For roughly 75 years, the flamingo-pink Lido Theatre has stood as a welcome sign to residents and tourists alike as they pull onto the Balboa Peninsula.
But after decades as a movie house, the art deco theater is adding a new feature — live performances. And perhaps alcohol.
Regency Theatres has operated the vintage theater for years but will lose its lease on the property at the end of the month. A new operator, Lido Live, will take over, bringing with it plans to showcase more than just movies.
The theater 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,” Ritter said. “We’re excited to get in and reestablish it as a premier movie house and live music venue in Orange County.”
Bands are tentatively scheduled to begin performing in September. The music won’t be rap or punk rock but primarily ‘80s music, she said, declining to release names of the upcoming bands. Only those 21 or older will be admitted to the concerts, which will target an older audience. Along with the standard fare of popcorn and pizza, beer will be available.
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 whether 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 theater’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 welcome from the manager before a movie started or candies given out at the end of screenings, make the place special for all ages, 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.”
Aside from cosmetic updates, such as new carpet or paint, the building will remain largely untouched, with its balcony seating and familiar red velvet curtain, Ritter said.
The ocean scenes on the walls, though, will be painted over 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.
The movie house was one of the distinctive landmarks in Balboa when visitors poured onto the peninsula to spend an evening at the old Balboa Fun Zone, dine at the Balboa Pavilion or ride the Ferris wheel that spins above the harbor.
Now the theater is tucked behind newer developments and the Balboa Fun Zone is largely gone.
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 theater, it’s a unique location and we think that the new direction is definitely going to take it to the next level.”