Ideas swirled after Chris Scott bought the Beach Theatre on St. Pete Beach in August 2021 After several community input meetings, the formation of the nonprofit, The Beach Theatre Community Foundation, Inc., and the subsequent election of a board of directors, restorations to the iconic venue are underway.
“The idea is still also to have it be an entertainment space for live acts,” Scott’s business partner Hendrik Bisanz mentioned, noting the theater would still operate as a movie theater, too. From a new hotspot for indie films to Rocky Horror showings, to concerts, the theater will serve as an entertainment station for all ages.
Shana Nichols spoke about her involvement in the development.
“About three years ago, myself and [a] colleague went to the City [of St. Pete Beach] asking about the theater with the proposal to reopen it as an indie cinema and a new venue,” Nichols said. Now, she serves as the executive director of The Beach Theatre Community Foundation.
Since the theater sat dormant for nine years, it needs extensive restorations, but, Nichols said, they’re coming along swiftly. She added that they’ve completed the architectural design and fixed the roof leak, but the theater still needs a general contractor to advance the reconstruction.
“We’re going to expand the lobby. We want to have a gathering spot, a place where people can connect, and network, and chit chat about teh movies and about the evans that are going on,” Nichols said. “We’re going to add a bar and lounge area. So that’s like a big part of the restoration.”
This plan will leave the theater with fewer seats, but provide a more intimate and welcoming space for guests to mingle.
Both Bisanz and Nichols stressed the importance of community involvement with this project. According to Nichols, Saturday, Jan. 15 was the theater’s 82 birthday and to celebrate, The Beach Theatre Community Foundation conducted a movie survey to learn what kind of movies locals wanted to see at the theater, and classic Hollywood and independent films took the lead.
“Very important for us to have a fun experience and not just movies. We want people to know that. We do want it to be a multi-entertainment venue,” Nichols said.