On November 22, 1963, in the middle of an afternoon screening of Burt Topper’s Korean War drama War Is Hell, a swarm of police officers descended on the Texas Theatre in Dallas. They were there to arrest Lee Harvey Oswald, who snuck in after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy earlier that day. Ever since, this one-screen theater, which was originally financed by Howard Hughes in the 1930s, has stood in the shadow of this American tragedy, which has made it the object of continued fascination through the years, even as the building itself has gone through periods of disrepair and real-estate developers have sought to turn it into retail space. It was not until a renovation in the early 2000s that the venue reinvented itself as one of the city’s cultural hubs, a place to see not only wide-ranging repertory programming but also live events that incorporate music and dance.
For the latest episode of Art-House America, now playing on the Criterion Channel on FilmStruck, we visited the infamous theater, which is located in the diverse neighborhood of Oak Cliff. The dedicated staff have worked hard to transform it into a vibrant alternative to the multiplex, with programs ranging from Tuesday Night Trash, a free celebration of genre movies, to an original ballet based on Chris Marker’s La Jetée. Their goal is to make each event something special and community-driven, whether by inviting special guests, throwing post-screening parties, or shooting their own quirky spins on the films’ theatrical trailers.
Check out the full episode above, then head to the Channel to watch La Jetée, the first film in an ongoing series that the Texas Theatre will be programming for us.