Free films May 24 highlight history

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The Texan Theater is set for a double-feature next week – including its first Western in decades alongside an oilboom classic – as downtown stakeholders invite the community to celebrate National Preservation Month.

The free screenings in the South Kilgore Street venue are set for Thursday evening, May 24, with “Strike It Rich” rolling at 5:30 p.m. followed by “Rio Bravo” (1959) at 7:30 p.m. "Strike It Rich" premiered in Kilgore in 1948 – portions of the film were shot in Kilgore.

Between the two films, the night’s three sponsors – Kilgore Historical Preservation Foundation, Kilgore Main Street Program and Reel East Texas Film Festival – will host a panel of guests to recount their favorite memories of the historic theater. A representative of the Gregg County Historical Commission will also offer a brief update on the organization’s upcoming Historical Resource Survey.

“There’s a lot of people in Kilgore who saw their first movie in the Texan or worked there,” said City of Kilgore Special Event Coordinator Sonya Trout. “There’s a lot of that history there. I think it would be interesting to get people there to tell those stories.”

Open to the public and family-friendly, there is no cost for admission May 24, but the organizers welcome donations: all proceeds benefit the historical preservation foundation and ongoing renovations at both the Texan and the Old Post Office across South Kilgore Street.

Guests are invited to bring dinner to the showings – some downtown restaurants will be offering to-go specials for the evening. Meanwhile, J deGraffenried Dentistry and Lynn Peery will be providing free refreshments during the fundraising celebration, part of the ‘This Place Matters’ campaign spearheaded by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

Last year, KHPF and the City of Kilgore marked Preservation Month with a Starlight Ceremony relighting the revitalized façade of the Texan with its glowing neon. In the past year, work by city employees, contractors and Reel East Texas Film Festival have brought the building into regular use, and more projects are in the works to continue transforming the theater into a ready-to-rent events venue.

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