The Texan Theater in Cleveland was recognized with a Liberty County Historical Commission marker on Saturday, May 15, a little more than 88 years after it first opened on Jan. 13, 1933.
Located on the 100 block of E. Houston Street in Cleveland and owned today by Clint and Dana Pendleton, the single-screen theater has been a mainstay in the Cleveland community throughout its existence even after multi-screen theaters began popping up and putting older theaters out of business.
The Rio Theater in Dayton and the Park Theater in Liberty are casualties of the change in viewing habits, which was pointed out by Liberty County Historical Commission Chair Linda Jamison at Saturday’s dedication ceremony outside the Texan Theater.
“These little hometown theaters are such great institutions. Unfortunately, the Rio was not saved nor was the Park. The Park is being used by the Liberty Opry today and that is a good thing. We are so thankful we still have this landmark in Cleveland, Texas,” she said.
The historical marker was unveiled by Tommy Dunn and Rebecca Dunn, the children of the former theater owner, the late Cliff Dunn, who died in March 2021 at the age of 88. The Dunn family purchased the theater in 1994 and Cliff was determined to continue operating it as an affordable entertainment venue for families.
Operating the theater was truly a family effort, explained Tommy Dunn.
“Dumb and Dumber was the first show and it was packed. Everyone in the family was working that night and we worked on weekends, too. Thank you all for being here today. There are a few people I want to single out. If it wasn’t for them, this theater would not be here today. Carolyn McWaters and Judge Bob [Steely], when y’all spearheaded the Save the Texan campaign, that was a blessing to our family – particularly our parents,” said Dunn, referring to community effort to raise the $86,000 that was needed to convert the theater from an old reel system to digital projection.
The Save the Texan campaign raised $53,000 through dinners and fundraising events and the rest of the costs were covered by Cliff and Peggy Dunn.
Both Tommy Dunn and Cleveland Mayor Richard Boyett recognized the contributions of the theater’s longest-serving employee – Wesley Matlock, who has worked for the Texan Theater since the age of 13. Matlock also has worked for the City of Cleveland for more than two decades.
“Wes, you talk about the man behind the scenes, he was Dad’s right-hand man. He is really the guy who made things happen, particularly in the last two years as Dad’s health failed,” Dunn continued, giving thanks also to Matlock’s wife, Earline, who also works at the theater. “You all have been incredible. Lastly, Clinton [Pendleton], you and your wife, Dana, thank you. I think you understand the significance of this theater and what it means to the community. Thank you for stepping in. I just hope and ask the city to embrace them as they have embraced our family.”