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Vivid marquee lights the way for iconic Bay Theatre’s return to mid-century splendor – Orange County Register

Vivid marquee lights the way for iconic Bay Theatre’s return to mid-century splendor – Orange County Register

Over the previous two years, Paul Dunlap has grow to be intimately acquainted with the Bay Theatre – investigating its each sconce, flower-etched window pane and classic exit signal. Ought to it keep or ought to it go? Has it resided right here since World Struggle II or is it an expendable latecomer?

Like a detective scorching on the path, Dunlap, 64, talks about forensics – as in: “I did the forensics on the original colors of the neon lights because I want to keep everything authentic.”

But even nonetheless, every go to to his valuable treasure brings a brand new wave of wonderment.

  • Paul Dunlap seems over the plans for renovating the Bay Theatre in Seal Seashore, CA, on Monday, Jan 7, 2019. Dunlap has already refurbished the historic marquee and can spend the subsequent yr transforming the inside. (Photograph by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • The within of the Bay Theatre in Seal Seashore, CA, on Monday, Jan 7, 2019. Proprietor Paul Dunlap has already refurbished the historic marquee and can spend the subsequent yr transforming the inside. (Photograph by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • The Bay Theatre in Seal Seashore, CA, on Monday, Jan 7, 2019. Proprietor Paul Dunlap has virtually accomplished his renovation of the historic marquee and can spend the subsequent yr transforming the inside. (Photograph by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • The Bay Theatre in Seal Seashore, CA, on Monday, Jan 7, 2019. Proprietor Paul Dunlap has virtually accomplished his renovation of the historic marquee and can spend the subsequent yr transforming the inside. (Photograph by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Unique seats from the Bay Theatre might be renovated in Seal Seashore, CA, on Monday, Jan 7, 2019. Proprietor Paul Dunlap stated the theater will present artwork movies and host reside leisure. (Photograph by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • The foyer of the Bay Theatre in Seal Seashore, CA, on Monday, Jan 7, 2019. Proprietor Paul Dunlap stated the foyer might be expanded to accommodate ADA necessities throughout his transforming of the theater. (Photograph by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • The projection room of the Bay Theatre consists of previous gear and a devoted telephone for the projectionist in Seal Seashore, CA, on Monday, Jan 7, 2019. (Photograph by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Paul Dunlap factors out the location of the unique ticket sales space in entrance of the Bay Theatre in Seal Seashore, CA, on Monday, Jan 7, 2019. Dunlap has already refurbished the historic marquee and can spend the subsequent yr transforming the inside. (Photograph by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Paul Dunlap examines the basement of the Bay Theatre in Seal Seashore, CA, on Monday, Jan 7, 2019. (Photograph by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • The foyer of the Bay Theatre consists of the unique tile water fountain and padded doorways in Seal Seashore, CA, on Monday, Jan 7, 2019. Proprietor Paul Dunlap restored the tile which had been painted over. (Photograph by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • An indication in the hallway that leads to the workplaces above the Bay Theatre nonetheless lists the earlier proprietor, Dick Loderhose, in Seal Seashore, CA, on Monday, Jan 7, 2019. (Photograph by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Stylized EXIT indicators in the Bay Theatre in Seal Seashore, CA, on Monday, Jan 7, 2019. (Photograph by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Controls in the projection room of the Bay Theatre embrace buttons for the previous pipe organ in Seal Seashore, CA, on Monday, Jan 7, 2019. (Photograph by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Previous movies nonetheless in the projection room of the Bay Theatre embrace movies; The Black Pirate (1926), School (1927) and Steamboat Invoice Jr. (1928) in Seal Seashore, CA, on Monday, Jan 7, 2019. (Photograph by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Previous movies nonetheless in the projection room of the Bay Theatre embrace movies; Metropolis (1927), School (1927) and Steamboat Invoice Jr. (1928) in Seal Seashore, CA, on Monday, Jan 7, 2019. (Photograph by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Bay Theatre proprietor Paul Dunlap exhibits off an previous movie reel in Seal Seashore, CA, on Monday, Jan 7, 2019. Dunlap has already refurbished the historic marquee and can spend the subsequent yr transforming the inside. (Photograph by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • The Bay Theatre in Seal Seashore, CA, on Monday, Jan 7, 2019. Proprietor Paul Dunlap has virtually accomplished his renovation of the historic marquee and can spend the subsequent yr transforming the inside. (Photograph by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • The just about-complete reworked third-story condominium above the Bay Theatre shall be renovated in Seal Seashore, CA, on Monday, Jan 7, 2019. (Photograph by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Tile is partially eliminated revealing the unique cement partitions on the outdoors of the Bay Theatre might be renovated in Seal Seashore, CA, on Monday, Jan 7, 2019. Proprietor Paul Dunlap stated he’s planning to set up new tile. (Photograph by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • An unique signal above the males’s rest room at the Bay Theatre shall be renovated in Seal Seashore, CA, on Monday, Jan 7, 2019. Proprietor Paul Dunlap is increasing the loos throughout his rework to meet ADA necessities. (Photograph by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Unique seats from the Bay Theatre might be renovated in Seal Seashore, CA, on Monday, Jan 7, 2019. Proprietor Paul Dunlap stated the theater will present artwork movies and host reside leisure. (Photograph by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • The Bay Theatre in Seal Seashore, CA, on Monday, Jan 7, 2019. Proprietor Paul Dunlap has virtually accomplished his renovation of the historic marquee and can spend the subsequent yr transforming the inside. (Photograph by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register/SCNG)

“This is the coolest place in the theater,” Dunlap excitedly proclaimed as he confirmed off the dusty projection room. “Look at the size of this reel!” Frozen in time, the cluttered loft nonetheless homes silent movies that have been previous even when proven in 1945.

Earlier than Dunlap purchased it for $2.2 million in late 2016, the Seal Seashore theater sat idle for 4 years. Dunlap plans to reopen it inside a yr after restoring what he can and including what he should. In the latter class, he already has earthquake-proofed the constructing and shortly will make its entryways wheelchair-accessible.

The Fullerton developer, who calls himself a historical past buff and patron of the arts, focuses on rescuing aged buildings from the wrecking ball. One among his proudest accomplishments, Dunlap stated, is his hometown’s elegant Villa Del Sol – opened in 1922 as the California Lodge.

Dunlap estimated he’ll put $2 million into the Bay Theatre. By the time it debuts, the theater shall be prepared not solely for films, but in addition musical and theatrical productions.

Whereas a lot work stays, passersby can see progress in the brightly lit marquee. Illuminating Major Road simply in time for December’s vacation parade, the eye-catching placard – a lot of it unique – options vibrant blue, pink and yellow neon.

Nonetheless to come on the exterior: Pushed out partitions to broaden the foyer, an old style ticket sales space and sea-green tiles like the ones there prior to a colorless rework.

Inside, an enormous enterprise awaits. Items of some 400 heavy iron seats lay stacked in the again of the darkish and cavernous theater. Dunlap plans to refurbish the seats, barely widening the area between arm rests. “To replace them, we’d have to go plastic,” he stated. “I don’t want to do that.”

Up entrance, as well as to a film display, the area will supply a stage and modular seating that may be eliminated for an orchestra pit.

Any objets d’artwork that stay from the 1940s will proceed to stay – together with the curly metallic ferns hanging on the partitions. “When I first saw them, I said, ‘Those have to go – they’re from the ’70s,’” Dunlap stated. “But then I learned they’ve been here since the start.”

Initially, the Bay Theatre was a part of Fox Movie’s nationwide theater chain. Libby Beam Appelgate, 83, fondly recollects working in its ticket sales space whereas attending Lengthy Seashore Metropolis School in the late 1950s.

“After closing the booth, I would rush inside the lobby and start selling popcorn,” she stated. “The popcorn was in bags in the storage room – it wasn’t fresh, like today.”

Her boss, supervisor Kenneth Cobb, got here up with a “great idea,” Appelgate stated: “He started showing foreign films on Wednesday nights. Since mostly adults came, he served coffee instead of popcorn. He brought culture to little Seal Beach.”

The Bay was bought by Richard Loderhose in 1975. He eliminated a few of the seats for his 1928 Wurlitzer organ – a whimsical aptitude that was relocated after Loderhose’s dying in 2008. His household put the theater up for sale, asking $three.three million. However it languished with no purchaser for almost a decade, elevating considerations amongst locals that their icon can be demolished.

Then alongside got here Dunlap, who acquired a standing ovation at a Metropolis Council assembly when he promised to protect the constructing in its meant use.

“I got it for a deal because other potential buyers didn’t want to bother with a theater,” Dunlap stated. “They knew they’d be the town pariah if they tore it down.”

With the days of stale, precooked popcorn lengthy gone, theatergoers will take pleasure in the choices of sunshine meals, beer and wine, Dunlap stated. He has labored out a cope with Chase Financial institution throughout Pacific Coast Freeway to lease its parking zone throughout off-hours.

The lately divorced father of 4 grownup youngsters stated he may even relocate from Fullerton to the condominium above the theater, presently getting a face raise. The third-story pad opens onto an expansive deck with a sweeping view of Previous City Seal Seashore.

“Paul is a visionary,” stated Robert Howson, proprietor of the Harbour Surfboard store instantly throughout Major Road. “It didn’t seem to make sense for someone to put a lot of money into something that might not offer much return on the investment. But Paul is resurrecting the Bay as a multidimensional theater, an entertainment center.”

Nonetheless, the query lingers: What if Dunlap’s fabulous dream seems to be a pipe dream?

“Oh, well,” he shrugged. “Let’s just say, worst case scenario, the community doesn’t support it or for whatever reason it fails. I’ll still have a great piece of real estate I can convert it to retail.”

Nevertheless, Dunlap confidently concluded, “That’s not going to happen.”

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