Dallas movie theaters & controversy in the 60s and 70s

This post from the WFAA Newsfilm Collection is a series of clips about old movie theaters in Dallas during the sixties and seventies, which were dealing with controversial political and cultural subjects in the community at this time.

The first clip is a piece from November 20, 1970 and features moviegoers exiting The Palace Theatre after a screening of the film Flap.  The film, starring Anthony Quinn and Shelley Winters, is a comedy about the plight of Native Americans living on reservations.  Given the controversial nature of this kind of film, WFAA interviewed the head of the Indian Council and others from the community to get their reactions to the film.

This video also contains one of the last “curtain calls” (opening the curtains over the opening logo of a movie) to ever occur at this theater.  After almost 50 years of operation, this theater would close forever less than two weeks after this piece aired.  Veteran Dallas Morning News movie critic, Philip Wuntch called this a three-fold waste saying that it was “A saddening throwaway of a good theater, a good cast and probable good intentions.”

The next clip, dated April 26, 1969, features protesters outside The Rex Theatre on Jefferson Blvd. in Oak Cliff.  The Rex, along with The Crescent and The Capri, were targets of protests by several local church groups of the time, led by Rev. Donald Skelton of the Cathedral of Compassion.  These 30 or 40 protestors gathered on several Saturdays between these three theatres (and local “adult” bookstores) in an effort to effect a moral change in the community.  In the following months, these groups attempted to sway the opinion of the Dallas’ Motion Picture Classification Board, which concluded the Board had no legal recourse in stopping these “adult” films as a result of recent federal rulings.

Once named the Rosewin Theatre, The Rex opened its doors in April 1964, showing exclusively arthouse films.  When that proved financially unsustainable, the Theatre converted to “Adults Only” hardcore programming.  Raided for obscenity in 1968 (a year prior to the clip’s protests), the Rex ultimately switched over to softcore films in 1973, fearing retribution from the newly empowered states, before closing its doors shortly thereafter.

Finally, we have a clip filmed outside of the Majestic Theatre in which the reporter discusses Dallas’ Motion Picture Classification Board and their role in rating movies in the wake of a state law that removed obscenity as a means of classifying movies.  The reporter then interviewed the chairman of the MPCB, John Gillaland, who said that they would continue to use other criteria in which to classify films that will still keep kids out of “dirty movies.”

[wpvideo cSGAfpRf]

Thank you to Jeremy Spracklen, Moving Image Curator, Hamon for this post, and to Adam Martin at www.cinematour.com for help on identifying the Rex Theatre.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *