AP NEWS

Rooftop theater chain brings outdoor movies to Houston

August 8, 2018

Most drive-in theaters were shuttered years ago, but one company is betting a new generation of Houstonians will pay to watch movies under an open sky.

London-based Rooftop Cinema Club is opening its first Houston theater at BLVD Place at the corner of Post Oak Boulevard and San Felipe — specifically, atop the BLVD Place parking garage and Whole Foods Market.

The Galleria-area theater is set for an Oct. 3 launch, with tickets going on sale Aug. 29. Prices start at $17.

The project is the brainchild of Gerry Cottle Jr., son of a circus owner.

TRYING TO STAY AFLOAT: MoviePass limits users to three films a month

After years of event planning in London, Cottle wanted to combine his experience in entertainment with his passion for films. In 2011, he opened a rooftop cinema as an alternative to the sprawling cineplexes. The Rooftop Cinemas offer new releases and classic titles with popcorn, fine food and alcoholic beverages.

“We’re a whole night out,” Cottle said.

The chain now operates in New York, Los Angeles, and San Diego. The BLVD Place location will be the first in Texas.

Though Cottle recognizes the growing consumer preference for streaming movies at home, he hopes to offer a social experience for those nostalgic for drive-in theaters.

Moviegoers at Rooftop Cinema Club listen to the film’s audio through wireless headphones, allowing friends and family to chat and mingle during the show without interrupting their neighbors. It can replicate the intimate setting of one’s car, Cottle said.

In researching an entry into the Texas market, Cottle found Houston an ideal city due to its diverse and well-traveled population.

Not to mention existing outdoor screening events have done well in the city.

Miller Outdoor Theater in Hermann Park has been offering free evening movie screenings since about 2006 to supplement the off-seasons of its live performances, said Cissy Segall Davis, managing director at the theater.

Crowd sizes vary depending on the night’s given film selection and the weather, Davis said.

A few years ago, despite an all-day rainfall leaving behind a muddy mess on the theater grounds, more than 8,000 guests showed up for the screening of the sing-along version of Disney’s “Frozen.”

‘IT’S BANANAS’: Alamo Drafthouse founder blown away by new Katy theater

Davis recalls countless young girls “dressed in their Disney finery” rolling around in the mud, singing at the top of their lungs.

Overall the Movies at Miller events have performed well over the years, Davis said.

“There is definitely a market for outdoor screening offerings,” she added.

It’s not just parks tapping into the demand.

Shopping centers including Sugar Land Town Square have been offering occasional outdoor movie nights to customers looking for more from their shopping trip.

“Our monthly showings are always crowd-pleasers and appeal to a wide range of community members, young and old alike,” spokeswoman Taylor Scott said in an email.

Cottle hopes to offer a boutique cinema experience.

Tickets at Houston’s new Rooftop Cinema Club will start at $17 per person for a deck chair with additional deals such as $20 for a chair and bottomless popcorn. Blankets, ponchos and cooling facilities will be available on hand to deal with the elements.

ileana.najarro@chron.com

twitter.com/IleanaNajarro

AP RADIO
Update hourly