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. In 2017, the Forest Theater was acquired and gifted to CitySquare by a philanthropic couple committed to equity in the arts and education. A local nonprofit, Forest Forward has now obtained ownership and has undertaken the responsibility for the historic restoration and expansive renovation. Forest Forward will use the restoration of the Forest Theater to ignite a just, healthy and thriving South Dallas. The theater and adjacent retail space will be converted into a hub for entertainment and arts education with 45,000 square feet dedicated to the concert hall, Creative Laboratory, Roof deck, Industrial Kitchen and a newly constructed Black Box. Contact Forest Forward for more information.