ST. PETE BEACH — A lawsuit filed in Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Court could change the fate of the historic Beach Theatre.
The art deco establishment on Corey Avenue closed in 2012. At the time, its owner, Michael France, cited low attendance and an inability to keep pace with changing film technology.
France bought the theater in 2007 and told reporters he hoped to preserve the place he went to watch movies as a child. France died, at 51, in April of last year.
Now, his wife, Elizabeth France, is suing his estate for damages and for the right to claim sole ownership of the now-closed theater.
According to court records, she and her husband were listed as co-debtors on the $640,000 second mortgage of their St. Pete Beach home, which they used to fund their purchase of the theater.
France alleges her husband defrauded her by excluding her from the theater ownership, and goes on to claim that he forged her signature on a $550,000 mortgage renewal notice and modification note in 2007.
Elizabeth France was suing her husband for divorce at the time of his death.