ST. PETE BEACH — After nearly a decade of sitting vacant, the beloved Beach Theatre has finally sold.
The powder blue building at 315 Corey Ave., once a favorite spot to see offbeat films, was purchased by Scott Commerical Holdings, LLC. It was only on the market for one day.
Sea Salt Properties LLC broker Hendrik Bisanz arranged the sale for his friend, Christopher Scott. They were up against ten other competing offers. After a bidding war, Scott purchased the theater as-is for $652,000 — $173,000 over list price. The sale closed on Aug. 13.
“You have to be fast in this market and know what you want,” Bisanz said.
The art deco movie theater opened in January 1940. According to St. Pete Catalyst, it was the first theater in the county built exclusively for sound pictures, and among the first to be equipped with air conditioning.
Hollywood screenplay writer Michael France Jr. (behind Cliffhanger, The Hulk and more) purchased the theater in 2007. He ran it until his health declined in 2012, and died at age 51 the next year. Legal entanglements prevented the family from selling the theater until now, said his father, Michael France, Sr.
“It was something that he loved and cared for years,” he said.
Listing agent Carol Giovannoni is still getting inquiries about the property.
“I’ve had so many calls from residents and tourists alike that would like to see it come back as a theater,” said Giovannoni, a broker associate at RE/MAX Preferred on St. Pete Beach. “A lot of residents have ties to it and fond memories of it growing up.”
Giovannoni is one of them — she remembers going to see Rocky Horror Picture Show on Saturday nights as a high school student. Later, when she had kids of her own, she brought them to the theater to watch cartoons on Saturday mornings.
“The same guy who took your ticket was the same guy who served your popcorn and the same guy who ran your film,” she said. “It was a one-man show.”
The 4,800-square-foot property fell into disrepair over the years, with a roof leak causing damage to the main auditorium area. But many relics from the past are still there.
“There is the upstairs projection room, and it was sold as it is with all the old posters up there and the old projection equipment,” Giovannoni said. “The concession stand is still intact, of course, with the popcorn machine and all the fountains.”
While the marquees out front had to be taken down, all of the red letters for the signs are still inside the building. There’s even some old props from the Rocky Horror days.
Both could come in handy if the theater is renovated and turned into an entertainment venue.
“No specific options have been discussed,” Bisanz said. “We’ve simply researched articles on what to do with an old theater.”
So could it return to its glory days as a beloved movie house? The buyer isn’t ruling it out.
“At the end of the day, of course, it also has to make financial sense,” Bisanz said.
Information from the Tampa Bay Times archive was used in this report.