Bud Kennedy

Downtown’s hidden theater awaits a restoration angel

In 1952, the Hollywood Theater greeted Christmas shoppers at the gateway to downtown’s West Seventh Street “Show Row.”
In 1952, the Hollywood Theater greeted Christmas shoppers at the gateway to downtown’s West Seventh Street “Show Row.” University of Texas at Arlington Libraries

The last outpost of downtown Fort Worth’s movie house “Show Row” may yet make a comeback.

But the new owners of the Hollywood Theater, closed 40 years, are not yet ready to say much about plans to lease the space for potential restoration to its 1930s showbiz glory.

Another hint of the Hollywood’s possible return appeared this week, when the unsigned social media account Urban Fort Worth posted photos of the theater’s dusty remnants.

The theater is next door to the Historic Electric Building Apartments on West Seventh Street. The lobby and facade were converted to retail space in 1979, and the lower floor was paved for apartment parking.

But the top half of the theater remains: two upper balconies, the upper concourse and most of the decorated screen.

The new Houston-based owner, Tradewind Properties, is advertising the space for lease. Property manager Amber Frisbie said Thursday that the idea is “very preliminary” and Tradewind President James Rastello isn’t ready to discuss it.

When Tradewind bought the Historic Electric Building Apartments last year, Rastello said the theater “is still breathtaking and much of the historic character and ornamentation is intact and well-preserved. … We believe the theater has the potential to be restored to resemble its original state and to become an extremely unique entertainment venue that reminisces 1920s Fort Worth.”

Fort Worth architect Ames Fender knows what’s inside. He worked on a previous redo.

Restoring it “was the hope all along,” he said Thursday — “But I think the reality is, what can go there, and who would go in and run it?”

The restored Ridglea Theater in west Fort Worth has had hit-or-miss success, and the Live Oak music hall near West Magnolia Avenue recently announced that it’s moving to Arlington.

The Haltom Theater on East Belknap Street and the New Isis in the Stockyards await a restoration angel. Same for the Berry in south Fort Worth.

In 1930, the Hollywood opened with the Frank Capra movie “Flight.” In 1940, crowds lined up around the block there to see “Gone With the Wind.”

In 1964, future Star-Telegram columnist Bob Ray Sanders, then 17, stood in line to become the first African-American patron the day after the signing of the Civil Rights Act.

The Hollywood was the last “Show Row” theater on Seventh Street, outlasting the Worth (1971) and the Palace (1974).

But all that was an awfully long time ago.

Bud Kennedy: 817-390-7538, bud@star-telegram.com, @BudKennedy. His column appears Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays.