A lot of people didn't think Sarah Gish would get far when she formed a group to save the River Oaks movie theater, but the theater is still standing.
Still threatened, sure; saved mostly by a slow economy, probably, but in Houston you take what preservation victories you can get for however long you can.
Gish is marshaling her forces once again, this time to preserve the interior of the Alabama Theater, for years a Bookstop and now under threat of becoming a Staples store with its Art Deco insides gutted.
"It has not been confirmed publicly that the theater is being gutted nor that Staples is moving in - but what I do know is that the public feels very strongly about the Alabama Theater as an historic icon in our city and as a communal gathering spot and a site of beauty, both on the interior and exterior," Gish says.
She says Staples could use the space in unique ways:
Creatively using the interior space could in fact be a jumping-off point for a completely new and innovative ways of doing business. We have heard that Staples, Inc. may move in - what about re-using the interior so that Staples could host arts events? I would definitely attend a poetry reading in an office supply store, but then again, I'm a sucker for unique culture!
Unfortunately, Staples is a sucker for empty big-box retail space that moves highlighters, steno pads and cartridge ink with the lease hassle.
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Weingarten Realty, which owns the theater, says no definitive plans have been made for its use. But leaks of plans that show the sloping theater floor being paved over have left Alabama fans wary.
What should they do? Says Gish:
I am asking you to write Weingarten Realty Investors and Staples, Inc. to let them know that you care about the interior of the Alabama Theater. A brief note will do, but remember to be polite. Anger does not create long-term changes - it only incites short-term ones. Having "good manners" will give your letter a better chance of being read.
And, in the end, I hope that both Staples and Weingarten will listen to us and will realize that we want to preserve the historic interior of the theater.
No word yet on whether the new group plans to reproduce the iconic, almost-prize-winning photo of Carolyn Farb leading a group of candle-holding protesters under the marquee.