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FEATURE-Oswald's arrest breathes life into Texas Theater

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  • Lou
    Lou has sent you this article from PRIMEDIA Business s WirelessReview.com (http://www.wirelessreview.com/microsites/index.asp?SrID=11393&MagazineID=9&SiteID=3)
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 24, 2003
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      Lou has sent you this article from PRIMEDIA Business's WirelessReview.com (http://www.wirelessreview.com/microsites/index.asp?SrID=11393&MagazineID=9&SiteID=3)


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      FEATURE-Oswald's arrest breathes life into Texas Theater
      http://www.wirelessreview.com/microsites/newsarticle.asp?newsarticleid=2645163&srid=11393&pageid=5969&Siteid=3&magazineid=9

      Reuters, Aug 23, 2002, 12:00 a.m. ET

      By Jon Herskovitz


      DALLAS, Aug 23 (Reuters) - Built by billionaire Howard
      Hughes, the Texas Theater opened in 1931 as a cinema palace
      showing the city's first talking pictures. Over the years it
      showed thousands of movies before it was devastated by fire
      seven years ago.


      Now a development group plans to restore it and use as a
      selling point an incident that occurred not on screen but in
      real life -- the Nov. 22, 1963, assassination of President John
      F. Kennedy and how it spilled over into the Texas Theater.


      Kennedy's killer, Lee Harvey Oswald, was caught in the
      theater. He sought refuge there after shooting Dallas police
      officer J.D. Tippit to death following the Kennedy
      assassination.


      The legacy of that day is being used to promote the
      rebuilding of the theater and raise funds to restore it to how
      it looked when police stormed the movie house to arrest one of
      the most enigmatic figures in modern American history.


      "The Oswald angle helps a lot because it is a major part of
      this theater's history," said Danelle Smith, the executive
      director of the Oak Cliff Foundation, the group in charge of
      the restoration.


      In 2001, the Dallas City Council awarded the group $1.6
      million in U.S. Department of Urban Development funding to
      purchase and renovate the theater.


      The Texas Theater has been closed since 1995 when a fire
      ripped through a section of the historic landmark, but next
      year it will open again thanks to the restoration that started
      a few weeks ago.


      The theater's stucco is crumbling, a large area behind the
      screen is scarred by smoke damage and its elaborate stone floor
      design is covered in a thick layer of dust and grime.


      Its trademark, curved, vertical marquis, which spells out
      "TEXAS" with letters written in stars is missing the letter
      "E".


      MUSICALS AND THEN OSWALD


      In the first phase of restoration, the group will rebuild
      the theater and adapt it to stage musicals for the Dallas
      Summer Musicals group.


      After the first stage is complete, the Oak Cliff Foundation
      aims to raise another $4 million to restore the interior to its
      original 1931 appearance and its exterior to look as it did
      when Oswald was arrested there in 1963.


      They also plan an exhibit depicting Oswald's arrest at the
      theater and make it another site in a major part of the Dallas
      tourist trade centering around the Kennedy assassination.


      The foundation aims to add a cultural venue to the area and
      reverse a slow, downward spiral of drug related crimes and gang
      warfare. Oak Cliff has seen a turnaround in recent years as a
      small district with boutiques and trendy restaurants has opened
      and several of its historic homes have been restored.


      "If the project is successful, it will mean more people
      coming to the area with the theater serving as an anchor in the
      revitalization," she said. "The tourist market will be gravy."


      WHO DONE IT


      Although conspiracy theorists have many explanations about
      how Oswald was captured in the theater, the standard history
      finds Oswald escaping from the Texas School Book Depository
      after gunning down Kennedy and heading to his boarding home in
      the Oak Cliff neighborhood.


      Word goes out over police radio that Officer Tippit is
      gunned down in Oak Cliff and police head to the theater on a
      tip that the gunman has entered the Texas Theater without
      purchasing a ticket.


      Oswald is seen by the dozen or so patrons in the theater
      switching seats as the movie "War is Hell" starts to play. The
      lights go up as police descend on the theater's main floor.


      Oswald apparently raises his pistol to shoot at one of the
      officers, and some witnesses say it misfired. A scuffle ensues
      as police pounce on Oswald and arrest him for gunning down
      Tippit. He is later charged with killing Kennedy.


      The theater's owners decided in 1965 to completely renovate
      the theater "to cover the stigma of the event," said Smith. The
      chair in which Oswald was sitting when he was arrested is
      removed to make way for a new projection room -- and the seat's
      whereabouts are now unknown.


      The theater remained profitable until the mid-1970s but
      went into decline along with the neighborhood. It was closed
      for the first time in 1989 until the Texas Theater Historical
      Society purchased it 1990, only to shut it down a year later.


      In 1991, film maker Oliver Stone spent $10,000 to refurbish
      the exterior of the theater to shoot scenes for his Kennedy
      assassination movie "JFK" in what amounted to the only
      significant renovation project since 1965. The theater was shut
      for a third time in 1995 when a fire ripped through the movie
      screen area.


      Jeff West, the executive director of "The Sixth Floor
      Museum" located in the building from which Oswald shot Kennedy,
      said his organization would like to work with the Texas Theater
      to install informational panels and a video display in the
      theater to recount the history of Oswald's arrest.


      He said the fascination with Kennedy and the fateful day in
      Dallas is strong, with almost a half million people a year
      visiting the Sixth Floor Museum -- two-thirds of whom were born
      after the assassination.


      As a theater with links to a presidential assassination,
      the Texas is not of course alone. Ford's Theatre in Washington,
      D.C., where Abraham Lincoln was shot in 1865, now serves as a
      cultural venue and national historic site where visitors can
      relive the night of the president's assassination. Ford's is
      also being restored.
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