Using the restoration and expansion of the Forest Theater, Forest Forward works to ignite a just, healthy and thriving South Dallas.

THE HISTORY of the Forest Theatre

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 1400 guests.

In the early 1950s, construction of the S. M. Wright (State Highway -175) began, causing the demolition of more than 1300 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 night club, 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 restoration and expansive renovation.


 Our sights are set on the future. 

 The revitalized Forest Theater will focus on respecting, uplifting, and cultivating the Black community through collaboration. South Dallas residents will get to utilize the theater as a multi-purpose destination hub that sits at the heart of South Dallas as a hub for creativity, business, and entertainment. 


 Our leaders are agents of change that share a commitment to break the cycle of generational poverty and racism rooted in the South Dallas community by providing necessary tools and educational resources to help the community thrive. 

Elizabeth Wattley Headshot

 Elizabeth Wattley 

President & CEO

Cecilyn Bryan Headshot

 Cecilyn Bryan 

 Director of Operations 

Ashley Wilson

 Ashley Wilson 

 Director of Strategic Parterships


Newly formed, Forest Forward has attracted a board comprised of change agents that share a commitment and experiences that will contribute to bringing healthy neighborhood revitalization to the South Dallas community.

 Larry James 

 Matrice Ellis-Kirk 







 Rabbi David Stern