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Historic Beach Theatre under new ownership

Bill DeYoung



The Beach Theatre. Photo by Bill DeYoung.

The Beach Theatre, St. Pete Beach’s venerable single-screen movie theater, has changed hands again.

Beach residents Ronald and Sissy Hockman paid $1 million for the 1940 cinderblock building at 315 Corey Ave.

Daughter Hannah Hockman is a longtime director on the local theater (as in plays) scene. “My dad has always wanted a theater, my mom has always wanted a theater, and they just happened to have a kid who really likes theaters,” she said.

“The Beach Theatre has always been our dream. We just never thought it would actually happen.”

The family’s plan, she explained, is to transform the Beach into a (stage) theater, as well as retain its historic function as a movie theater, screening classic, cult and second-run films.

“We really just want to create a space for people to gather, a community center for people to be excited about. There’s not really out here on St. Pete Beach that’s made for the local community.”

Hollywood screenwriter Michael France, who had ties to the St. Petersburg community, bought the movie house in 2007. He moved his family here, and the theater was a reasonable success.

In 2012, however, France shuttered it because of dwindling business and other financial issues. He died, unexpectedly, in early 2013.

And the Beach Theatre sat gathering dust for nine years.

Businessman Christopher Scott bought it from the France family in 2021 and proceeded to tear out the seats, replace the roof and the air conditioning, and make other changes in preparation for transforming it into a useable, community-friendly event space.

Scott put the Beach on the market last spring, and the Hockman family, which had bid against Scott in 2021 and came up short – expressed interest again.

The transaction closed Feb. 29.

Related reading: Vintage St. Pete: Michael France and the Beach Theatre





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    March 1, 2024at5:27 pm

    I’m not holding my breath once again! This used to be a great theater for art films and all that went by the wayside I think two owners ago. I’d like to see the building saved but there is almost no parking spaces to be had around on Corey Ave. One more time, good luck.

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