Dozens protest permanent closure of historic River Oaks Theatre

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Several people gathered to protest the possible permanent closure of the historic Landmark's River Oaks Theatre after it has continuously suffered amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

After a six-month closure at the start of the pandemic last year, the owners struggled to pay rent and fell behind on payments, according to Jeff Smith, a spokesperson for the theater.

"We want to renew our lease, and we want to work with Weingarten anyway we can, but they have not been willing to negotiate with us thus far," said Smith.

Smith also said that Weingarten has not granted them any sort of extensions to pay the money they owe in rent.

Dozens lined up outside the theatre on West Grey Street on Sunday with signs chanting in support of keeping it open.

"This is the only place you can see vintage films in Houston, and most of the time people don't even realize things like this until they're gone," said one supporter. "If you take away the Landmark you take so much of Houston's heart."

The River Oaks theatre has sat in the heart of Houston's River Oaks District since 1939, and it remains the longest running theatre that offers the Rocky Horror Picture show every Saturday.

Over the weekend, ABC13 reached out to Weingarten Realty, who is over the building where the theatre is, but they have not responded to our request for a comment.

Last month Weingarten issued the following statement: "Silver Cinema Acquisition Company has been a key component to River Oaks Shopping Center. We have continued to work with the Company who has not paid rent since March of 2020. Conversations have indicated that their business model does not support paying more than a fraction of the previous rent going forward. Unfortunately, the pandemic has caused many businesses in the entertainment industry, such as theaters, to fail. We cannot comment on lease negotiations at this time."

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