By Chris Lane
By Jeff Balke
By Aaron Reiss
By Angelica Leicht
By Dianna Wray
By Aaron Reiss
By Camilo Smith
By Craig Malisow
So it's come to this: the fate of the River Oaks is in the hands of someone who can put the words "upscale" and "dinner theater" together while keeping a straight face.
Fortunately, a whole army of people has risen up to fight the possible closing. Unfortunately, the script is playing out true to form.
This is Houston. These things go one way, and one way only:
1) Developer threatens beloved landmark.
2) Citizens arise.
3) Citizens and developer meet and "have a dialogue" to find common ground.
4) The bulldozers come.
We're clearly in Phase Three of this tale, if you listen to Sarah Gish, the former River Oaks manager and foreign-film cineaste who has been leading the protests. She uses the word "dialogue" and touches all the achingly hopeful bases: "We want to work WITH Weingarten so that they can come up with a solution that is agreeable to all," she says by e-mail. "We are on hiatus until January, but are still working behind the scenes on plans for saving both theater sites (which I don't want to say yet, since they are still in development), which includes hopes for meeting with Weingarten."
Man, we really want Gish's group to succeed. (Although not necessarily if it includes an upscale dinner theater. Some sacrifices are not worth it.)
But when a developer starts throwing up his hands and saying, "I owe it to the stockholders," you're in trouble. And dialogue is only staving off the inevitable.
Of course, since this involves the movies, there's always the chance that Gish and Alexander will cross swords at the negotiating table, scream at each other and shoot daggers with their eyes...right up until he decides he likes that gal's spunk.
While his stockholders clamor for higher returns and his underlings wonder what's gone wrong with him, Alexander tries to win Gish's heart by flying through every Truffaut and Jean-Luc Godard movie he can find on Netflix. He tears up at The 400 Blows. He decides the original Breathless is better than the Richard Gere remake.
He gets ready to ask Gish to help him save the theater instead of tearing it down. Together they can make it a Cinema Paradiso right there on Gray.
Then he remembers it's Houston, he can get away with anything and preservation is for losers.
And Houston gets another Banana Republic. And a potential Turkey of the Year for 2007.