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Alabama Bookstop: Cinematic Once Again (For Now)

Photos by Katharine Shilcutt
​When we heard that there was going to be a happy hour -- a happy hour -- in the old Alabama Bookstop on Monday night, Hair Balls simply had to be there. After all, it's not often you get to visit the emptied husk of your childhood and relive your dying love affair with literature while drinking a cold beer.

The Cinema Arts Society and 29-95.com hosted last night's happy hour in an effort to promote the upcoming Cinema Arts film festival and to encourage Houston residents to maintain and preserve the old structure. The Alabama Bookstop -- now simply the Alabama Theatre once again -- still has the same bright marquee outside, the familiar teal-and-salmon color scheme inside, the elegant murals on the walls and the same old faded carpets. But the cavernous theater now stands almost entirely empty. It's much easier to see now where water damage has taken hold in some areas and where years of deferred maintenance has left its marks.

We remarked to the Chronicle's Dwight Silverman, who was there supporting sister venture 29-95.com, that the place seemed somehow much smaller than before. Without the shelves of books to provide perspective, Silverman noted, it's difficult to gauge the size of the theater.

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While long-term plans for the Alabama Theatre are unclear, you can still visit the old girl in the next few weeks as part of the Houston Cinema Arts Society's 2009 Cinema Arts Festival, which kicks off tomorrow. Sadly, no screenings are taking place in the theater itself (as you can tell from the pictures, there aren't any permanent seats and there's certainly no screen at the front). However, there will be panels and workshops conducted in the space starting this Friday.

​If Houston were to lose the Alabama Theatre just as it's lost so many other pieces of its architectural and cultural history, it would be just one more bookshelf lost in the greater theater of the city -- one less way to keep the enormity of our home and ourselves in perspective. Here's hoping we're able to keep this treasure around and take another step towards becoming stewards of our city, not just tenants.

More photos of the now-gutted theater are in our slideshow.

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