Locals get Bay Theatre update

Bay Theatre owner Paul Dunlap said last week that he expected reconstruction of the iconic landmark to be finished in December of 2018 or shortly after that.

Work on the exterior of the Bay Theatre is expected to begin soon.

Early last year, Dunlap said he expected the planning of the renovation to take six months and construction another six months. Dunlap bought the old movie house in 2016. The Bay has been closed since August 2012.

Dunlap was the guest at Seal Beach Councilwoman Ellery Deaton’s most recent Coffee Chat event, which was held on the patio of Crema Cafe last Thursday, Jan. 18. About 70 people attended the event, including Mayor Michael Varipapa. The turnout was possibly the largest for one of Deaton’s coffee chats with her constituents. All 50-odd chairs on the patio were filled and several people stood during the event.

Dunlap did almost all the talking during the afternoon meeting.

When Deaton introduced Dunlap to the audience, he was greeted with a loud round of applause and whistles.

One woman in the audience wanted to know Dunlap’s background.

He said that his mother was an antiques collector, so he grew up with an appreciation of history. He also said he likes historic preservation.

According to the Dunlap Property Group website, he began his real estate career in 1976. “Paul has personally spearheaded the redevelopment of many such properties, including the historically significant California Hotel (now called Villa Del Sol), which has helped revitalize downtown Fullerton’s business district,” the website said.

Speaking to the coffee chat audience, Dunlap said he was trying to preserve the theatre’s history.

“There’s not a lot of Main Streets that are as well preserved as Seal Beach’s Main Street,” he said.

He said he has been researching the history and original look of the building since escrow closed in December 2016.

His plans include bringing back the ticket booth that used to be in front of the entrance. (If you look closely at the tile outside the buidling, you can just make out the outline of the booth.) However, the new booth will be automated to accept credit/ATM cards.

Coincidentally, Libby Applegate, who used to sell tickets out of the old booth, was one of the residents attending the coffee chat.

Dunlap said he intends to restore the Bay to look the way it did when it was part of the Fox Theatre chain. He said it would look the way it did in 1946 or 1947. As part of his research, Dunlap looked at the archives of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences. Unfortunately, those pictures were in black and white. Fortunately, Dunlap recently obtained color photographs of the exterior. “Back in the day, it (the marquee) was red,” Dunlap said.

The look of the marquee is apparently an important part of the restoration project. “We’re going to look at it for quite some time when it’s done,” he said.

The theatre once housed an organ. The organ is long gone, but its impact on the building remains.

According to Dunlap, everything in the structure was “triple built” because of the vibrations from the old organ.

The stage area will change. Originally built for a movie screen, it will now also serve as a stage for live performances.

He said the new movie screen would pretty much cover the back wall.

The interior work will also include the restoration of the old murals. Dunlap recently met the son of the artist who drew them.

Dunlap intends to preserve the look of the concession area, but there will be two consession locations in the theatre lobby. Dunlap said that because the reopened theatre will be selling beer and wine, the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control requires the business to serve hot food.

Because the theatre will be selling hot food, the Orange County Health Care Agency has imposed storage requirements for the food service portion of the concession area.

Dunlap is researching the possibility of providing holographic and virtual reality entertainment at the Bay.

However, he also made it clear he would be working closely with local groups such as the Seal Beach Community Performing Arts Association.

Dunlap told the audience at Crema Cafe that he has an agreement with Chase Bank to provide for parking. The Sun reported on that agreement in November 2016.

Dunlap said the Bay will close at midnight.

He did not yet know what days the theatre will be open.

As for the apartments on the second floor of the Bay, Dunlap said he and his girlfriend would live in one of them.

The audience applauded. Dunlap hadn’t made a final decision about the other apartment space.