As the oldest continuously running movie theater in Texas, Clifton’s The Cliftex Theatre will reopen out of the Covid-19 shutdown with new owners in December
CLIFTON – For over 100 years, The Cliftex Theatre has been an important source of entertainment for Bosque County residents. Many of today’s regular Cliftex movie supporters saw their very first movie at the theatre over the passing decades and it represents an iconic landmark for Clifton.
With the recent sale of the historic Cliftex Theatre to Richard and Megan Morris, the making of movie memories will continue in Clifton.
Founded as the Queen Theatre in 1916, The Cliftex Theatre remains billed as the oldest continuously operating movie theatre in Texas. The Majors will be ensuring it keeps that predication, even though 2020 movie experiences across the nation were interrupted somewhat by COVID-19.
Wanting to make a positive impact in the community, the Majors saw the decision to buy the theatre as a way of giving back. They feel the Cliftex stands out as an important piece of Bosque County's history and a social meeting place for the community.
“We wanted to make sure it stayed that way, true to its roots,” said the Majors as the couple plans to open in December “if all goes well. We wanted to make sure that it stayed locally owned and operated,”
In 2016, Leah and Rich Douglas moved to Clifton to fulfill a dream by taking over as owner and proprietors of the historic theatre. After Leah’s tragic death due to pregnancy complications, Rich could not continue their joint project and sold the theater to Veritas Theatres.
But then COVIC-19 hit. Without the viewing public, Veritas could not continue with their plans, and the theatre reverted back to Douglas.
“The theater is what brought us to Clifton, I’m so thankful for that as well as the memories the Cliftex has provided, and of course, the people I/we met through owning it,” Douglas said. “It’s bittersweet, but I know that Richard and Megan will take exceptional care of The Cliftex. They gave me the most amazing and moving parting gift I could even remotely hope for – our original owners plaque from the concessions area, which they kindly replaced with a new plaque.”
The Majors appreciate the love Leah and Rich Douglas put into operating The Cliftex, and they recognize the emotional ties the entire community has to the theatre.
“We are ever grateful to Rich Douglas for entrusting us to take the reins,” Richard said in a Facebook post Sept. 28. “I know this means a lot to him and the memory of Leah Demaree Douglas. We will continue to carry on the tradition where they left off with a community-oriented space for all to gather and partake.
“As Megan told me on the way home from closing, ‘To us, this is more like adopting a child than taking on a new business.’"
In over hundred years, the theatre has seen a lot of first dates, stolen kisses in the back row, fun family outings spanning two, sometimes three generations, and students helping out in the projection room and concession stand.
In 2008, Phyllis Gamble and Mechelle Slaughter restored the theater based on a 1935 photograph. Historical memorabilia, furniture and equipment are featured throughout the theatre; sometimes in the smallest details – like the light fixtures or the panel behind the doorknob.
In April 2011, the projection booth was upgraded to digital projection, providing Cliftex movie patrons with a crystal clear, first-class movie experience. A new sound system further improved the experience.
With the movie world changing dramatically due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many in the film world have held off on releasing new films this year or have had to postpone production. Others have gone direct to online streaming instead of theaters. The Majors will use these new times with a whole new set of rules to offer a different selection of films.
“We believe there is a strong demand in our community for classic films, Westerns, independent films, and documentaries,” the Majors said. “Also, we will continue to show blockbusters as they come out if there is enough demand and they meet our local citizen's values.”
This is the Major’s first foray into the movie theater business. However, Megan and Richard have both run multiple businesses and they are finding that this is much the same.
“The same philosophies apply here; it's just a new product for us,” Richard said. “The previous owner, Rich Douglas, and the owners before him, Mechelle Slaughter and Phyllis Gamble have been instrumental in introducing us to the basics of the business and what they did to run things.
“Also, we rely heavily on our movie booking agent out of Dallas, Joan Hodge, in helping us navigate the movie distributor contracts, payments, and licensing. That, so far, has been the biggest learning curve.”
The couple intends to keep the showing times at 7 p.m. Thursday through Saturday and 4 p.m. on Sunday. Ticket prices will remain $5, and the concessions will remain affordable.
“We've kicked around the idea of also having some seasonal showings such as summer matinees for kids and extra showings for extremely popular films,” the Majors said. “We will be working in coordination with the newly-established Bosque Film Society. And after hosting meetings with them, we hope to bring a film festival to Clifton in 2021.”
Growing up, Richard’s family had quite the collection of Disney VHS tapes as many families did back then. Depending on his age, he preferred different genres.
“I loved Disney's Robin Hood with the animals portraying the characters,” Richard said. “As I got older, I really got into fantasy, such as dragons, magic, etc, and then science fiction after that.”
Megan loved animal and fantasy movies as well, especially animated ones like The Adventures of Milo & Otis, Babe, The Lion King, The NeverEnding Story, The Jungle Book and Charlotte's Web.
“We didn't have cable growing up, just the antenna on the side of the house and a handful of channels.” Megan said. “So, we spent a lot of time watching movies.”
She grew up in Clifton and saw many of her favorite animated movies at The Cliftex.
“As I got older, my friends and I would go to The Cliftex to spend time together and see new releases too,” Megan said. “I really enjoyed the popcorn. And I was always excited when a new release I wanted to see came to The Cliftex!”
With Texas Governor Abbott allowing theaters to open up at 75 percent capacity within COVID restrictions, the Majors will be following any guidelines that are mandated, such as seat spacing. They will also be taking extra precautions to sanitize all surfaces prior, during, and after showings. They are putting the community's health first and want to ensure everyone has a safe and joyful movie experience again.
“We are doing some minor repairs to the interior, such as paint and sheet rock repair, lighting and more,” the Majors said.
Megan will be bringing her artistic skills to use by painting a historical theatre-themed mural in the lobby.
“We would like to thank the community for coming out to support us as they have,” the Majors said. “The outpouring of love and the number of people that have communicated their support has been incredible and makes it all worth it. We look forward to seeing everyone at the movies.”
Looking forward to the opportunity to continue making fun movie memories, community members have offered their support on the return of the theater’s continued operation. And wanting to see “their” movie theater thriving, the local movie goers have en mass blessed the Majors with “May the Force be with you.”
Photos by SIMONE WICHERS-VOSS & courtesy of BOSQUE COLLECTION & The CLIFTEX THEATER
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