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The Windsor Cinerama Theater

Newspaper advertisement, 1968
Newspaper advertisement, 1968
Marie Brannon

Twenty-two years ago this month, the Windsor Theater closed its doors forever after 27 years at the corner of Richmond and Post Oak. We wanted to take a few minutes to remember the magic of the ultra-luxurious furnishings and the triple-wide screen.

It was 1962. JFK was president of the United States, the Dow Jones reached a high of 767, unemployment was 6.7%, a gallon of gas cost 31 cents and a postage stamp was four cents. Ray Charles was singing the Number One hit “I Can’t Stop Loving You” and the Beach Boys were on their “Surfin’ Safari”. Marilyn Monroe died that year and the Polaroid Instant Camera hit the market. Ahh…. The good old days.

Here in Houston, the Colt 45s played their first game, Mayor Lewis Cutrer officiated at the opening of the theater, cutting a ribbon and proclaiming that this was the first movie house to be opened in Houston since the 1940s. Inside, movie-goers found an impressive concession stand, 1,000 lavish rocking chairs, a one-hundred-foot screen and a curving staircase that led to an expansive balcony complete with a club called the Cinebar. Tickets were priced at $2.50 except for children and during matinees, when they were even cheaper.

The only glitch to an otherwise spectacular movie theater was that three-paneled Cinerama screens all across the country were sometimes jumpy. It all depended on the ability of the projectionist to coordinate three projectors on three screens. This problem was fixed in 1963, about a year later when a one-camera, one-camera projector system was installed.

The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm was the premier movie, in 1962. A few other memorable films shown here for unlimited engagements were How the West Was Won, Hallelujah Trail, Grand Prix and of course, 2001 A Space Odyssey. As far as we know, the only show ever cancelled by the theater was Three Penny Opera in 1964. It was described as “not up to the standards of the facility”.

Broadway lyricist Stephen Sondheim reportedly commented that his first impression of the Cinerama logo was that it was an anagram for American. How true that seems, even nearly 50 years later.

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