Old Dream, New Pockets
Several times in recent years, Fort Worth Weekly has written about investors and their big dreams to buy and renovate the fabled New Isis Theater on North Main Street in the Stockyards. The once-majestic theater retains its cool art deco sign but has sat vacant and otherwise forlornly ugly for the past 20 years.
Several years ago, a local businessman announced he would buy the building and transform it into a Western-themed live theater. Didn’t happen. Then, a theater professor from Alabama envisioned a performance hall. Didn’t happen. More recently, Roger Smith, a successful businessman and former projectionist at the New Isis, vowed to transform the building into a nonprofit film and performance stage. All he needed was altruistic investors. However, the cost to fix up the building was staggering. “I could just never get enough interest,” Smith said. “The building has potential and everybody liked it, but it needed an expensive redo, and people didn’t offer the money. I wish I could have accomplished more with it. I feel like I failed. But I did the best I could.”
Move over, Smitty, there are new dreamers in town, and they apparently have deeper pockets. Fort Worth resident Robert Adams, a fifth-generation Texan, teamed up with investor Klaas Talsma of Stephenville and bought the historic movie theater for $265,000. They intend to spend upward of $4 million to transform the building into a unique venue.
During the day, a mixed-media show combining video, music, and live presentations will tell the story of the Stockyards. The audience is expected to be composed of tourists who flock to the area to watch the longhorn cattle drive and then stand around thinking, “Uh, now what?” The New Isis show will be replayed several times a day and “give a voice to this great history in a way that’s engaging and dramatic,” Adams said (spoken like the music major and theater enthusiast that he is). At night, the New Isis will feature live music – regional and national talent showcased in an intimate smoke- and booze-free venue. (Oh well, there are plenty of watering holes down there already.) Adams doesn’t expect to debut his vision until summer 2007; in the meantime, tons of renovation work are needed, including asbestos removal.
Smith, when told about the new owners’ plans, was enthusiastic. “I’m glad somebody has come along that has a smarter brain than I have,” he said. “I would love to help them.”