One Response to “Port Theater Opens Doors to Public For First Time in 14 Years”
May 2nd, 2012
Simply AWESOME... the "small town" village sized theater is saved!
“I think they did a great job,” said Newport Beach City Councilman Keith Curry, who attended the sneak peak event and said he’d never been inside the theater before. “It looks wonderful.”
The lobby opened at noon for the seminar, giving the public a chance to admire the lobby with a concessions stand that sold coffees, juices and pastries (but not popcorn), with a backsplash trimmed with zebra-striped wood paneling and restrooms with glass and granite fixtures. Inside, the theater had custom-made leather arm chairs along with a back row of rocking leather seats with pullout tables. The white theater walls are patterned with fuchsia-colored acoustical panels.
“We are still a bit nervous,” admitted owner. “This is not a grand opening. We rushed it for the Film Festival.”
The grand opening, he said, would be in early July.
Alex Brana of Corona del Mar was one of the first people to visit the New Port — an event he waited 14 years for.
“I was here the last showing of the last night,” he said, watching Ayn Rand’s Movie Diary.
“There weren’t that many people -60 or 70,” he said. “I lived on Iris then, and it was neat to walk over and see a foreign film or a documentary or art house-type film. It was sad to see them shut the doors.”
Since then, he said, nobody knew what might become of the theater.
“Rumors were rampant for years,” he said. “At one point, there were rumors it was going to be torn down. Then there were rumors it was going to be a nightclub. I was always hopeful it would be a theater again. When I heard it was finally opening, I didn’t believe it. It looks awesome.”
Corona del Mar resident Mary Sackman said she once thought about buying the theater, but that never amounted to anything. The opening, she said, was an exciting event for Corona del Mar.
“I like when you drive down at night and see the blue light,” she said. “I always say, ‘Look! There’s the Port!’”
Ron Yeo, a Corona del Mar architect and member of the CdM Business Improvement District board, praised the theater’s architect, Scott Laidlaw.
“Scott did an amazing job,” Yeo said.
The first event today was a screenwriting seminar, and quickly all 68 seats were filled when the theater doors opened. As people left the theater, those waiting in line were ushered in to take the open seats.
Gregg Schwenk, the festival’s chief executive, welcomed the audience and said when the NBFF began 13 years ago, he always dreamed of showing films in then-closed Port.
“This exceeds all of our ideas and images of what could become of the space,” he said. “You are very, very lucky. You are very very fortunate.”
The theater will have a 5:30 p.m. screening today of the documentary “Kingdom Come” as well as another screenwriting seminar at 1 p.m. Sunday and the screening of “Right to Play” on Sunday. For more information, visit the Film Festival website.
Port Theater opened in the 1950s with 900 seats but closed in 1998 and was slated for demolition when it was sold.
The remodel has taken several years and has included extensive seismic upgrades. Some exterior wall work has taken considerable time, the owner said. A marquee also will be added before the grand opening.
The owner also said he prefers to call the theater “the New Port, in Newport” as opposed to simply the Port Theater.