The Bay Theatre: will something come of it or not?

Standing taller than any other building on its respected block, the Bay Theatre anchors Seal Beach’s Main Street strip. Since 1947, the Bay Theatre has stood at the iconic crossroads of Pacific Coast Highway and Main.

This single-screen movie theater is a local gem that was known for its foreign film screenings as well as independent films.

One of the great things about this theater was its revival screenings.

For the last several years, the Bay Theatre continues to fail to be a functioning space of any kind.

Unfortunately, the property owner is unwilling to discuss with the community, the Bay Theatre Foundation, a non-profit 501(c)3. Its purpose is to restore and develop the theater as not just a movie theater, but a community resource. The owner will not talk to anyone else about the future of the theater other than simply to sell it.

The property owner, Ms. Singer, has been unreachable by most members of city staff or various organizations.

Her only motivation seems to be liquidation of the asset, which if it continues to do nothing, will, at some point, simply be land value.

Residents and community leaders had tried to get it acknowledged by the town as being of historic significance.

The Community Development Department did not indicate this would be likely or that there could be sufficient findings to designate it historic.

Ms. Singer has refused access for a musical concert after the October 12th tragic shooting along with dozens of requests from the police, emergency responders, other non-profits or even the city itself.

She has refused to discuss the future of the theater.

The building is on a zero lot line with a property currently under development by local entrepreneur, race car driver and property owner, Bob Griffith.

The Bay Theatre was also home to a Wurlitzer organ, a grandiose instrument that is used for concerts and silent film screenings.

After Richard Loderhose purchased the theater in 1975. He decided to remove seats to make room for the 1928-built Wurlitzer organ.

Loderhouse had the organ expanded from its 21 original ranks to 54 ranks.

Thus, it was called the largest Wurlitzer pipe organ in any operating theater in the world at that time.

The organ was removed and sold off by the property owner around 2009.  With the death of the Wurlitzer’s owner, the organ has been removed and the future of the building in uncertain.

The organ itself has been moved to Phoenix, Arizona where it will be reinstalled in a public venue for performance, and religious services.

The Bay Theatre building has been closed since August 2012 and is for sale, and has been on and off the market at various prices.

Over the years, it has hosted: mainstream films, surfing films, concerts, and special weekly screenings of classic films.

As the doors of the beloved theater closed in 2012, it still stands in the very same spot and is a historic gem that cannot be forgotten.

As residents and visitors alike walk Main Street the illustrious Bay Theatre signs still stand, it’s like taking a trip back in time.

However, as time passes, so does the luster of the theater, the desire to preserve it, and even perceive it as of value.

The theater’s heyday was really in the late 50s to the mid–70s.

It had a brief revival after being somewhat quiescent in the 80s and 90s in the mid-2000s until the doors closed in 2012.

For those interested in the Theatre, there is still a movement to try to save it, if only to buy it and then create a true community resource.

What a wonderful project or opportunity for the city and our citizens if we could come together and find a collaborative, historic and community use for the building. Perhaps as Madeleine L’Engle said, as one of the most award-winning children’s book authors,

“Maybe you have to know darkness before you can appreciate the light.” I just hope we don’t have too much more darkness in the theater before we can once again see it in the light.

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