The lease for the current tenants of Lakewood Theater is over at the end of January, and it’s anybody’s guess what will happen to the beloved East Dallas landmark, but there are confirmed rumors of interest by Alamo Drafthouse.
As we reported last November with our story Lakewood Theater Makeover Concerns Preservationists, Neighbors, property co-owners Craig Kinney and Bill Willingham of Willingham-Rutledge have been talking to restaurants and businesses that could fill the space, located at 1825 Abrams Pkwy.
Two theater groups have expressed interest, and one of them is the Alamo Drafthouse, confirmed Kinney, who also co-owns surrounding properties in the southwest strip.
“We’ve talked to everybody,” Kinney told Dallas Morning News reporter Robert Wilonsky. The situation remains, though, “Nobody’s committed. So I can’t tell you whether they’re interested or not.”
Wilonsky also talked to Alamo Drafthouse COO Bill DiGaetano, who wouldn’t confirm any plans on the record, but emphasized his company’s interest preserving in historic theaters.
“Alamo has a policy not to comment on real estate negotiations, whether real or fictional,” he told Wilonsky. “But we have a long history of preserving 35mm film and, as shown by our Ritz Theater in downtown Austin and the current restoration of the New Mission Theater in downtown San Francisco, we have a huge passion for preserving great classic movie houses. I personally love the Lakewood Theater and would love to see it stay a theater.”
DiGaetano also made a point of addressing what seems to be the biggest concern of neighbors and preservationists: the colorful tower. “If anything came to fruition, we wouldn’t touch the marquee or the tower.” Jump to read more!
The concern over the theater, built in 1938, exists because it has no official historic designation (in other words, protection from demolition) on either a national or local level. The closest thing the Lakewood Theater has to historic designation is its inclusion in a Planned Development District, encompassing the shopping center and some space near it. But that protection is both minimal and totally voluntary.
Community interest has been high in this ongoing situation. For example, the “Save the Lakewood Theater” Facebook page, which was created Nov. 7, has almost 5,700 “likes,” and although the moderator has been MIA since Nov. 11, concerned neighbors have been posting updates, concerns, and rumors.
The theater offers about 11,000 square feet and it could be divided into three or four movie rooms, with the downstairs bar renovated for a kitchen, which would make it similar to other Alamo Drafthouse locations.
But the Alamo is not a shoo-in: Kinney is still talking with restaurateurs about the property. Then there’s the business with the Balcony Club closing (again), and uncertainty of whether they will stay in that space (which Kinney said he wants), or if it will become available to new tenants. That could be part of a development plan, as well.
So stay tuned and we will continue to cover this important story for the East Dallas community as the current tenant’s lease expires next week, and plans solidify for a new occupant to this funky theater, one of Dallas’ sole remaining single-screen movie palaces and a cherished part of the neighborhood.