Some thought it would never happen, but after two years, the historic Lakewood Theatre is back in business. Last month, the theater owners and operator celebrated with a grand re-opening Halloween party for the community.

“The theater is in great shape. It’s beautiful,” says operator Keith McKeague, who formerly owned and managed the Granada Movie Grill on Lower Greenville.

The nearly 60-year-old Lakewood, located at 1825 Abrams, will be used mostly for special events, community meetings, concerts and movies, McKeague says. McKeague is booking Christmas parties and already has received reservations for events in April 1997, he says.

“We want to become a neighborhood kind of place,” McKeague says.

The neighborhood is excited, says Susan Falvo, the president of the Lakewood Homeowners Association.

“I think in a community, you have to have a good balance between retail and commercial,” Falvo says. “The theater is going to drive that retail center.”

Theater owners Mark Miranda and Jim Christon are hoping the Lakewood will breathe new life into the retail strip it occupies, which they also own.

A restaurant space next to the theater has been vacant for several years, but Miranda says a handful of interested parties have approached him.

Miranda says he wants to bring in a restaurant specializing in food not already available in the immediate area, such as a barbecue or hamburger establishment.

Matt’s Rancho Martinez Mexican Food Restaurant and the Balcony Club atop the theater will stay in the strip, Miranda says.

“I picture this as a mini, mini, mini West End or Deep Ellum – a one-stop entertainment complex,” Miranda says.

But one obstacle the owners face is the limited parking near the strip. The entire shopping complex at Gaston and Abrams has about 180 spaces, Miranda says.

But McKeague says parking wasn’t a problem during a country western concert held at the theater last month, which attracted about 500 people.

McKeague received permission to use the Faulkner Tower parking lot on Paulus for valet service. He is also working with nearby Fidelity Bank to use that parking lot and plans to talk to Lakewood Library and CB Commercial, which operates the First Interstate Bank parking lot and garage on Alderson.

“Parking is not abundant, but there is more parking in a one-block radius than people think,” McKeague says. “I’m hoping in the true spirit of making the Lakewood successful – which I think makes everyone successful – we can all work together on the parking situation.”

Currently, McKeague has no plans to make any structural changes to the theater, he says. To make changes, McKeague must receive permission from Miranda and Christon under the terms of his lease. The inside murals, tower and marquee will remain regardless of what renovations are approved, Miranda says.

“We’ve discussed the cinema and grill concept with tables and chairs, but I’m not planning on doing that right now,” says McKeague, referring to similar renovations he made at the Granada. “That’s not to say it won’t be the case in the future.”

Miranda says the Lakewood’s lobby is large enough to offer a food and bar service without having to change the theater seating.

Miranda, Christon and McKeague are all neighborhood residents. Miranda grew up on La Vista and attended St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic School. Christon graduated from Woodrow Wilson High School.