GCC Red Bird Cinema I-II-III-IV
7575 Marvin D Love Freeway,
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The General Cinema Redbird Mall I-II-III-IV was a nondescript outparcel building launching in 1977, two years after the Red Bird Mall opened. The cinema was located on the center’s east side in South Oak Cliff. The quad would spawn a second, larger six-screen facility in 1982 giving it ten screens in the shadow of the Sears anchor store. But a combination of population shifts, crime and economic downturns would decimate both the Red Bird Mall and the ten-screen outparcel operations which limped to closure in October of 1994.
General Cinemas changed movie going patterns in Dallas by building multi-screen theaters next to - or inside of - shopping malls and centers. Dallas’ downtown core of single-screen theaters and suburbans dominated by Interstate Theatres Circuit would wither. The General Cinema Redbird I-II-III-IV was the eighth in the area for the circuit. Announced in February of 1977, the theater would be a 15,000 square foot box plopped in the east side of the mall’s vast parking lot.
GCC had previously broken in the DFW market with an outparcel cinema in the parking lot of Big Town Mall in 1963. Those were followed by two outparcels at NorthPark Mall, interiors at Valley View Mall, Irving Mall, and outparcels at Lochwood Mall/Treehouse Center and Town East Mall. The eight and ninth locations opened within a week of each other outside of Red Bird and inside of the Richardson Square Mall.
The Red Bird I-II-III-IV theater launched October 14, 1977 with “You Light Up My Life,” “The Bad News Bears in Breaking Training,” “The Lincoln Conspiracy,” and “Strange Invaders.” The success of the Red Bird I-II-III-IV raised eyebrows as AMC had multi-flopped with two Oak Cliff quads in 1971 which - combined didn’t last four years. The GCC also temporarily vanquished the struggling Aquarius quad cinema just two miles to the north which would close though reopening as a discount cinema and close twice again.
UA and AMC began to play a form of a game of Risk moving multiplexes near General Cinema locations to siphon off business and compete for major film title clearances. Interstate / Plitt Theatres was vanquished from the game table. UA and AMC built near the Town East and North Park, for example, while UA was reportedly searching for a location near Red Bird in 1982. General Cinema’s response was a strategy of merely overbuilding locations fortifying its existing six-screen positions. It did so with outparcels - a six-screen built near its Town East V, a six-screen across from its Richardson Square triplex, an additional interior in Irving Mall, and a six screen outparcel at Redbird on June 2, 1982 yards away from the I-II-III-IV.
UA countered the GCC Red Bird V-X with its own UA South 8 opened just across I-20 from Red Bird Mall and GCC’s I-X on May 23, 1984. These three facilities combined were the final three movie theaters ever built in Oak Cliff. The game of Risk led to all three theaters becoming financial losers. Massive population shifts, crime, and cinema overbuilding combined with mall saturation and economic downturn were a nasty combination. UA had the upper hand outfitting an auditorium with 70mm projection and being THX-certified and had the empty victory of merely outlasting the two GCC Red Birds.
Weekday screenings at the vast majority of GCC’s ten screens were simply empty in 1994. When General Cinema quickly and quietly closed its Oak Cliff theaters on October 24, 1994, there was a coalition of protestors staged at General Cinemas NorthPark I&II including the Black State Employees and the NAACP. Residents residents felt GCC was targeting minority populations in their closures. With 40% of the population of Dallas in Oak Cliff, it did seem odd that just a single remaining multiplex and three-screen Astro Drive-In could serve the area. However, the coalition was unsuccessful as General Cinemas demonstrated the economic problems it was having with the multiplexes. The theaters were permanently shuttered and the Red Bird Mall turned Southwest Center reeled into “greyfield status” - a term akin to a dead mall.
Four years almost to the day later when the UA closed its South at the end of October 1998 there were no protests as it was likely clear to all that the area was in descent and couldn’t support its remaining theaters. Oak Cliff’s Astro Drive-in burned down a month later leaving no functional movie theaters in all of Oak Cliff, one of Dallas' most populous residential areas with 338,000 people. Though the Texas Theater did make a comeback, the GCCs sat vacant.
The only oddity was that the exterior poster boxes and lobby of the GCC Red Bird CInema I-II-III-IV remained lit with cash registers and elements still visible from the 1990s until 2003 although more dimly as lights began to burn out. For an area noted for high crime, this multiplex was neither boarded up nor smashed into with attractor boards bright and clean and free of graffiti. The GCC I-II-III-IV was demolished to removed the building from the DCAD tax rolls. The V-X would finally get a makeover more than ten years and converted to a soccer complex.
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