Although it may be closed for the time being, the River Oaks Theatre and its illustrious history in the city of Houston will still be celebrated when the theater turns 83 years old on Nov. 20, and the public is invited to help celebrate.

The party is being organized by the Friends of River Oaks Theatre, a group formed after the theater was closed during the coronavirus pandemic to fight to keep it from being demolished.

"Over these many years it's been a lot of different things to people, from the cultural aspect to the entertainment aspect, to the aspect of getting together with likeminded friends to watch films together," said Cynthia Neely, one of several co-founders of Friends of River Oaks Theatre. "We just want to see that continue, and to see that continue in its historic architectural form."

The event will run from 7:30-9 p.m. at 2009 West Gray St., Houston. Prior to the event, Friends of River Oaks Theatre solicited feedback from the public for film clips from movies people saw at the theater that left an impression on them. Those clips will be compiled into a clip reel and projected at the party from the Houston History Bus, Neely said. Houston City Council Member Abbie Kamin is also expected to make a proclamation recognizing the theater's birthday.

River Oaks Theatre, which opened in 1939, is known for its art deco architecture and for showing a wide variety of films, including independent and foreign films, over its long tenure in Houston. Houston native directors Richard Linklater and Wes Anderson have lent their voices in support of keeping the theater alive.

The fate of the theater is still up in the air, with owner Kimco Realty negotiating with possible future tenants. Friends of River Oaks Theatre is among the groups vying for the lease and has created a business plan that has been passed on to Kimco, Neely said.

"We have complete faith in our ability to run and operate the theater as a nonprofit," she said. "It has the potential to be magnificent, to return to what we want it to be plus the addition of live art events."

Above all else, Neely said the group's goal is to preserve the building and its use as a movie theater. Even if they do not get the lease, she said the group—which operates as a nonprofit and is in the process of getting its official designation—would continue to work to help make the theater a success however it can.

"We call it the church of film because it provided so many different things to nourish our souls," Neely said. "It’s more than just a building. It’s very important to the community and a part of us."

Since the theater remains closed, the event will take place outside, behind the theater. Guests are encouraged to patronize nearby businesses in the River Oaks District for food and beverages, Neely said.

Learn more about Friends of River Oaks Theatre here.