Star Cinema Grill to Operate Houston’s Historic River Oaks Theater, With Plans to Preserve Its Legacy

River Oaks Theater
The River Oaks Theater (Photo Credit: Corey Watson)

Kimco Realty has signed a lease agreement with River Oaks Theater, Inc., an affiliate of dine-in theater exhibitor Star Cinema Grill, to operate the historic River Oaks Theater in Houston, Texas, it was announced Wednesday (February 2).

Kimco Realty plans to preserve its history and Art Deco design, as well as its name, “while also enhancing the cinema experience with a focus on unmatched hospitality, high-quality food and beverages, flawless presentation, and other cutting-edge theater amenities,” according to a press release. River Oaks will operate as an arthouse cinema while “paying homage” to its history with classic features including The Rocky Horror Picture Show and hosting various film festivals.

The lease agreement follows Kimco’s acquisition of the River Oaks Shopping Center in August 2021, which resulted from the company’s merger with Weingarten Realty. In addition to the River Oaks Theater, Kimco “is crafting a long-term vision” for the shopping center “that will restore its place as a beloved and celebrated Houston destination for shopping, dining, and entertainment,” as stated in the release.

“We are excited about our relationship with Kimco and the many other new partnerships that will play a vital role in the long-term success of the River Oaks Theater,” said Omar Khan, president and CEO of River Oaks Theater, in a statement. “Being a part of the Houston community is something we take great pride in, and as the only locally owned and operated movie theater group, we feel very fortunate to further expand our roots within our hometown.”

“We are thrilled to have found an operator who shares our passion for the history of this theater, appreciates our vision for this shopping center, and truly understands the River Oaks community and the desires of its residents,” said Andrew Bell, vice president of leasing for Kimco Realty. “This deal is a building block for the ongoing evolution of the River Oaks Shopping Center. We are incredibly pleased with the progress we’ve made to date, and we look forward to continuing our relationship with the City of Houston and the community of River Oaks as we invest in and reposition this flagship asset for future generations of Houstonians.”

“The River Oaks Theater is a historical and cultural pillar in the city of Houston. We are pleased and grateful that with the help of the city, all parties were able to come together to ensure Houstonians will once again have their favorite and most treasured theater back open soon,” added Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner. “I thank Kimco, Omar Khan, Friends of the River Oaks Theater and all the cinema lovers for coming together to save this cherished landmark.”

Maureen McNamara, community member and Friends of the River Oaks Theater spokesperson, added, “After a solid year’s effort to save this architectural and cultural landmark, our community-based nonprofit group, Friends of the River Oaks Theater, is eager to assist Kimco and the new River Oaks Theater team in preserving the theater’s value to the Houston arts community. This is a gift to Houston’s cultural center, and as true friends of the theater, we are in this for the long haul.  We look forward to applying our knowledge of the film community and of historic and independent cinemas to collaborate with all involved on our shared vision for the theater’s bright future.”

“So many of us grew up watching timeless films at the River Oaks Theater – it’s the last of its kind in Houston,” stated Houston City Council Member Abbie Kamin. “A lot went into ensuring the preservation of the theater for future generations. From the unwavering commitment of residents, the organizing of Friends of River Oaks Theater, to Mayor Turner’s involvement and support of our efforts. We have a committed partner in Kimco who sees the theater for what it is – a historic treasure that will inspire Houstonians for years to come.”

River Oaks Theater
The River Oaks Theater (Photo Credit: Corey Watson)

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