ST. PETE BEACH — Will the Beach Theatre go back to its roots as a movie house? When will it open? What is happening next?
Over 90 people crammed into the St. Pete Beach Community Center last week to discuss the beloved property’s future. New owner Christopher Scott hosted a revitalization meeting with friend Hendrik Bisanz, chief executive and broker at Seasalt Properties. Here are some of the key takeaways.
• Don’t expect to see a movie there tomorrow.
As reported earlier this month, there’s still a lot of work to be done.
Liverpool native and new St. Pete Beach resident Scott purchased the building this summer. He said folks are under the impression that he can turn the lights on, dust off the seats, and start showing films again.
“It’s definitely not at that state at the moment,” he said. “It does look like a bit of a disaster zone.”
While a leaky roof was fixed before the sale, the damage lingers. Ceiling tiles have fallen, and debris covers the 240 red cloth seats.
Still, progress is being made. The power is back on in the building. Relics of the Beach Theatre’s heyday, like the popcorn machine, are in good shape.
The renovation is the easy part, said Scott’s wife, Maria. Finding people to run it is the big challenge.
• It could be a multi-use entertainment facility.
Over 100 people emailed firstname.lastname@example.org to share ideas. By far, the most popular suggestion was to revive it as some kind of entertainment venue.
Many longtime residents hope to see it return as a movie house, especially for old and indie films, or a place for live shows like cabaret, “Rocky Horror,” local bands, open mics and jazz performances. A common theme among the crowd was creating a multi-use space for community events.
• It could also become something else entirely
Other ideas include: A karaoke bar, magic theater, youth center, indoor climbing hall, church or arcade. Scott acknowledged these concepts all came from adults, but wants to hear input from kids. Jazz and cabaret singer Fiona Frensche, who hosts a French language club, suggested creating a space for people to speak other languages, like Portuguese or German.
The building will not become condos or turn into a CVS, Scott promised. Whatever ends up happening, Bisanz said it would be cool to have the process filmed for an HGTV show.
• A nonprofit may be in the works.
Several community members urged Scott to form a nonprofit or secure the theatre on the National Register of Historic Places, which would prevent it from being torn down. This opens up the potential for grants and other funding to help with revitalization.
Scott hopes to utilize the talents of volunteers who have experience in construction, running theaters, booking shows and applying for grants. Several attendees offered their skills.
• The community will continue to play a big role.
Scott is starting a newsletter and will be calling people who attended the meeting to get feedback. He is still accepting suggestions via email.
This means a lot to locals. Brittany Stanley met her wife Deidra Navarro while the two were performing “Repo! The Genetic Opera” at the Beach Theatre in 2011. They put on “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” there with the group Interchangeable Parts until the theater closed, then continued performing the show in venues around St. Petersburg. It became such big part of Stanley’s life that she got the same heart tattoo on her arm as the character she plays, Dr. Frank-N-Furter.
The couple would love to see The Beach Theatre emerge as a multi-use entertainment facility, especially so that they can perform “Rocky Horror” there again. But ultimately, they just want to see it open.
“We would be happy to scrub a toilet there again, honestly,” Stanley said.