This historic theater in Fifth Ward first opened in 1941, and became the premiere destination to watch a movie for Black Houstonians. However, after the Civil Rights Act passed in 1964, segregation ended. DeLuxe closed in 1969, but that wasn’t the end for the theater.
In 1971, the theater hosted the “De Luxe Show,” one of the first racially integrated exhibits of contemporary artists in the country. John De Menil, founder of the Menil Collection, wanted to showcase art in one of Houston’s Black neighborhoods. To help organize the show, De Menil reached out to Jefferee James, an instructor at Texas Southern University and community leader, Mickey LeLand. Even though the theater had been abandoned for two years and fallen into disarray, construction and art experts helped transform the space in just three weeks.
Nineteen contemporary artists displayed work at the theater starting Aug. 22 until Sept. 29. More than 1,000 people attended the show’s opening. One critic described the exhibition as a “challenging social and visual experiment.” More than 4,000 people would attend the show before it closed in late September.
Today, the theater has been completely renovated. You’ll find a 125-seat theater, state of the art lighting and sound equipment, concession area, and other updates. The theater also continues to host events important to the community.
Do you have memories at the DeLuxe Theater? I would love to hear.