Moving history

The Queen Theater is one of Oak Cliff’s many bygone movie houses. It opened on Jefferson Boulevard in 1914 and was torn down in 1958.

When Laura Treat began asking the Denton community in 2016 for home movies and photos of bygone theaters, much of the content she received wound up coming from Dallas.

So the moving image preservation librarian at the University of North Texas applied for and received a second Common Heritage grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to compile moving image archives from Dallas.

Treat’s project, “Spotlight on North Texas,” aims to digitize, and thereby preserve, the motion picture histories of the Dallas area.

The project comes to Oak Cliff this month with a daylong event at Top Ten Records. Anyone with old home movies related to Texas or images related to old movie theaters is welcome to bring them for free digitization on Saturday, May 19.

The materials will be published on the Portal to Texas History and the Texas Archive of the Moving Image. Digitized copies will be given to the donors along with their returned original materials.

The project limits submissions to 1,000 feet of film, five videotapes or 25 print items per household. 

“Dallas has such a connection to movie production,” Treat says. “It’s the Hollywood of the southwest.”

She points out that one of the most famous home movies of all time was shot in Dallas, the Zapruder film.

Already Treat has received materials from the Light Crust Doughboys related to the Big D Jamboree. And she met an “usherette” from the bygone Interstate Movie Theater.

Home movies must be related to Texas, which is defined very broadly. They could be filmed by a Texan, created in Texas or contain Texas subject matter.

Besides photos and video, they’re also looking for ephemera related to old movie houses.

“It wasn’t that hard to get people to understand that we’re interested in home movies,” she says. “But it was hard to get people to bring in memorabilia from movie theaters. Those are the materials that are harder to come by.”

Texas Archive of the Moving Image has been doing this type of work for about 10 years, and Treat modeled her project after theirs.

Two films that organization made public, Blaine Dunlap’s “Sometimes

I Run” from 1973 and “Big D,” filmed partially in Oak Cliff in 1974, will be shown at the Top Ten event starting at 1 p.m., along with treasures from other places including the Dallas Municipal Archives.

The free digitization service will be offered from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Photos will be scanned on site, but film and video will have to be taken away and returned later.

The project is open to anyone in North Texas, but Treat wanted to hold the event in Oak Cliff because it’s a historic neighborhood. She also would like to find images that represent a diversity of races and ethnicities.

“Even if people don’t have film and video, they can come out and watch the movies and check out Top Ten Records,” she says