Anticipation continues to mount for the reopening of the historic Heights Theater, as construction on the interior of the building has finally begun.
The Leader first broke the news last year that the theater, which first opened its doors in 1929, has been bought by Edwin Cabaniss, the owner of the Kessler Theater in Dallas. The building itself has remained in the hands of local owners Gus and Sharon Kopriva; however the venue will be getting new life under its new proprietor.
According to Cabaniss, the theater is safe from distortion or removal, and is about to assume its rightful position as the cultural heart of the Heights. The venue occupies about 7,000 square feet, and will open this summer as a 300- to 700-seat flexible entertainment facility complete with a historically reconstructed balcony.
This is not Cabaniss’ first rodeo. He identifies himself as a preservationist and owns the old, renovated Kessler Theater in Dallas. The renovation there has been successful at breathing life back into that diamond as well as its surrounding community. As with the Kessler, Cabannis plans to offer live concerts, as well as independent films and community events.
“I understand the role that an old theater like the Heights Theater plays in a community, not only historically, but also in the future,” Cabaniss told The Leader. “Right now, 19th Street largely closes down at night. We operate from about 7 to 11pm. I think we will see the addition of more activity and nightlife to the street when we open.”
Cabaniss, who has a family in Dallas, wisely recruited a “dude on the ground” here. Mark Austin is a Houstonian and a band promoter who knows the music industry very well.
“I have been working with The Kessler for some time, and know what a great track record it has,” Austin said. “These type of theaters offer a unique product and when I discovered Houston was getting a sister club to The Kessler, I was thrilled.”
As an industry professional, Austin is also happy to report that the Heights Theater is a music space designed for listening to music. Drunkenness, and loud talking will not be tolerated.
“I know we all live in our cars here, and its nice to meet up and talk to our friends; however, people who want to talk during our shows will be asked to leave,” Austin explained.
One measure of excitement from local residents has been the theater’s Facebook page which has 3,000 followers.
When will it open? Phase One consisted of jumping through local, and federal hoops, as well as the historical preservation requirements. Now complete, construction of the interior has begun.
“We expect this phase to take four or five months, and to open in early summer” said Cabaniss, “We are taking our time to do everything well. After all, we are not interested in being a part of the Heights for years, but rather, decades.”
While the theater will host national acts, some of whom have not played in Houston due to the lack of a venue, it will also offer local and regional talent.
“I will say I am surprised by how very deep the bench of talent is in the musical community here,” he said. “Houston has wonderful talent at the street level. It’s pretty amazing and we feel really good about it.”