Lakewood Theater rips out chairs and gives them away

A small crowd waited to claim the chairs being ripped out of the Lakewood Theater on Aug. 20. (Photo by Emily Charrier)
A small crowd waited to claim the chairs being ripped out of the Lakewood Theater on Aug. 20. (Photo by Emily Charrier)

About a dozen history and cinema buffs crowded outside the side door of the iconic Lakewood Theater as a crew of workers systematically ripped out all of the classic red chairs Thursday afternoon. The fully intact chairs were given to whoever showed up and wanted one.

No one from the theater was seemingly on site, but Robert Wilonsky reported that the chairs were removed to abate asbestos after speaking to property owner Craig Kinney.

Those waiting outside said they learned the chairs would be up for grabs on Facebook.

“My husband sent me down as soon as he saw it,” said East Dallas neighbor Stephani Vouras, explaining that he husband plans to showcase them at his Main Street restaurant, Metropolitan Café.

The future of the storied theater remains unclear. While the Austin-based Alamo Drafthouse expressed great interest in leasing the space and keeping it as a movie theater, it would need around 150 parking spots to make that happen. So far, the parking predicament has not been solved, leaving the property in limbo.

“Anybody in the neighborhood knows that, even now with the theater shut down, parking over there is not good at all,” Bill DiGaetano, DFW COO of the Alamo Drafthouse, told the Advocate in May. “It’s an issue whether Alamo comes in or whether two or three restaurants come in.”

David Preziosi of Preservation Dallas, who is spearheading a neighborhood effort to keep the theater intact, wasn’t hopeful the Alamo Drafthouse deal would come through.

“I don’t think that parking issue will get resolved,” he says. “We would like to see it operate as a theater again of some sort, either for movies or live performances.”

Kinney has also expressed his desire to see the space operate as a theater again, but has also said he’s considering retail and restaurant tenants.

Built in 1938, the Lakewood Theater has stood as the colorful anchor for the shopping center for decades. It has never been declared a historic landmark, Preziosi says, meaning the building can be drastically altered or even torn down.

“Currently, the building is not protected,” he says, explaining that his group has asked the owners to consider a landmark status, but so far nothing has happened. Without Kinney’s blessing, it is unlikely the theater could achieve landmark status.

“There are only three buildings in Dallas that have ever become landmarks without the owner’s approval,” he explains.

The Advocate attempted to reach Kinney and City Councilman Philip Kingston on this story. We’ll update it when we know more.

Crews ripping seats out of the historic Lakewood Theater passed the useable chairs to the waiting crowd. (Photo by Emily Charrier)
Crews ripping seats out of the historic Lakewood Theater passed the useable chairs to the waiting crowd. (Photo by Emily Charrier)

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