Aquarius Theaters IV
1159 West Camp Wisdom Road,
400 Loomis Plaza,
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The Aquarius Theaters IV was a four-screen theater complex that got off to a good start and went into quick descent when population shifts combined with General Cinemas building of a four-screen and then a six-screen facility at Redbird Mall doomed the location. It had about a ten-year run before being converted for other purposes.
In the early-1970’s, Jerry Lewis Cinemas, Modular Cinemas of America, Texas Automated Theatres, and United General Theaters all were vying to be leaders in providing turnkey, one-button automated theaters to lucky franchisees. Those franchisees would be going up against AMC, General Cinema and other established circuits that were dropping multiplexes throughout the country.
Texas was among United General’s growth targets with 44 screens coming online in 1972/3 and a mind-blowing projection of 3,500 screens nationwide by 1975. United General franchisees were purportedly behind two similar Aquarius quad theatres in Austin and Dallas. Locations also built in the Dallas metroplex as U-G’s included one in Burleson, one in Euless and a quad in Fort Worth.
Unfortunately, few of the reported locations actually opened as United Generals as the chain’s projections and service didn’t match reality. The promotions for U-G used actors Glenn Ford, Debbie Reynolds and Agnes Moorehead who were apparently given stock in the company for the usage of their likenesses. U-G’s schemes became apparent when two of its founders were sentenced to prison for bilking 300 investors out of money and providing little in return.
The Aquarius Theaters IV were actually run by Trans-Texas Theatres and the Dallas location opened in South Oak Cliff on June 21, 1972. Trans-Texas was checking in as AMC was coming in and sprinting out of Oak Cliff. The AMC Western Park 4 was opened November 17, 1971 and quickly closed by AMC June 30, 1972. The AMC Triangle 4 opened July 1, 1971 and was closed by AMC within just three years.
The Aquarius Theaters IV had two larger auditoriums at opening. Theatre I had 452 seats launching with “The Graduate”. Theatre II had 332 seats with “Summer of ‘42”. The screen size for I & II were both 14'x32’ with Century 35mm projection. Theatre III and IV each had 200 seats and 9'x20' screens showing “Yellow Submarine” and “Play Misty for Me”. Each of the auditoriums had appropriately wild color themes for the period where lipstick red seating and turquoise drapery with blue waterfall-styled screen curtains could co-exist in that period. The Griggs seating was of different color in each of the auditoria.
Architects James R. Wooten and Ward Bogard used concrete to give the futuristic look of the Aquarius' exterior and did a good job of sound proofing the auditoriums - a problem for some of the early quads and triplexes. A blue formica concession stand island with Jet Spray Bubbler drink dispensers and Cretors popper accentuated the lobby. Art of Aquarius, the Water Bearer, also punctuated the lobby.
Grand opening festivities included Miss Oak Cliff helping cut the ribbon on Trans-Texas' 11th location and first multi-screen operation. Lucky patrons Mr. and Mrs. Walter Simmons won a Braniff Airlines trip for two to Acapulco at the opening. The Austin Aquarius IV also launched and early in 1974, the Oak Cliff theatre hit its stride with lines around the theatre for “American Graffiti” and “The Way We Were”.
But a combination of population shifts in South Oak Cliff and General Cinema opening a new four-plex by the nearby Redbird Mall - which GCC would followed up by another six-plex - were the death knells for the Aquarius IV.
Trans-Texas bailed on the location. On August 23, 1981, the Aquarius Theaters IV was downgraded to discount, sub-run $1 house status. It got one final shot as a first-run house before closing - apparently for good - on April 30, 1983 - after just over ten years of operation. It was the sunsetting of the Age of Aquarius. The theatre was repurposed for non-profit usage.
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