New company set to take over Lido Theatre

For 75 years, the light pink Lido Theatre in Newport Beach has welcomed moviegoers onto the Balboa Peninsula.

But an asset manager for the theater's property owner has a new vision for the space, now surrounded by development, and in need of, as she put it, "a new fresh tenant."

Regency Theatres will lose its lease on the property at the end of the month. A new company, Lido Live, will take over, bringing with it plans to showcase more than just movies.

With the change in operators, the movie house will begin to host live music performances once or twice a month, plus local philanthropic events, book readings and perhaps even graduations, said Tristan Ritter, who works for the property's owner, Fritz Duda.

"Lido Theatre is loved by all," she said, "We're excited to get in and re-establish it as a premier movie house and live music venue in Orange county."

Tentatively scheduled to begin in September, national bands will entertain patrons. The music won't be rap or punk rock, but primarily '80s music, she said, declining to release names of the upcoming bands just yet. Only those above 21 will be admitted for the concerts, which will target an older audience. Beer will be available along with typical pizza and popcorn.

The shows may not be the first live performances there, but since it opened in the 1930s, the theater's primary purpose has been film.

Residents could always count on seeing a sophisticated movie there on a Saturday night, without having to check if it might be a deejay night instead, resident Steve Mason said.

"It's kind of iconic to the neighborhood," said Mason, who has lived in Newport Beach for about 15 years and loves to sit in the front row of the theatre's balcony. "It's the place we go to the movies for a quiet evening out.

"... It just fits the community, and it's been around forever. It's the type of place that all generations can go and enjoy a night out at the movies."

Small touches, such as a nice welcoming from the manager before a movie started or candies given out at the end of screenings, make the place special for all generations, he said.

"It's just a great venue, a great amenity for that community," said Lyndon Golin, who runs Regency Theatres. "We've enjoyed our time there, that's for sure."

Regency took over the lease of the space in 2001, soon after the previous operator, Edwards Theatres Circuit Inc., filed for bankruptcy protection. The single-screen theatre may be the only one of its kind in Orange County, Golin added.

"It's not really something that can be replaced," he said.

Aside from cosmetic updates, like new carpet or paint, the building will remain largely the same with its beloved balcony seating and familiar red velvet curtain, Ritter said.

The ocean scenes on the walls inside will be removed because of water damage, and the "Regency" portion of the sign on the facade will be taken down, but visitors will still arrive beneath its curving marquee and buy a ticket at the signature box office.

Programming changes will fit right into updates throughout the area, Ritter said.

"So, yes, things are going to change, but I think they're going to change in a really positive way," she said.

An iconic spot that once greeted visitors driving onto the Peninsula, perhaps heading toward the historic Balboa Fun Zone to ride the now-aging Ferris wheel or to cruise across the harbor on the bright red ferry, the Lido Theatre is now tucked away behind development that arose around it after the theatre's opening.

Located at 3459 Via Lido, the theater is part of Via Lido Plaza, which is entirely owned by Duda, who leases to tenants that include Z Pizza, Bank of America and Woody's Diner.

The plaza itself received recent attention for the opening of a flagship West Marine store there last fall. A new restaurant, which is yet to be announced, is also slated to open at the plaza soon.

First-run films will still play daily at the theater. The Newport Beach Film Festival will continue to work with the theater during the festival, off-season and for Orange County Film Society screenings, said Gregg Schwenk, co-founder of the Newport Beach Film Festival.

"The Lido Theatre has always had a special place in our heart as a festival," he said. "It's a beautiful theatre, it's a unique location and we think that the new direction is definitely going to take it to the next level."

Meanwhile, just north of the theater, plans are in the works for DJM Capital Partners to redevelop Lido Marina Village with a unified design, an upgraded marina and new upscale stores and restaurant. The old city hall site to the south is slated to become a "boutique hotel."

Mayor Rush Hill said he took no issue with the change, so long as the operations remained in compliance with the building's zoning and permits. He noted that whether or not the change was appropriate for the residents will be decided by the market.

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