PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. — St. Pete Beach's old theatre is attracting a lot of support after being closed for nearly a decade.
The cinema first opened in 1941 but shut down after the owner, Michael France, was found dead in his beach home.
"When Michael France passed away the property sat in what’s called a probate; caught in the legal system,” said the theatre's newly-appointed executive director, Shana Nichols. “Frances’ parents decided to put the theatre on the market and that’s when Chris was able to purchase it.”
Shana Nichols and the new owner, Christopher Scott said the old cinema was really popular in the 40’s, all the way up until closing. People would come enjoy black and white movies in the cozy, 270 seat theatre. This is a vibe Scott told me he wants to bring back to the beach but he admits, it’s going to take some work.
“When we came in here, it looked very different than it does now,” said Scott. “The ceiling [had] collapsed [and it] was leaking; the first thing that we did was fix the roof. Now you can smell fresher air in here.”
Scott told me he and his team have big plans to remodel and revive the old theatre and other big names have shown an interest in helping put.
“We’re very luck to have lots of distinguished people [involved, like] the actor Patrick Wilson. He’s very passionate about the cinema industry,” said Scott. “There’s another gentleman by the name of Jack Kline with Christie Entertainment, [who are] the people that built cinema projectors. He’s bringing a lot of expertise from the tech side.”
The theatre once held 270 people but the owner tells me the new layout is set to hold 160.
“Over 400 hundred people have written into the email account with suggestions and thoughts of coming together here or going on their first date here,” said Scott. “The general consensus is that the building become a cinema again as soon as possible so that people can start to come here and see live theatre again.”
The old St. Pete Beach Theatre is the only cinema on the beach. The leaders in this movement say the theatre should be ready to enjoy by next summer.