The Astrodome opened with much fanfare on April 9, 1965, so this month marks its big five-oh anniversary. And what a 50 years they have been! The “Eighth Wonder of the World” was the pioneer in AstroTurf and its four- story Astrolight scoreboard was the first of its kind. Judy Garland was the first performer on December 17, 1965, and Tejano star Selena was its last on February 26, 1995. In between, the Dome saw WWF matches, baseball and football games, Elvis Presley, Evel Knievel, the famed Billie Jean King vs. Bobby Riggs “Battle of the Sexes” tennis match, and much more. These days, its fate is uncertain – although it’s now listed on the National Register of Historic Places, there are some that want it torn down and some that want it saved. “I am suggesting that we explore the concept of creating an indoor park and recreation area inside the Dome for the people of Harris County,” Harris County Judge Ed Emmett said in a recent statement. The final fate of the Astrodome rests with the Harris County Commissioners…and nothing has been decided yet.
The Astrodome made a guest appearance in a few movies – “Friday Night Lights”; “The Bad News Bears in Breaking Training”; and a music video by U2 of the song “Stuck in a Moment You Can’t Get Out Of.” And “Brewster McCloud” was set in the Dome. But it was the recent maelstrom that inspired three new documentary films on the Dome, making it a true star. Houston natives Chip Rives and David Karabinas of Texas Crew Productions are releasing “The Dome” (www.thedomemovie.com) this fall, a six-year passion project featuring countless hours of archival footage and interviews with President George H.W. Bush, Bum Phillips, Nolan Ryan, Dan Rather, Dan Pastorini, Larry Dierker, Jimmy Wynn, Jack Ingram and Judge Roy Hoheinz’s children, Fred and Dene.
“Last Seat at the Dome” (www.preservethedome.com) was also a labor of love for Rugged Riverside Media owner Matthew Murphy, whose short film had its debut last November, accompanied by a panel discussion featuring Murphy waxing nostalgic about the Dome alongside Stephanie Ann Jones of Preservation Houston, Beth Wiedower of the National Trust for Historic Preservation and Judge Emmett. And 14 Pews owner Cressandra Thibodeaux is making “Astrodome: A Love Story” (http://bechdelfilms.com/pages/default.asp) through her nonprofit film company, Bechdel Films – its focus is on the preservationists behind the scenes.
No matter its fate, the Dome will live on in celluloid heaven. And its 50th birthday will be celebrated this year – Houston Arts and Media (www.houstonartsandmedia.org) is plan- ning a party and Houstorian (www.houstorian.org) founder James Glassman will be selling memorabilia on his website. Perhaps Ed Emmett and friends will celebrate with Astrodome-inspired cake and the city will scrub the dome clean. After all, half-century milestones come only once.
WANT TO SEE MORE ART FILMS? CHECK OUT THESE VENUES
• 14 Pews (www.14pews.org)
• Alamo Drafthouse (www.drafthouse.com)
• Asia Society (www.asiasociety.org/texas)
• Aurora Picture Show (www.aurorapictureshow.org)
• Blaffer Art Museum (www.blafferartmuseum.org)
• Café Brasil (www.cafe-brasil.net)
• Contemporary Arts Museum (www.cam.org)
• Discovery Green (www.discoverygreen.com)
• DiverseWorks (www.diverseworks.org)
• Holocaust Museum (www.hmh.org)
• Jewish Community Center (www.erjcchouston.org)
• Landmark River Oaks Theatre (www.landmarktheatres.com)
• Miller Outdoor Theatre (www.milleroutdoortheatre.com)
• Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (www.mfah.org/films)
• Orange Show (www.orangeshow.org)
• Rice Cinema (www.ricecinema.rice.edu)
• Sundance Cinemas (www.sundancecinemas.com)
Sarah Gish is an artist, mama, igniter and connector who has been writing for Local magazine since 1998. She was one of the co-founders of Q-Fest, Houston’s only LGBT festival, and was the publicist and city man- ager for Landmark Theatres in the 1990s, overseeing the River Oaks, Greenway and Saks movie theatres. She owns Gish Creative (www.gishcreative.com), a personal, family and business enrichment company that she founded in 2000. It’s her joy to bring the love of movies to Houstonians and to let people know about all the amazing arts and culture in Houston.