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Beach Theatre renovation still on track, owner says

Bill DeYoung

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The Beach Theatre, 315 Corey Ave. All photos by Bill DeYoung.

Nearly a year has passed since the Beach Theatre, St. Pete Beach’s historic, single-screen movie house, has shown any outward signs of life.

British businessman Christopher Scott purchased the vintage 1940 building in mid-2021. It had been shuttered since 2012.

Christopher Scott

After a flurry of activity, including a well-attended public meeting during which Scott asked residents what they thought he should do with the theater, renovations began in earnest. Last summer, Scott’s theater co-sponsored (with the City of St. Pete Beach) a mini-Judy Garland film festival, outdoors at nearby Horan Park.

Since then, the sound of silence has been deafening.

Not to worry, Scott says. These things, as the witch says in The Wizard of Oz, must be handled delicately.

“We’re still on track, and we’ve still got plans to move forward with the development,” he explains.

The 5,000-square-foot facility is being transformed into a mixed-use venue, with an expanded bar – several rows of theater seats have been removed to accommodate this – and a stage that will work for live music, speakers, comedy and theater, as well as film screenings.

There are multiple stages to the financing and renovation process, as Scott and his small team meet with designers, architects, contractors and permitting representatives from the City.

“We’ve diligently been working behind the scenes,” Scott says, “and we’ve met lots of really good and thoughtful people. And I’ve tried to listen to as many people as I possibly can.

“Many have come forward offering help and support, and services – literally, I’ve had people come in and ask if they can help paint it.”

Sept. 15, 2021: A speaker offers his opinions on the Beach Theatre during a public meeting at the St. Pete Beach Community Center.

Nostalgia for the Beach, the first air-conditioned movie theater in Pinellas County, was on full display at the Sept. 15, 2021 public meeting at the St. Pete Beach Community Center.

Overwhelmingly, residents told Scott they’d prefer a mixed-use theater, as there are few (if any) such entertainment venues on the beaches.

“We don’t need another bar, we don’t need another place that has ‘Best on the Beach’ fish sandwiches,” one woman told Scott. “As long as you keep it, and don’t knock it down for a stupid bank or condo, we will be grateful forever.”

Scott says the last year and a half has been a learning experience. “A lot of people told me what they thought I should do,” he reflects, “and I tried to listen to every single person. That might have been a failing on my part.

“And I had a lot of people offering to buy into it, that wanted to dictate how it was going to be set up, or how it was going to be run.”

There are still hurdles to jump, bridges to cross and other obstacles both real and metaphorical, and Scott wants the public to know the Beach Theatre will definitely, positively live anew.

He just can’t say when. Not quite yet.

“We’re still looking for people that could be potential partner-operators, to take over the running of it,” he says. “I’m happy to retain the title of owner, but I’m never going to be a good operator. Because I don’t have the flamboyant personality.”

The Beach Theatre Community Foundation (support)

Beach Theatre website (general)

Vintage St. Pete: Michael France and the Beach Theatre

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. Jennifer Ibarguen

    Jennifer Ibarguen

    May 8, 2023at8:47 pm

    I was the woman quoted in the article! I sure hope the project moves forward!

  2. Avatar

    Michael Metzler

    May 6, 2023at3:28 pm

    Don’t play games outside of your circle of competence in business.
    You will lose.

    Sell it!

  3. Avatar

    David Gamma

    May 5, 2023at8:54 pm

    Keep moving forward! The community is with you.

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