FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) – It may not look like much to the casual observer. The old movie theater off of Rosedale Boulevard in Fort Worth is hidden behind road construction signs and surrounded by decaying, boarded-up houses. It would be almost indistinguishable from other larger, vacant buildings in the area save for its art-deco style marquis out front.
To Cinetrea Grace, the Grand Theater lives up to its name.
“Oh golly!” Grace exclaimed as she looked out over the theatre from the balcony. “When I first walked in here, I had no idea this was here!”
Unknown to most of Fort Worth, the Grand has a very special history for the people in the neighborhood.
“This was the theatre that was for African-Americans to see films back in the 1930s during segregation,” Grace said. “And this was the only theatre in this neighborhood for African-Americans to come to.”
A newpaper headline from the time read “Modern Negro Theater is Opened.” The article touts the theater’s then state-of-the-art architecture to maximize the movie experience. (Click here to see the newspaper article.)
“It originally sat over 700 people,” Grace said. “They came as families. They were seeing some of the same films our white counterparts were seeing at this time. And this was just a wonderful, family neighborhood spot.”
The theater eventually closed as the neighborhood decayed around it. A church came in for a short while. It too, left. The theater seats were replaced by pews and a plywood pulpit is built in front of the wall where the movie screen once was. Now, Grace’s non-profit group, 619 Productions, is trying to revive the Grand.
“We’re going to turn it into a performing theater,” Grace said. “A creative arts center and a community hub. I’m a lover of history and a lover of the arts. And this was just all of it put together. The structure of the place and how they took the time to build it nice and sturdy. Like its not going anywhere.”
And its that timeless quality Grace wants the Grand to project for the entire area.
“We want to make it a full community thing and revitalize the community,” Grace said. “We plan on having some artists in residency with some of these boarded up houses and try to revitalize the whole community. It’s a hub. And its going to be a diamond for this neighborhood.”