The Beach Theatre in St. Pete Beach, Florida was owned by screenwriter Michael France (Cliffhanger) until his death in 2013. The theatre first opened in 1940 and France bought it in 2007.
But unlike The New Beverly Cinema (owned by writer/director Quentin Tarantino) in Los Angeles, The Beach Theatre didn’t have a large cinephile fan base to sustain it and it closed on on Nov. 18, 2012. France died five months later at age 51.
There were some legal issues in its closing months and I’m actually not sure who owns it now or if there are any plans to restore it. But it looks like it’s been dormant in the years since France’s death.
If the theater was in St. Petersburg it’d have a chance to be revived, but St. Pete Beach is a largely tourist and retirement community of under 10,000 people. Downtown Tampa is a good 45 minute drive depending on traffic and already has a thriving and beautiful historical movie house (that I featured in a post last year) so it can’t look for help from there.
It’d be great if the Lowe’s Don Cesar Hotel (a 1920s built grand hotel nearby), the city of St. Pete Beach, or a non-profit group in the area purchased the Beach Theatre and somehow found a way to restore the art deco building and have at least one theatre on St. Pete Beach that played movies at least every once in a while.
For now, the Beach Theatre is one more reminder of the ongoing struggle the movie business has between art and commerce. Not too many screenwriters ever get the chance to buy an old movie theatre so at least Michael France got the chance to carry the torch for a few seasons.