History of The Granada Theater
Built by Phil Isley in 1946, the Granada Theater opened during the Golden Age of Hollywood as a 700-seat first run movie house. During that year the theater probably premiered James Stewart’s Oscar nominated performance in It’s a Wonderful Life. Over that era the theater would have screened Marlon Brando in Streetcar Named Desire (1951) and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (‘58) alongside Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday (‘53) and My Fair Lady (‘64). Whatever you favorites, this period produced landmark films, not to mention musicals, which are generally regarded as “The Classics”.
Those “Glamour Days of Hollywood” were also defined by the ear of Art Deco design-The Granada is a classic example. The exterior was designed for function with rounded corners, stepped forms and linear accents that echoed industrialized, streamlined designs of modern machinery, like automobiles. The interior decor employs the influence of ancient cultures. The murals were designed by the artist(s) who also did Los Angeles’ famous Grauman’s Chinese Theater. These grand scale murals depict different genres of film with the ceiling feature depicting a mythological “film goddess” looking over a reel of film. Fitting, since the Greeks gave us theater. The sunburst crowing the goddess and the curved plaster moldings lining the sidewalls point to another Deco theme – designs taken from nature. The neighborhood theater was family friendly providing soundproof rooms available for mothers. Archives stated the theater was predominantly dark red and the original front doors were made of wood.
United Artists acquired the theater sometime in the 60’s as the Golden Age and Glamour Days gave way to new realities. These realities were reflected in equally important films, like To Kill a Mockingbird (‘62) and Dr. Strangelove (‘64). Films were now a more exploratory medium for cultural issues vs. films controlled by powerful studios. Marlon Brando now appeared in a groundbreaking film called The Godfather (‘72). So too did the function of theaters, including the Granada, undergo changes. Theaters were now viewed as multi-cultural, multi-functional spaces, heavily influenced by The Fillmore in San Francisco and the anti-war Hippie phenomenon nationwide. By 1974, The Granada is deemed “a revival film house”.
All that changed in 1977, when United Artists sub-leased the theater to John Carruth, a guitar shop owner who turned the theater into a music hall. Carruth extended the stage and added lighting and sound systems. Storerooms behind the screens changed into dressing rooms. The concession stand now served drinks and the Crying Room turned into a private party zone. Muddy Waters, Kenny Rogers and the Allman Brothers played to a 650-seat crowd. The Granada’s first run as a music venue was short lived as the theater reverted to showing cult and classic films by 1978.
Louis Stool acquired the theater sometime in the early 80s and made small improvements, including murals in the lobby pained by James Franklin in 1981. After sub-leasing to Movie Inc., out of California, Bill Neal acquired management and booked the eclectic double features that The Granada was known for through the late 1980’s. Loyal patrons drove from Ft. Worth and Dallas area suburbs to pick up new schedules. Favorites included Casablanca (‘43), The Wizard of Oz (‘39) and Harold and Maude (‘71). The loud and luscious Rocky Horror Picture Show (‘75), reigned Saturday’s at midnight. Alas, art fell victim to “it’s just business” when Stool exercised his right to buy back the lease on the theater. Vincent Price helped nail the coffin as the final celebrity appearance, promoting The Tingler (‘86). On Halloween night, while Jamie Lee Curtis set the standard for slasher screams in multiplexes around the city, over 200 loyal patrons staged a candleight vigil in protest of closing their beloved theater to an unknown fate. Neal called the closing, “like a death in the family”.
The last interior overhaul was implemented when John Appleton and Keith McKeague franchised the Atlanta chain Cinema’n’Drafthouse in 1987. Zoning changes, regarding the parking lot, allowed the serving of food and alcoholic beverages. The $250,000.00 to $300,000.00 project included taking out theater seating, terracing the sloping floor and adding tables to the floor plan for food service. The theater was now designed to seat 400-500 movie-goers. They changed the auditorium colors to the present green and gold, preserving and highlighting the details in the original murals. Storerooms behind the concession stand were converted to a kitchen and the stage was again extended, with the ability to add a runway for fashion shows. A 30’ roll up screen was installed along with a Dolby sound system. Greenway Investments Co., a local firm, purchased the theater from foreclosure in the 90’s and remain the owners.
Pat Snuffer, of Snuffer’s – Greenville Avenue fixture and purveyors of fine burgers, assumed the lease in 2001. The architectural features were maintained and the auditorium unchanged. The lobby acquired the Deco use of black decoration. Screenings included Snuffer’s menu and continued full service at seated tables. Bookings had something for everyone from Cowboys games to screenings of “Friends” to occasional movies. Live entertainment acts included Beck, Bob Dylan, Little Feat, Indigo Girls and Ms. Dolly Parton.
On August 18, 2004 The Granada opened under new management of Mike Schoder, owner of the independent CD World stores. A true music fan, Schoder envisioned a better music venue for Dallas. His installation of big-time sound and lighting systems alone help ensure an improved concert experience. A local artist added decorative scrolls to the entrance doors and poster boxes and applied the midas touch to the lobby bar. Special attention was given to the lobby lighting, enlivening the existing murals and decor.