THE HISTORY of the Forest Theater
If these walls could talk…
Uniting Dallas-ites across generations and geographies, the historic Forest Theater has a rich diverse history. Located in the heart of sunny South Dallas, the Forest Theater was built in 1949 by Karl Hoblitzelle, the successful developer of the Majestic, Lakewood and Inwood Theaters. The Forest Theater shared the state-of-the-art features as a one-screen movie house seating nearly 1,400 guests.
In the early 1950s, construction of the S. M. Wright (State Highway 175) began, causing the demolition of more than 1,300 homes, bifurcating neighborhoods, and sparking white flight. The previously predominantly Jewish community was reshaped by redlining and segregated housing policies into a predominantly African American community. This drastic shift in population demographics caused the focus of the Forest Theater to change its offerings to black audiences to survive.
The Forest Theater became a mecca for art, music, and community gatherings. Legendary artists such as Tina Turner, Prince, Gladys Knight, and B.B. King performed for packed crowds at the Forest Theater. Local organizations utilized the space as a community hub for gatherings such as Girl Scout meetings, choir rehearsals, and voting rights campaigns.
Over the course of time, the Theater has gone through a number of closures and uses. It has served as a nightclub, a place of worship, an event venue, and more. Repeated unsuccessful efforts were made to rejuvenate the Forest Theater into an operating and sustaining venue.
In 2017, the Forest Theater was acquired and gifted by a philanthropic couple committed to equity in the arts and education. A local nonprofit, Forest Forward, obtained ownership and has undertaken the responsibility for the historic rehabilitation and expansive renovation.
As Forest Forward ushers in a new era of arts and culture the rich history on which the Forest Theater stands will be a guiding force for programming and procedure. Bridging the history of what was with the innovative ideas of what could be, Forest Forward will be an incubator for creativity across generations, geographies, ethnicities, and cultures. The future is now.