Dallas’ first theater to feature Oriental films with English subtitles has opened in East Dallas, and the owners are hoping that the area (which has been predominantly Mexican-American for several years) will evolve into a San Francisco-style Chinatown for the estimated 20,000 Chinese and Asian people living in Dallas.
Alan Szeto, David Lai, and Johnnie Joe, all originally from Hong Kong, purchased the movie house at 2420 North Fitzhugh for $130,000 with a bank loan and profits saved from Oriental movie screenings they’d organized first at the University of Texas at Arlington, and later with late-night weekend shows at UA Ciné I and II. The building on Fitzhugh had been leased to show Mexican films and was the old Edison Theater before that.
The building’s interior has been redecorated, and the revamped concession stand displays oriental soy bean drinks, sugar cane juice, almond juice, and imported candies. Admission for a double feature is $3.25 for adults, $1.50 for children.
“Right now the theater is a community service type of thing,” Joe says. “We’re just breaking even.”
Joe says about 1000 people, 80 per cent of whom are Chinese or Asian, are coming to the Oriental Theater every week to see Kung Fu movies and romantic comedies like The Choice of Love, starring Chen Chen and Charles Ching. But the idea of transforming the block into a continuous stream of Oriental shops and restaurants takes some imagination. While the theater is near one Chinese-owned shopping center and Jung Oriental Foods and Gifts, its other neighbors are the Los Flamingos Club, Elec-troway Plumbing, Molly’s Beauty Salon, and a gay bar called Texas Territory.