ST. PETE BEACH — Want to see movies at the Beach Theatre again? Think it’s suited for cabaret and live theater? What about dinner shows?
The new owner of the beloved 315 Corey Ave. property wants to hear your thoughts.
Christopher Scott bought the Beach last month as-is for $652,000 — $173,000 over list price. Ever since, he’s heard from the people of St. Pete Beach.
“People were really enthused about it,” Christopher said. “I’ve been inundated with letters and messages.”
Originally from England, Scott and wife Maria moved from Maryland to St. Pete Beach last year with their five children. He wanted to become a part of the community. When his friend Hendrik Bisanz, founder and CEO at Seasalt Properties, alerted him that the unique property was on the market, he jumped on it. They beat out 10 other offers for the theater. Scott wondered what he was going to do with a cinema.
Then news stories came out. Comments and emails from hundreds of passionate locals followed.
Scott set up an email address, firstname.lastname@example.org, to funnel all of the feedback to one place. He contemplated starting a newsletter for updates. Many residents have already submitted ideas for their dream version of the Beach Theatre. Others just want to share their memories, from first dates to the times they smuggled in bottles of wine.
“It seems everyone has a story,” Scott said.
While the possibilities are exciting, Scott and Bisanz are conscious of the responsibility they have to the community.
“My goal is to be inclusive of trying to listen to everybody,” Scott said.
“I didn’t want to be the one who sold it to a guy that turned it into a CVS,” Bisanz added.
The first challenge, it seems, is getting the theater to a place where people can safely walk around inside. There’s no air conditioning or electricity yet. A walk through the theater requires powerful flashlights, or the cell phone lights of several people pointed in the same direction.
Moisture drips from the ceiling. A thick, musty smell greets visitors as soon as the door opens. Though the previous owner replaced the roof before the sale, chunks of the ceiling have fallen, dusting the 240 red fabric seats.
Maria Scott had the idea to leave pictures of the interior up on the glass doors so passersby could see the current state of the property.
“People think we just need to dust off the chairs and put on a film,” she said.
“It does need some work,” her husband added.
But there are still traces of past life, and perhaps hints a future rebirth — a popcorn machine and a letter board menu with prices ($3 for a beer) sit behind the ticket counter. Shelves in the cramped room behind the screen are still covered with boxes of cup lids and bottles of bloody Mary mix. Scott found hundreds of movie posters upstairs for films dating up to 2012, the year the theater closed.
Bisanz replaced the posters in the glass frames by the door. Instead of advertising future films, signs explain how the public can share ideas for the property.
A public meeting will be held at 5:30 p.m. on Sept. 15 at the St. Pete Beach Community Center at 7701 Boca Ciega Drive. In the meantime, Scott and Bisanz are researching what others have done with old theaters and planning visits to properties like the Bilheimer Capitol Theatre in Clearwater.
Every time Scott opens the front doors to the theater, locals wander up the street to talk about the property or ask for peek inside.
“It’s great to hear people’s stories,” he said. “It cements the reason for moving to Florida. I feel like we’re we’ve kind of gotten a head start on being involved in the community.”