oct. 1947), along with the new Forest (1949) represented a major push into new-build, suburban theater exhibition.

The film that changed the trajectory of the Esquire was Disney’s, “The Living Desert” which got a first-run at the Esquire for a three-week booking that was extended to 18 weeks in 1954. It sold around 180,000 tickets and was drawing large audiences through its closing night. Disney’s “The Shaggy Dog” played 13 weeks. But The Esquire was not exclusively a kids' house by any stretch. The theatre’s ability to be a first-run high-end house established, the theater was equipped to run super widescreen 70mm stereo roadshows. And the mid-1950s through the mid-1970s were the theater’s halcyon years.

The Esquire showed Can-Can in Todd-AO on a reserved ticket basis for 15 weeks in 1960. It had Dallas exclusives of “West Side Story" (roadshow 20 week run); “The Longest Day” (roadshow 17 week run); “Lawrence of Arabia (roadshow 20 week run),” “Irma La Douce” (12 weeks); “Tom Jones, (roadshow 17 weeks),” “Mary Poppins (17 weeks),” “The Pink Panther” (10 weeks), “A Shot in the Dark” (9 weeks), “Lolita” (9 weeks) and “Midnight Cowboy (20 weeks).” “Young Frankenstein” was one of the final super-hits for the theater with lines stretching for blocks during Christmas 1974 during a record-breaking 22-week run for the Esquire.

But with twinning and multiplexes in vogue as the 1970s continued, the Esquire stayed a single screen and had trouble filling its 950 seats while property values increased around it. The Esquire would be in trouble. Lincoln Property acquired the theater as a real estate investment. Additionally, the city of Dallas – in a crackdown on sign ordinances – told the theater that its Esquire signage was too close to the street. Plitt Theaters – which acquired the ABC Interstate Theater Circuit – closed the Esquire with the 3-D film, “Comin' At Ya” September 17, 1981.

In April 1982, the theater got a short-lived new lease as both a live theater place and hosted the USA Film Festival showing film one last time. In June of 1983, Lincoln sold off the signage but the theater’s impending demolition got delayed as Lincoln tried to buy more property and ran into historical preservationists. Finally in February of 1985, locals tore out the seats and the theater was demolished. As an empty concrete slab for many years, street vendors hawked knock off merchandise and used clothing into the 1990s before becoming an overflow parking lot.

rivest266
rivest266 on October 23, 2013 at 2:23 pm

Uploaded the grand opening from 1947 “Theatre of Tomorrow” in the photo section for this theater.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on July 12, 2011 at 2:08 pm

The 1952 Boxoffice Magazine page with the photo of the Esquire’s sign has been moved to this link. Here’s a shortcut to the rendering of the Melrose matt54 linked to.

The Esquire’s vertical sign is obviously not, as I had suspected it might be, a reworking of the Melrose sign. It’s much bigger, and is even in a different location on the facade than the Melrose sign was. Now that I’ve seen the Melrose as it was before the remodeling, with all its Art Deco detailing, I have to say I preferred it to the Esquire.

matt54
matt54 on July 12, 2011 at 4:29 am

Period artist’s rendering of Melrose Theatre: http://www.flickr.com/photos/30943004@N00/3999524734/in/set-72157622557757224/

EnnisCAdkins
EnnisCAdkins on January 25, 2011 at 7:50 am

Interstate opened LAWRENCE OF ARABIA in 1963 and THE CARDINAL in 64'on a reserved seat, hard ticket policy. Did Interstate remodel the theater a second time putting in 70mm etc. as they did with the Alabama,Houston in 1960? What other reserved seat, hard ticket pictures played the Esquire?

matt54
matt54 on January 15, 2011 at 6:09 pm

I’m sure most Dallas theater enthusiasts know this, but the neon artist’s palette that used to be above the Esquire’s marquee now hangs on the outside wall at a building in Las Colinas near Irving, just outside Dallas. Here’s a link to a picture of it on flickr.

View link

matt54
matt54 on December 18, 2010 at 3:11 pm

Joe Vogel – in perusing the online listings of documents comprising the Interstate Theatres Collection housed at the Dallas Public Library, I came across further evidence that the Esquire and the Melrose were one and the same: Box 92, documents 1-5 refer to “CPA Applications” and “Renovations” at the “Melrose/Esquire” in 1945, 1946, and from Jan-Feb through to July-November 1947.

Obviously the theatre was not closed for two years, but must have been periodically shuttered as Interstate’s complete remodeling plan was carried out step-by-step. When re-opened as the Esquire, the venue bore no resemblance to the former Melrose.

matt54
matt54 on September 14, 2010 at 2:18 am

Adding to my above post, I have recently found out that whole Oak Lawn/Lemmon Ave. area (which I only heard referred to as the Lemmon/Oak Lawn area when I was growing up in Dallas from ‘58 – '79) used to be called the Melrose district – think that was the name of the area’s old telephone exchange, IIRC. The historic and refurbished Melrose Hotel is just down Oak Lawn from the old Esquire/Melrose location.

matt54
matt54 on July 11, 2010 at 11:33 am

INTERESTING INFO, JOE – I SUSPECT YOU MAY HAVE SOMETHING. If so, the Melrose had long ceased to be talked about when I was growing up in Dallas and attending the Esquire semi-regularly (lovely theater). I first heard of the Melrose name when I came across it in the interviews section of Jeanette Crumpler’s book on Dallas' Elm Street theaters, “Street of Dreams.”

atmos
atmos on June 23, 2010 at 7:10 pm

Theatre was atmospheric in design and the architect was W.Scott Dunne.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on June 20, 2010 at 7:50 pm

A good question, Matt. A logical conclusion to draw from your information would be that they were the same theater, and it was simply renamed.

In fact a full-page ad for Paramount’s release “Bring On the Girls” that ran in Boxoffice of February 3, 1945, included the Melrose on a list of theaters that would be screening the movie, and it gives the address of the Melrose as 3419 Oak Lawn. That’s the address Cinema Treasures gives for the Esquire. It’s likely that the source Chuck and Ken used just got the address of the Melrose wrong, though maybe Dallas renumbered the building some time before 1945.

The last time I find the Melrose mentioned in Boxoffice is the issue of March 22, 1947, which said the house was being closed for a few days while a fast remodeling job was carried out and new seats were installed.

The earliest mention of the Esquire I’ve found in in Boxoffice of January 3, 1948, when it was listed in an ad for the Nu-Screen theater screen company as one of the houses in which their product had been installed.

Though I haven’t found anything in Boxoffice clearly stating that the Melrose was renamed the Esquire in 1947, that’s what I now suspect happened. A number of issues of the magazine appear to be missing from the online database, and I suspect that the magazine’s item noting the name change was in one of those issues.

The only photo I’ve found is this closely-cropped shot showing the Esquire’s vertical sign, which appeared as the frontispiece of Boxoffice’s Modern Theatre section for January 5, 1952. The vertical could have been from the Melrose. A photo of the Melrose from about 1946 would be helpful if somebody has one. Note that MELROSE and ESQUIRE have the same number of letters, and even share four in common (almost six, as an O is easily converted into a Q, and an L to an I) which would have made the name change simpler and less costly.

Also note the artist’s palette and brushes decorating the Esquire’s facade in the 1952 photo, suggesting that the house might have had an art film policy for a while. An intended switch from regular movies to art house fare could have inspired a name change.

matt54
matt54 on June 20, 2010 at 4:06 pm

“The Melrose Theatre had gone from listings by 1950, possibly due to the opening of the nearby Esquire Theatre in August 1947.”

Chuck, Ken, I would peg that as a certainty rather than a possibility, as the two theaters were the same seating capacity, right next door to each other, and operated by the same company. My question is, what was so wrong with the Melrose that it had to be done away with at less than 20 years old? Anyone out there have the answer to that one?

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on May 16, 2010 at 9:12 pm

The Melrose was being operated by Interstate Theatres in 1945, when the December 21 issue of Boxoffice reported that the house had been updated with a new, streamlined boxoffice, a green tile front, and some redecoration of the interior.

TLSLOEWS
TLSLOEWS on May 11, 2010 at 12:27 pm

Any photos of info anybody?