Little Scene: Sinking In – The Imminent Doom of the Ridglea Theater

Originally posted on Facebook 07/17/2010

If it was possible for a nine, almost ten year old to have a heart attack, that would have been the moment. Nestled into my seat in the front row of a movie theater balcony, the Wampa Creature had just come out of nowhere to attack an unsuspecting Luke Skywalker and his trusty Tauntaun. It was early in the month of June, 1980, and I was finally seeing The Empire Strikes Back. Little did I know it would be my all-time favorite movie, and decades later the theater I was sitting in would be in jeopardy of becoming a bank.

I’ve thought about this for a few days. And I can easily admit (as many of us who are up in arms upon hearing of the probable demise of Fort Worth’s landmark theater can too), I haven’t really supported the Ridglea in many years. Sure there have been the occasional big indie rock or Toadies shows, but honestly, there hasn’t been much to get me in the doors. Therefore I’m not wholly at fault – I like metal, just not THAT much.

I think the main thing people are upset with – outside of the metal community – is that they, too, have always felt there was an untapped potential for the theater. This should have been the second coming of Dallas’ beloved Arcadia Theater. But alas, it wasn’t. Stripped of its majesty and grandeur,the Ridglea has deteriorated into a glorified Joe’s Garage with poorer sound and acoustics. It seemed to be, in later years, all metal all the time, with massive multi-act tours roaring through, and even more massive multi-act local shows, sometimes with even up to 8-10 acts playing in a single night. Which was kind of the problem.

This theater was not built to serve as a live music nightclub, and should never have been utilized in such a manner. A sizable 1200 capacity theater does not need to be open every night, or even most nights. (Early on, the upstairs bar was used for acoustic performances on off nights.) A room such as this should have been reserved for larger shows deserving of a space that size. 6-8 shows per month, roadshows and larger, deserving locals who could do the room justice. Otherwise, it was no more than a giant cavern.

Please, do not get me wrong, I lament in the future for the loss of a venue that rightfully should have rivaled Caravan of Dreams for its legend. I am saddened that the potential cannot be fulfilled in a beautiful old theater, and will now become a soulless corporate bank space.

Although, the blow has possibly been softened.

Those attending the Dawes/Telegraph Canyon show at Casa Manana got some potentially great news before the show. It seems the Casa space might begin hosting more concerts in the future. It might not hold 1200, (or host shows weekly or even monthly) but the word at the theater the other night was it could host 900. Comfortably. This could be exciting news.

What does this mean for Fort Worth? It appears we just might have a new concert destination near 7th St. It means we might have a very comfortable viable venue for the occasional show. All seated, and every one of those seats is close.

Unfortunately, this news most likely won’t fare well for the metal community. They will lose a giant home in Fort Worth, as I cannot see Casa Manana hosting the Summer Slaughter tour 2011 (for example). Is there a home for metal in Fort Worth, or will it lick its wounds and find another host? Maybe our friends at Birth School Metal Death have an answer or suggestion. Only time will tell.

In the mean time, I just might rest a little easier with the demise of the Ridglea and its current entity. I’ll miss you, just maybe not as much as I would have.

And I certainly promise not to bank with you.

~ by thesynaptic on August 8, 2010.

One Response to “Little Scene: Sinking In – The Imminent Doom of the Ridglea Theater”

  1. Some good points here and nicely written! 🙂

    Randy, with respect, I’d add it’s important to note had it NOT been for Richard Van Zandt and Wesley Hathaway, the Ridglea would have suffered this dilemma much earlier. I can’t think of another couple who love music and the fans with as much sincerity. As you know, they are supercool science nerds, honest business people, and have uniquely managed to run a long-time, recognized rock venue with down-to-earth mom-and-pop virtues.

    Since they do not own the building in which they operate their business (and are still booking shows according to the year-long duration of their legally binding, spring leasing contract), the sale of the building has more to do with the actual owner finally locating a buyer than the lack of support from the theater’s ticket sales. So it’s not your fault or mine or anyone else’s. The theater *should* have received historical designation. The previous owner failed to do that, which leaves a BOA purchase and remodel wide open.

    As an update, there was a FTW city council meeting week before last, and folks from all over north Texas who are concerned about preserving and restoring the heritage of the Ridglea were present.

    Thanks for sharing your reviews, et al, in your other articles, too, btw.

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