Dallas was a growing city of over 250,000 people. The East Dallas neighborhood of Lakewood, bordering White Rock Lake, was developing into one of the city’s most beautiful places to live. The Lakewood Shopping Center was the community’s focus. And so Karl Hoblitzelle’s Interstate Theater chain hired noted architect John Eberson to create the Lakewood Theater — promoting their latest addition with “coming attractions” film clips like this one at right, showing them at their Palace Theater and elsewhere.
The opening-day movie on October 27, 1938: “Love Finds Andy Hardy” with the irrepressable Mickey Rooney and the fast-rising singing sensation Judy Garland. The admission price? 15 cents. And popcorn? Just 25 cents.
And for the next 60+ years the Lakewood theater has stood as a beacon — both literally and figuratively — in the East Dallas landscape. Families paid regular visits. Kids knew that when the lighted ball at the top of the tower was extinguished, that meant Mom’s 10 p.m. curfew time had arrived
While initially a “second-run” theater — repeating popular films after they had first been shown at the prestigious downtown theaters — the Lakewood was eventually upgraded into a first-run house, hosting the Dallas premieres of such artsy films as “Belle du Jour,” “The Fox,” “The Legend of Lylah Clare” and “The Killing of Sister George.”
Even as the neighboorhood expanded, the Lakewood’s 100-foot red, green, and blue Art Deco tower remained Even as the neighboorhood expanded, the Lakewood’s 100-foot red, green, and blue Art Deco tower remained visible for miles, serving as one of the backdrops of everyday life in East Dallas. By the 1970s the Lakewood evolved into a successful discount theater, setting attendance records at $1 per person for such films as “Earthquake.”
In the 1980s old movie palaces across the country were facing an uncertain future. But the Lakewood was lucky, being purchased by individuals who cared about maintaining its heritage and style. They made improvements like retrofitting a 1927 Robert Morton pipe organ into the space. They promoted vintage films and community events. Even so, after a final revival screening of “The African Queen” the theater went dark for several years. But further changes in management and renewed community appreciation brought the Lakewood back to life once again – this time for good.
The theater is now Dallas’ sole remaining single-screen movie palace in anything resembling its original condition. Still showing films, still entertaining audiences, the Lakewood now draws audiences from a wider geographical area, to watch a wider variety of entertainment choices than ever before.