Forum 6 Cinema

2900 East Pioneer Parkway #435,
Arlington, TX 76010

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dallasmovietheaters
dallasmovietheaters on February 6, 2015 at 7:04 am

The fast-growing AMC Theater chain wanted to follow up its game-changing AMC Northtown 6 and its follow-up AMC Northwood Hills 4 with another 42 screens with 10,000 seats in Dallas-Fort Worth during the 1971 calendar year. Also fast-growing was the community of Arlington, TX and a heavyweight battle was being waged at the end of the 1960s as two competing malls were being built within five miles of each other in Arlington. General Cinema and AMC wanted to be near or in these new malls.

The battle: in one corner – at U.S. 80 and Texas 360 – was a mall planned by veteran shopping center group Homart Development and executed by Monumental Properties. That mall had a nice design, good traffic flow, well devised parking plans, some landscaping, and three A+ anchors for the time in Sears, Sanger-Harris, and JC Penney’s. With 97% occupancy at its grand opening on August 5, 1970, architect Harwood K. Smith used Texas sun tones, tropical greenery and architectural flourishes to serve as a harmonic showcase for the area. The mall — built upon 80 acres home formerly to the historic Downs Racetrack – had a design using the area’s fun sensibilities and was called the Six Flags Mall. Outside of the shopping mall was an area called The Village, an external shopping center is the area housed by Cinema I & II by General Cinema.

In the other corner less than three miles south was a mall at the confluence of N. Forum Drive, Spur 303, Highway 360, and E. Arkansas Lane. The gangly over-sized mall went up in stages with the first store opening in Halloween of 1969 and its name was the Forum 303 Mall probably because the name, “Forum-303-360-Arkansas Mall” seemed too long. The 120-acre facility by Alpert Investment Corp. had Montgomery Wards along with Meacham’s and Leonard’s Department Store as its original anchors. The mall would also have an amphitheater called The Forum with 320-seats which had two airplane-fin-like skylights sculptures designed by artist Doris Looper. The odd art objects would spell out Forum Mall in a serif font with gaudy purple coloring.

Phase I of the mall launched on Halloween 1969 with Leonard’s opening despite the mall being under construction. The parking and traffic flow was curious and under-thought given the minimal entrance/exit access points. While Six Flags had a uniform and coordinated grand opening, the Forum 303 launched between September and December of 1971 as stores came on line unevenly. Other plans for the mall including a hotel and office space just never happened. Within the mall was its cinema run by AMC starting on October 13, 1971. With all of the A+ stores, major publicity, uniform starting date and the architectural design all going to the heavyweight Six Flags Mall, one wondered how the area could support this second chump mall to say nothing of the new malls also opened in 1971 — to the north in Irving and Hurst (Northeast Mall). Certainly, AMC would honor its ten-year lease and vacate the mall.

But AMC proved popular in part because it had six new film options compared to just two at nearby Six Flags and one at the nearby GCC Park Plaza. Midnight shows which would eventually include “The Rocky Horror Picture Show,” added a cool element. Dillard’s proved to be a hit taking over Leonard’s, concerts drew crowds at the Forum amphitheater, a super arcade drew people, an ice skating rink was a nice touch, and Picadilly Cafeteria proved to be a winner for the mall. In fact, AMC re-upped for another 10-year lease and announced that it would build another six-screen theater holding 1,800 patrons as a standalone operation adjacent to the Forum along with a motor bank, restaurants and other retail to open in the Summer of 1980. It was actually General Cinema that was losing the fight as the theater would tack on three more cinemas in its substandard Six Flags location.

But trouble was around the corner as Loews had opened the Lincoln Square to the North, UA launched the Bowen to the southwest, AMC built its Green Oaks 8 to the southwest, and General Cinema would open an eight screener to the southwest. The economic tides were turning as Interstate 20 was being built opening in 1987 making a retail nexus in south Arlington. It was fortunate that the external six-screener didn’t happen as especially devastating to the AMC Forum was Homart Corp. which opted to build the Parks Mall opening in 1988. That mall would decimate foot traffic split amongst the two aging Arlington malls. Six Flags would counter with a $20 million facelift including the addition of a Dillard’s store. The Forum 303 would add a hastily-crafted Farmer’s Market.

Yet more competition for the movie dollar came along I-20 as Cinemark opening a megaplex in Grand Prairie in Nov. 1989. With most original tenant mall leases and re-ups coming due including Picadilly Cafeteria and the AMC Forum, the mall’s fortunes were fading at precisely the wrong time. Following the 20-year mark, the Forum Mall was heading toward greyfield status, a term for dying malls with vacant storefronts. Dillard’s downgraded its store to a clearance center but AMC re-upped again for ten years in 1991.

By 1993, the mall was on vapors and the FDIC overtook the mall. Never a good sign. The FDIC identified a new owner in Fuller/DDM. Film producer Bob Yari took on the mall in 1994 changing the name to the Forum Value Mall as Dillard’s Clearance Center and lesser independents moved into the plentiful empty spaces. The AMC property was looking dated and dying in a multiplex world. United Artists opened to the east with its Grand Prairie theater and to the west with its Eastchase theater. In 1997, the mall spent $3.5 million to convert to the Festival Marketplace, a bazaar concept with tiny vendor spaces for everything from computer repair to incense to car radios officially launching May 21, 1998 in hopes of masking the empty spaces. The Bazaar concept was like a hastily-crafted flea market and AMC – now facing yet more competition in the form of a nine-screen Cinemark Tinseltown inside of Six Flags Mall — would leave the building and anchor Service Merchandise shuttered. Certainly, the cinematic days were behind the Festival Marketplace. By decade’s end, the Festival Marketplace became the Festival Discount Mall and shedded even more stores including original tenants Picadilly Cafeteria and Montgomery Ward’s. The mall was now in greyfield status.

But to Yari’s credit, two different operators would take on the former AMC theater, simply chipping the AMC sign off of the theater and operating as the Forum 6. The theaters’ original AMC cupholders and seating would survive to the theater’s end. The operator of the independent Park Plaza would close up shop there on Feb. 28, 2002 and take on the Forum 6 as its last operator. The mall was no longer open seven days a week yet the cinema remained a seven-day-a-week operation. On certain weeknights, all of the parking lights in the complex and most of the mall lights were off but the theater was still functioning in almost unbelievable conditions. Parking lot potholes, abandoned graffiti-filled motor bank and store anchors, weeds in the parking lot, and totally faded parking lines were no match for the determined theater operation which continued as a first-run house despite the Cinemark competition up the road.

In October of 2004, the air conditioning system failed at the Festival Discount Mall and the owners just didn’t want to spend the money to repair it. Dillard’s Clearance Center would move out choosing the also-dying Six Flags Mall and when the warm weather came at the end of May 2005, everyone was told to pack up and go. They were given a mere five days’ notice. And of course that was the end of the entire mall including the Forum 6 cinema.

Or was it? Almost unbelievably, the Forum 6 brought in a portable air conditioning system and, despite a condemned mall property, somehow soldiered on now with no parking lights on at night. A bizarre situation akin to the struggles of the Fox Theatre in Toledo’s Woodville Mall if not other dying malls. The phone’s message featured a warning at its tag, “We’re going to be forced to close soon, so please come on over.” And weeks stretched to months as the very lightly trafficked theater limped to its closure on August 18, 2005 with “The Dukes of Hazzard”, “Sky High”, “The Island”, “Stealth”, “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”, and “Bad News Bears”.

In the final chapter, just outside the AMC Forum, six piles of theater chairs and AMC cupholders were respectfully placed in the decrepit parking lot representing each of the auditoriums. Also in the pile was anything metal including 35mm film rewinders and other equipment. The failure fence told the story as the faded mall was demolished including Looper’s original airplane fin skylights and the Forum 6 theaters. While Cinemark won the heavyweight battle at Six Flags Mall, that mall would also shutter virtually every other store other than Dillard’s Clearance store due, in part, to a failed air conditioning system (it would relaunch in 2014 as the Plaza Central). How the Forum cinema survived 34 years is something of a mystery. But in this fight, the Forum proved to be a plucky contender.

CaptRonLI
CaptRonLI on April 4, 2012 at 2:43 pm

As I said, I was only seven at the time, so my memory is a bit hazy. But I’m fairly certain that this is the place where I saw “Popeye,” “Superman II” and “Star Trek: The Motion Picture,” though!

mhg92
mhg92 on January 13, 2012 at 5:36 am

Ron, The Dillards opened as a Leonards Dept Store and was taken over by Dillards in the 70’s early 80’s. If you are having Sears flashbacks, it was because General Cinema’s Six Flags V was in a outparcel building to the north of Sears. That Dillards was way too big to ever have been a Sears. Plus I have a Shopping Mall trade book that showed what the Forum was to be built out as when completed. It was to have four department stores with a hotel and office tower complex. A precursor to the Galleria.

drivein2001
drivein2001 on November 29, 2010 at 7:45 pm

Here’s one photo I posted on flickr.com…
View link
RAC Photography
Randy A Carlisle
Historical Photographer

jamestx234
jamestx234 on August 9, 2009 at 3:37 pm

Oh and I forgot Jekyll & Hyde’s Disco across from Picadilly Cafeteria. I think the disco was ran by an Asian couple and we drank and danced. It seemed it was a little quiet most of the time we went in there.

jamestx234
jamestx234 on August 9, 2009 at 3:16 pm

Forum 303 AMC Theaters and mall have been demolished and are history. I have fond memories as a teen going to the mall,the movies and the arcade. Does anyone remember Straw Hat Pizza,at least I think thats what it was or so I have been told. Orange Julius,Chess King,Mitchells. The midnight movies Dawn of the Dead,The Rocky Horror Picture Show,The Song Remains the Same. The Rocky Horror Gang all dressed up would come over to Dennys on 360 and Randol Mill in the early morning hours after the showing at the theater.I was a graveyard bus boy and remember the make up.I wish now that I had made friends and talked with those people.

Michael
Michael on March 18, 2008 at 5:51 pm

I lived in Arlington between 1977-1986 and saw many movies there as a young man. I used to cruise the Forum and shop and of course, play at the arcade before or after a movie. I remember standing in line for The Amityville Horror or Rocky II or Moonraker or some money. It was always a great atmosphere and I’m sure it’s missed in different ways to all of us.

I’d like to see more pictures of the Mall or Theater if anyone has any they’d care to share.

RonMotta
RonMotta on November 27, 2007 at 10:37 am

Does anyone know if Sears was ever a tenant in the place? For some reason I remember the theater being right by Sears in 1979-80…

Scott Neff
Scott Neff on November 16, 2007 at 10:23 pm

I stumbled across some photos on flickr tonight of the mall being demolished. So I assume the same.

EmmaFtWorth
EmmaFtWorth on November 16, 2007 at 9:47 pm

Last time I drove by the mall (October 2007) it was in the process of being demolished. I’m sure the whole mall (including the theatre) is gone now. I’ll update yall if I’m in that area again.

RonMotta
RonMotta on March 20, 2007 at 8:03 am

Maybe it was…I was only 7 at the time and we were only there for a year and a half…there used to be a Waldenbooks here, too, I think.

Fentum1960
Fentum1960 on March 19, 2007 at 12:25 pm

No, I’m fairly sure it was Dillards, with Montgomery Ward at the opposite end of the mall. The only Sears store in Arlington in those days was the one at Six Flags Mall….

RonMotta
RonMotta on March 19, 2007 at 11:09 am

And, if I remember correctly, wasn’t it right by Sears? At least it was in 1979, I think…

RonMotta
RonMotta on March 14, 2007 at 11:44 am

Yep. I remember it used to be the only place in the area where we could get real New York-style pizza (we were New York transplants).

Fentum1960
Fentum1960 on March 8, 2007 at 8:09 am

That’s right, for many years!

RonMotta
RonMotta on March 8, 2007 at 8:02 am

I think I used to go here during the brief time I lived in Bedford. Saw “Star Trek: The Motion Picture” and “Popeye” here. there used to be a pizza place across from it, right?

Fentum1960
Fentum1960 on April 22, 2006 at 3:15 pm

There are a few photos taken around the theater before the closing, at this address:

http://www.cinematour.com/tour/us/4654.html

Not sure if there’s anything out there from other locations at the mall.

Cdoes
Cdoes on April 22, 2006 at 6:58 am

I drove by there yesterday, everything at that mall location is shutdown and boarded up really good. We had heard a rumor that you could still get in through a service entry to the mall but we couldnt find it. we were trying to get some pics before its torn down

Fentum1960
Fentum1960 on September 11, 2005 at 9:35 am

That’s sad news. Having grown up in Arlington during the ‘70s, I recall going to the Forum 6 even as early as its opening in the fall of '71 — although I don’t think I’d seen a film there in 15 years. But a 34-year run as a first-run venue is certainly impressive.

dsedman
dsedman on August 20, 2005 at 10:14 am

RIP August 2005. Though the mall was shuttered in May 2005, the theater limped through its summer films closing with Dukes of Hazard, Stealth, The Island, Bad News Bears, Sky High, and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.