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Forest Theater

Forest Theater

1914-1920 Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard (South Dallas)

The Forest Theater, with its distinctive neon emblazoned tower floating over the marquee, and the attached shopping center, opened in 1949 to serve the middle-class white patrons in the area. The 1,500 seat theater was part of the Interstate Theatre chain and designed by H. F. Pettigrew of Pettigrew and Worley, who also designed the Lakewood and Circle Theaters. The Forest featured an unusual gently sweeping semi-circular ramp to the mezzanine and murals of tropical birds and flowers. In 1956, the theater changed its patron focus to that of the middle-class African American families moving into the area and became the “Colored” Forest Theater. Due to sagging ticket sales, the theater closed in 1965. Since then it has been used for special events and performances. The theater and block of original commercial spaces are now up for sale and could be demolished to make way for new development, erasing a part of the African American history of the city and taking away one of Dallas’ few remaining historic theaters. Like the Lakewood Theater, the Forest is worthy of designation as a City of Dallas Landmark and should be preserved.

UPDATE: The Forest Theater was initiated for the City of Dallas Landmark designation process by the Landmark Commission in November of 2015 and is still going through the Landmark process. It sold to City Square who was set to begin rehabilitation work on the building in March of 2020 and put that on hold due to COVID -19. They would like to convert the theater and adjacent retail space into a community arts and educational center.

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