Wynnewood Theater

666 Wynnewood Plaza,
Dallas, TX 75224

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Don Eldredge
Don Eldredge on February 28, 2014 at 7:10 pm

I saw Ben Hur on the giant Wynnewood screen. This was sometime in 1960, and already they were touting the opening of Windjammer in “Cinemiracle.” Ben Hur had previously played as a hard ticket film at the Tower, downtown.

dallasmovietheaters
dallasmovietheaters on October 10, 2013 at 6:26 pm

The Wynnewood Theater opened July 1, 1951 as part of the Robb & Rowley Circuit. It basically was in the same chain for 32 years. The theater was retrofitted several times. The first was 1953 for panoramic showings of widescreen films. The next was 1958 with a Todd-AO system. Todd-AO was removed in 1961 for Cinemiracle presentation(s). The theater was twinned in April 1973. It closed Sept. 28, 1983, reopened for a period of time as an adult theater, sold to a developer but was demolished in 1999. Its address was 275 Wynnewood Village.

The Wynnewood got its name from Six Flags founder Angus Wynne who created the $7 million Wynnewood Village Shopping Center in which the theater was housed. Robb & Rowley would get a corner spot when the center was created with 10,200 sq. ft. theater plans by Pettigrew and Worley. Unlike many suburbans of the period, the Wynnewood was budgeted at north of $250,000, 1,400 seats, and had 400 targeted parking spots of the 2,000 available in the center.

On July 1, 1951, the slightly toned-down 1,000 seat Wynnewood Theater opened with “Smuggler’s Island” with a ten-seat soundproof cryroom, retractor seats and managed by Pat Murphree formerly of the Heights Theater to manage the facility for Rowley United Theaters. The Pettirgrew, Worley & Company architected theater’s final look didn’t quite match the highly stylized look of the original concept drawings. However, it did match the DeWitt and Swank design of the overall Wynnewood Shopping Center in which it was housed. The two firms did work together on the final design for the theater.

The R&R Circuit was focused on Oak Cliff with 7 theaters and this was clearly its jewel. Just two years into its run, the Wynnewood was retrofitted with a panoramic screen on Sept. 24, 1953 which reduced the house to 944 seats. An even more ambitious project happened in March 1958. Rowley United (having bought out the Robb family in 1955) spent $100,000 dollars on a Todd-AO system to show “South Pacific.” A six-track sound system, a 22x44 screen was brought in new 70mm projector, and eight surround speakers on the wall making it easily the most technologically challenging show for the suburban. Many Hollywood stars and producers flew in for the event. On the premiere’s night, a $25 after-party featuring Carmen Cavallaro saw stars such as Linda Darnell, Margaret O’Brien, Don Murray, and Rocky Marciano among others. All theater seats were reupholstered for the premiere and road show engagement, an improved box office, and redecoration all took place. In an incredible 32-week run 130,000 went to this Oak Cliff theater to the “South Pacific” in Todd A-0. South Pacific would return for a non-AO run in 1971.

Rowley then installed a costly Cinemiracle system in early 1961 in time for the showing of “Windjammer.” Todd-AO was removed. Three projectors operated with four projectionists allowed the wall to wall screen of the now 800 seat theater. Five speakers behind the screen and one on each side of the house. Only Houson’s Rivoli and the Wynnewood were said to play this in Texas.

Innovation pretty much stopped there as Hollywood steered away from such technology and undoubtedly “Windjammer” didn’t make back its investment. Rowley United positioned the Wynnewood of the 1960s as a family friendly house. In a single year, the Wynnewood had 50 weeks of G rated fare in 1968 with 22 weeks with Disney product. Rowley United became United Artists after a stock transfer and decided to twin both the Cine and the Wynnewood. The Wynnewood was halved with 400 seats in each house, had new screens installed, and was closed for two months in March and April of 1973.

In the 1980s, audiences were moving toward the multiplexes and Oak Cliff had the Redbird Cinemas which were doing decent business siphoning business away from the Wynnewood. In the summer of 1983, the Wynnewood became a dollar house and closed quietly with second-runs of “The Twilight Zone” and splitting “The Verdict” and “Star Chamber” on Sept. 28, 1983. The move came at the same time UA was breaking ground for an 8-screen house across the street from the Redbird Mall several miles south of the Wynnewood. A 32-year run for the R&R/UA circuit was pretty good. UA’s presence continued with the South opening May 23, 1984.

UA either subleased or operated under its art/adult nameplate with the Wynnewood re-opening trying adult fare for a brief period and playing Caligula in May of 1984. Jerry Moore Investments purchased the Wynnewood Theatre in Oak Cliff from United Artists in 1992. The Houston-based mall developer probably had grand plans and rumors abounded that a multiplex would rise in the Wynnewood and the Ward’s store when it went out of business. That never happened. The Wynnewood theater almost looked it was hoping that it would be bulldozed after sitting vacant for years. That day would come when it was excised from the shopping center in May of 1999 though would stand just a little bit longer than the UA presence in Oak Cliff which shuttered the UA South 8 in October 1998.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on May 16, 2012 at 12:54 am

The only interior view of the Wynnewood Theatre I’ve been able to find is a small shot of the concession stand on this page of Boxoffice, June 7, 1952.

Michael
Michael on December 24, 2010 at 1:25 am

Lynne, I think you’re right. I grew up in Oak Cliff in the early 70’s and remember going to Wynnewood to shop, eat and see movies a lot. Thanks for posting this pic.

lrostochil
lrostochil on December 14, 2010 at 4:43 pm

I believe that this is a photo of the Wynnewood Shopping Center with a scaffold sign of the Wynnewood Theatre in the background. Can anyone confirm?

View link

Zionscamp
Zionscamp on June 8, 2010 at 4:07 pm

James B,
Yes. My dad Reuben primarily worked at the Hampton Rd. Drive In, but also worked two days a week at the Texas Theater. He was there when they arrested Oswald.
John passed away in 1992 and my dad died in 1984.

jamestv
jamestv on June 8, 2010 at 1:33 am

Mark W: Your brother John trained me as a projectionist here in 1971. I fondly remember your Dad Rueben—didn’t he work the Texas Theatre with Bill Phillips?

DwayTeal
DwayTeal on April 7, 2010 at 12:00 am

One summer while attending Champion Pre-School, we went on a “field trip” to the Wynnewood. We saw Gidget Goes Hawaiian (1961). It will forever be my favorite Gidget film, partly because of the movie going memory. Several years later I went to the Wynnewood with the preacher’s kid. We saw Mary Poppins. I seem to recall they always played a short film of the national anthem along with a film clip which ended something like “and remember to attend church this Sunday at the church of your choice”. Yes, I grew up in Oak Cliff and I remember birthday cakes from Jan’s Bakery and movies at the Wynnewood Theater. Times have changed.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on October 15, 2009 at 7:38 am

I finally found the architects of the Wynnewood. The June 7, 1952, issue of Boxoffice attributes the design of the house to the firm of Pettigrew & Worley.

Coate
Coate on October 6, 2009 at 12:43 am

ennis…

During the course of the 1950s-1960s roadshow era, the following Dallas theaters were equipped to show 70mm:

CINE 150
ESQUIRE
INWOOD
MELBA / CAPRI
NORTHPARK CINEMA I & II
PRESTON ROYAL
TOWER
WYNNEWOOD

And in Houston:
ALABAMA
DELMAN
GALLERIA CINEMA I & II
GAYLYNN
MEYERLAND PLAZA
OAK VILLAGE
TOWER
UPTOWN
WINDSOR

EnnisCAdkins
EnnisCAdkins on October 5, 2009 at 11:19 pm

Besides SOUTH PACIFIC in 58' and WINDJAMMER in 61' did the Wynnewood get any other of the 70mm roadshow reserved seat pictures that were released during the late 50’s to middle 60’s? I know the Tower in downtown Dallas played many of them but not all. Were their other neighborhood theaters that were converted to 70mm roadshow houses? Houston for example, started with the Tower but then added the Uptown, Delman, Alabama, Windsor & Village. I’m sure Dallas did the same.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on June 12, 2009 at 6:41 am

That’s definitely a July 3, 1951 opening. The June 30, 1951, issue of Boxoffice said that Rowley United Theatres had been scheduled to hold its annual managers meeting at the Adolphus Hotel and at the new Rowley Wynnewood Theatre on the 28th and 29th, so I guess the managers got a preview of the house.

The July 21, 1951, issue of Boxoffice reported that the opening had been a great success, with a capacity house for the first show.

I’ve been unable to find the name of the architect of the Wynnewood, but the theater was built by the Dallas construction firm of Vivrett & Vivrett.

The Wynnewood Theatre installed Todd-AO equipment in 1958 for the Dallas road show run of “South Pacific”, which opened April 16 and ran at the house for over a year. One Boxoffice item from 1959 said that the management ran a special shuttle bus to downtown hotels to bring patrons to the theater’s suburban location.

“Windjammer,” mentioned in a comment above, began its run at the Wynnewood on January 25, 1961.

DonLewis
DonLewis on June 11, 2009 at 10:17 pm

Hello Mark W. Would you mind contacting me at your convenience concerning the Wynnewood Theater? Thank you!

Don Lewis…

Zionscamp
Zionscamp on June 11, 2009 at 8:16 pm

My brother John White was the projectionist at the Wynnewood form 1965 until 1980. I have such great memories of the theater, including my first date in 1966.

dfoster
dfoster on June 3, 2009 at 5:08 pm

I have been thinking about the years when I worked at the Wynnewood Theatre which would have been from 1963 to 1967…Wonderful memories! I began as a “candy girl” and moved up to the “box office”! The manager of the theatre during those years was Mr. Hackney! I was able to retrieve one brick during the demolition…

Lost Memory
Lost Memory on April 29, 2009 at 8:01 pm

The year given for this photo is 1983.

Lost Memory
Lost Memory on November 22, 2008 at 3:18 am

In 1955 the Wynnewood Theater had 953 seats.

Michael
Michael on March 28, 2008 at 12:24 am

Became a 2 screen theater and was run by United Artists Theaters by 1980.

Michael
Michael on March 19, 2008 at 1:08 am

I’m sad too, when I was young, I saw many movies here, esp. kids films and such. It was a huge theater and had that baby room at the back, which was cool, as has been said.

bunny3k
bunny3k on May 4, 2007 at 10:27 am

I am so sad that Wynnewood has been torn down. I have so many memories of Saturdays spent at the movies with my friends. We would watch the movies and cartoons over and over again, as you could stay as long as you wanted. We stayed the whole afternoon, seeing the shows, then running up the aisle to get another coke or a 5 cent pickle, then running back to our seats. We saw so many Disney movies, The Love Bug, Born Free,all the Kurt Russell and James Garner movies – what a great time to be a kid. It was safe for parents to leave us there all day and not worry about perverts. I remember too the ad that always ran that just was the verse from the Bible, John 3:16 – “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” The lobby was really cool. I loved the “cry room” they had at the back of the theater. It was a small room where a parent could take their baby or child to hear the movie, but not disturb others in the movie when the child was being loud. It was a great touch. I guess the last movie I saw there was “Jaws” when it first came out. It may be torn down now, but will remain alive forever in my memories.

zbillster
zbillster on December 6, 2006 at 7:59 pm

I worked as an usher in the Wynnewood Theater in the late 70s and early 80s, while I was in high school and on breaks from college. At which point it had been divided up into two screens, with the “crying room” (a sealed glass booth in the back of the theater for crying babies) on the left screen. (A good makeout room for employees!) It was a “second run” theater owned by the United Artist chain and admission was for a reduced fee than regular theaters. I made many friends working there and we had our share of regular customers (some of them are quite characters). I’ve swept that lobby several times, changed the posters and marquee and hung out in the projection room (which was still union run in those days). I still have some posters from that theater. And of course growing up as a child I remember watching movies like “A Boy Named Charlie Brown” and “2001,” along with some Roger Moore James Bond films. It was sad to see it torn down … I drove past and wondered where it was, but realized the building was gone. I’ll treasure the memories of the friends I made there, eating all the popcorn you wanted while working, and our alotted 95 cents for a hot dog and small drink (quite a deal now!).

AdamsonMissy
AdamsonMissy on September 17, 2006 at 6:53 pm

My parents built their “dream house” in North Wynnewood in 1953. I have so many memories of going to the Wynnewood Theater…the most infamous being my trip with friends to see some creepy Vincent Price movie! Although I lived only blocks away, I was so scared that I had to call my mom to come get me! Another creepy movie experience was “The Blob.” I’m sure I saw some scare-free movies there, but those are the ones that REALLY stick with me. I’m sorry it’s gone, but Saturdays at the Wynnewood will always be with me.

DriveInTheatre2001
DriveInTheatre2001 on April 11, 2006 at 2:17 am

I went to see a few movies here growing up in the Mid to late 1960’s! ‘House of Dark Shadows’ and ‘Jungle Book’ to name a couple. It was a bit sad to see that is had been demolished. Luckly, I took a couple of pictures of it about 6 months before………
:–(

Randy Carlisle

Photographically Preserving Dallas History 1 Building @ A Time

DonE
DonE on October 13, 2005 at 9:22 pm

The picture posted by lostmemory on 10-13-05 is definitely the same theater mentioned here. It is great to see it again after all these years.