Fort Worth's 'New ISIS' theater set for restoration

Plans underway to save historic theater

FORT WORTH, Texas -- An historic movie theater near the Fort Worth Stockyards has sat vacant for more than 30 years, but a new plan could bring it back to life as an entertainment venue.

"We're going to try to take it back to the way it was in the 20's and 30's," said Jeffrey Smith, president of BendOverBackwards, LLC, the company that owns the building.

The 'New Isis' theater dates back more than 100 years. At one point, it had room for some 900 moviegoers, but it has fallen into near-ruins in recent decades as various owners have tried and failed to restore it. Smith insists this time is different.  

"Our goal right now is to be ready by Christmas of next year," he said.

Smith is a Fort Worth native and former educator who said he also has experience in the theater industry. His plan calls for a restoration of the space that will turn it into more than a movie theater, with a bar and space for live events. He said it will cost several million dollars to restore and that funding is close to being in place.

The theater is located near the heart of the Fort Worth Stockyards, where a massive expansion and revitalization program is planned. The theater is in a prime location to benefit from that effort, including new hotels planned in the area.

"We're in it for the long haul," said Smith. "We're here to give back to the community, and bring back an icon that needs to be brought back to life."

Smith said they will also keep the Art Deco signage outside, and while the new development will be called "Downtown Cowtown at the Isis," they play to keep that name, Isis.  

While it now brings to mind the Islamic State of Iraq, in the early 20th century, it had a different association. The theater was named for the Egyptian goddess Isis, and Smith said it has a rich place in movie history.

"The Isis theater, there were several nationwide," he said.  "It was almost like a Cinemark or a Tinseltown.  It was a chain."

© 2017 WFAA-TV


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