Lakewood Theatre

1825 Abrams Parkway,
Dallas, TX 75214

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dallasmovietheaters on January 18, 2015 at 8:51 am

Many cities have their Lakewood Theater. It’s that suburban single screen theater that somehow was neither twinned nor demolished or gutted to the point of losing its original features. In Dallas, the Lakewood and Circle were two Interstate theaters fitting this category. But because the Lakewood was part of a well-identified neighborhood and part of a shopping center, it had a more successful history.

The H.F. Pettigrew architected theater constructed by George P. O’Rourke Construction was probably Eugene Gilboe of Franklin & Gilboe’s most flamboyant mural painting and interior decoration of his many Dallas/Fort Worth theater and hotel works. Gilboe’s full-mirrored ceiling and mural work using Dallas artists Perry Nichols, Harry Carnohan and Victor Lallier was what made the theater experience at Lakewood memorable. Dallas sculptor José Martin’s life-sized statutes adorned each side of the stage. Loveseat seating, a first in Dallas, only added to the ambience. And the exterior flourish that will likely live on as long as the building survives was its 100 foot tower by Texlite with 7,000 watt power to operate its colorful neon. Harold H. Wineburgh considered his firm’s Lakewood signage with porcelain enamel front, flashing tower and markee ceiling his best and most difficult sign. Pettigrew would be recognized by Architectural Record magazine with honorable mention for his architectural work on the Lakewood.

Opening October 27, 1938 with “Love Finds Andy Hardy,” the Lakewood was a hit for Interstate Theaters Circuit. Its success was found in connecting with its tight knit local community. Allowing the hosting of local church services, establishing low cost Kiddie Club Saturday screenings, hosting events including a WW2-era paper drive in which boy scouts brought over 18,000 pounds of paper, fielding a city-winning bowling league, and allowing all sorts of local live acts ranging from pets to Southern Methodist University (SMU) plays were all on the table for the community-minded suburban theater. But films were mostly where it was at as Interstate scaled back live stage shows and mostly ran second-run fare and lots of family films in the first ten years of the theater’s operation. But as Interstate opened theaters to the north in Dallas, the circuit changed with the age of its neighboring residents to art films post World War 2.

In 1956, the Lakewood was the first theater to install an automatic parking gate by Parking Service Company and patrons received a token for free parking to avoid the 25 cent fee. That same year, Lakewood also created a space for wheelchair accessibility and had hearing aids for the hearing impaired. Interstate ran the theater for 35 years – likely a 15 year initial lease and two 10-year re-ups and left at the end of the 35th year. Sam Chernoff of Theater Corporations took on the theater in September of 1973 put $25,000 into refurbishing the theater allowing SMU to run art films under its Cinematheque nameplate and showing mostly older and quality films. It ran Columbia Pictures’ 50th Anniversary Retrospective series in 1974. But that wasn’t the answer and the film was relegated to dollar house status, the first Dallas dollar house in 1974. It was a hit for K-Co Corp. as dollar mania hit Dallas as General Cinema’s Big Town Mall, Oak Cliff’s Aquarius, the nearby Granada, Oak Cliff’s Texas Theater, and the suburban north Park Forest Theater would all follow suit. Facing competition as a single-screener, the Lakewood switched to double-feature status and the theater’s biggest success was Rocky. When the 10-year lease was up, the now $1.50 Lakewood was without an operator and closed just prior to its 45th anniversary after a double feature of Cujo and The Man With Two Brains.

On Sept. 26, 1984, the theater came back under Burt Barr after a $500,000 renovation including Dolby sound, a 1927 theater organ, and new electrical system. As a nice touch, the first feature was “Love Finds Andy Hardy” with live musicians harkening back to the first day of the theater’s original operation. The Theater Organ Society played mini-concerts before the show. The theater’s first run policy faded over time and the theater went dark again on Halloween of 1993. After three years, the theater reopened in December of 1996 as a live performance and occasional film venue under manager Keith McKeague. A screening of Pearl Harbor was a huge success and live shows were often well attended.

The live booking space became even more crowded when the Granada switched from films to live events and many new places opened around the city. The theater operated all the way until January of 2015 when a comic heroine themed burlesque show was booked as the final event. The theater’s lack of historical designation provided many options for its owners and its interior faced an uncertain future. However, the owners vowed to keep the Texlite tower signage.

rivest266 on October 23, 2013 at 2:38 pm

Grand opening ad uploaded here.

DavidZornig on November 9, 2011 at 7:48 pm

I just read that Texas band The Polyphonic Spree, is hosting their annual Christmas Spectacular at the Lakewood December 10th I believe.

menright on May 31, 2011 at 1:27 pm

I was on a job in Dallas in the summer of ‘98. I went and saw 5 old movies at the lake. I recall there was “The Philidelphia Story”, “The Awful Truth” and a few others. It wasn’t like going to see just a movie, it was like going to an event. They showed old serial movies first and served drinks right at your seat. An announcer would introduce the feature movie. It was great. Don’t know if they still do that.

drivein2001 on May 10, 2011 at 9:35 pm

Ok. for some reason, that link will not work. You’ll need to copy and paste the Whole link, including THeatre to see the shots.. Sorry.. For some reason, it is leaving off the “THeatre” part of the link above….
Randy A Carlisle

drivein2001 on May 10, 2011 at 9:32 pm

Here’s a newer link to look at some of my photos of the Lakewood Theatre.. Enjoy. View link THeatre ..
RAC Photography
Randy A Carlisle – Historical Photographer

TLSLOEWS on August 9, 2010 at 2:29 pm

Just looked at Randy Carlisle photos again,Great!!!Worth the second look.Nice photos of a great theatre.Relinking.

matt54 on July 11, 2010 at 11:48 am

Joe, I’m with you on the architect – it is much more representative of Pettigrew’s taste/style than Eberson’s.

TLSLOEWS on March 21, 2010 at 2:49 pm

Cool photos Chuck.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on July 27, 2009 at 9:17 pm

I know the official website for the Lakewood attributes the design of the theater to John Eberson, but I think they are mistaken. The February 4, 1939, issue of Boxoffice has an article about the Lakewood saying that it was designed by Dallas architect H.F. Pettigrew. One of the theater’s decorations even graced the cover of that issue of the magazine’s The Modern Theatre section, and the description of it on another page also attributes the Lakewood to Pettigrew.

I doubt that Boxoffice would have gotten the name of the architect of a recently-built theater wrong in one of its major articles. John Eberson is not mentioned in connection with the Lakewood in this article or any other article I can find in Boxoffice.

As a rule, I tend to trust print sources more than web sites, and period print sources way more than web sites. In this case I’m especially inclined to believe Boxoffice rather than the theater’s web site, as this theater was built by Interstate, and Pettigrew & Worley were practically Interstate’s house architects during the 1930s and 1940s. It would have been very uncharacteristic of the circuit to hire a New York architect for this one theater when their other projects during the period were being designed by Pettigrew & Worley.

MPol on May 24, 2009 at 7:09 pm

Wow!! Love that Marquee, and the interior!!

Don Lewis
Don Lewis on February 1, 2009 at 8:20 pm

A 1950s movie ad promoting Allan “Rocky” Lane in “Sundown in Santa Fe” showing at the Lakewood Theatre.

Don Lewis
Don Lewis on August 6, 2006 at 6:17 pm

My photograph of the LAKEWOOD View link

DanielBates on February 13, 2006 at 6:35 am

I was born the year the Lakewood was built—1938—and my folks took me there to see just about every Disney film nearly first-run. For a while, I thought the surrounding shopping center was downtown Dallas! It is still an architectural wonder, the closest Fort Worth equivalent of which is the Ridglea. Talk about a true “Cinema Treasure!”

Suwanti on June 8, 2005 at 5:28 am

What a well restored beautiful Art Deco Theatre.

Hong Kong don’t have such beautiful theatre remains.

teecee on April 27, 2005 at 7:52 am

recent marquee photo:
View link

James Colburn
James Colburn on September 9, 2004 at 7:34 pm

I am so glad to see a GEM like this.

rickeiff on June 28, 2004 at 3:44 pm

The “person” that left the above post who labeled himself “f-the-lakewood” is the one who sucks. Thank God, someone came in and rescued this magnificent example of 1930s art deco. I went to the Lakewood almost every Saturday when I was growing up. The Kid Show offered a double feature, a cartoon, a serial chapter, and a comedy short. It lasted all afternoon and it packed the house each week. This theatre deserves to keep going forever and the owner deserves bouquets of roses.

JV2k4 on March 10, 2004 at 7:42 am

Beautiful Art Deco Masterpiece

fthelakewood on January 20, 2004 at 3:34 pm

The owner is a liar and a crook. Trust me, this theater will not be in business much longer. Check the BBB. This guy sucks.

PAULB on January 16, 2004 at 2:34 am

What a wonderful restoration and enthusiastic renovation and service.

sdoerr on November 22, 2003 at 10:13 am

Wow I have never seen a theatre like this. Very unique, and stylish look.