Classic Christmas movies return to Texan Theater


The Texan Theater needs a lot of work, but it’s sturdy enough for a silver screen: the old movie house will come alive for the second time this year during ‘Christmas in Kilgore’ next Saturday, Dec. 16.

Working with downtown merchants, the City of Kilgore and sponsors, the Reel East Texas Film Festival will host a free-admission ‘Classic Christmas Movie Marathon’ in the venue from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. that Saturday.

The lineup includes a series of vintage Christmas films and cartoons, retro black-and-white features and technicolor cinema – family-friendly selections to welcome back past audiences and introduce a new generation to the Texan.

As ‘Jingle All the Way’ runs nearby on North Kilgore Street, the 225 S. Kilgore Street theater will open with “Christmas Spirit” (1956) at 11 a.m. followed by a classically-campy science fiction seasonal selection: “Santa Claus Conquers the Martians” (1964).

“White Christmas” will be back on the big screen at 1 p.m., screened by RETFF through a one-off licensing agreement Swank Motion Pictures.

At 3 p.m., the movie marathon will include an hour of vintage Christmas cartoons followed by the 1955 made-for-TV version of “Miracle on 34th Street” at 4 p.m. The 1935 black-and-white “Scrooge” will begin at 5 p.m. before an encore showing of “White Christmas” at 6 p.m.

With no ticket cost for the come-and-go screenings, Reel East Texas is inviting donations from guests: all will be poured back into the theater, RETFF Director Chip Hale says, hoping initial proceeds will fund one key improvement at the old building, owned by the City of Kilgore.

“All we want for Christmas are four front doors,” he quipped Friday.

During November’s inaugural Reel East Texas Film Festival, the heavy decorative doors of the theater were often pulled open by the wind, Hale noted. Gaps also let in light and sound. Preserving the doors but addressing their faults will bolster the theater a bit more as a viable venue downtown.

“We want to get more foot traffic into the Texan,” Hale said, creating the latest opportunity after the Nov. 16-18 film festival. “People who weren’t able to make it to the festival will get to see the inside of it and see what needs to be done.

“All proceeds people donate as they watch the movies on Saturday will go toward renovations, remodeling, any work we and the city are going to do in there.”

Hopefully, he added, the added free attraction during ‘Christmas in Kilgore’ will draw more visitors to the overall festivities downtown while giving them a chance to both see the work City of Kilgore employees have already put into the building and to see what work remains,

“We want to give people extra incentive to come downtown to do some holiday shopping and dining,” he said. “We’ve been getting positive feedback – it seems there’s a desire from the citizens of Kilgore and the surrounding areas to come inside the Texan and watch a movie.”

More films and events are in the works, Hale added, eager to help the city revitalize the building as a community asset.

“I know the KilGogh Arts Festival wants to host a movie in there,” he added. “We have other events we want to do throughout the year in the Texan – ideally, the goal will be for anyone to make use of it as a venue.”

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