Theater evacuated after bomb threat

What turned out to be a bogus bomb threat forced an evacuation at the Newport Theatre Arts Center on Wednesday evening, according to Newport Beach police.

Someone left a phone message at the center Monday evening with a demand for money to be fulfilled within 48 hours, Newport Beach police spokeswoman Jennifer Manzella said.

"There was a threat made that the bomb was going to go off, and there was a sum of money requested," Manzella said.

As the 6:37 p.m. deadline approached, the threat was reported to law enforcement at 5:32 p.m. Wednesday, police said. Newport officers and an Orange County Sheriff's Department bomb squad responded to the scene at 2501 Cliff Drive and locked it down within minutes, according to Manzella.

Crews used a bomb-sniffing dog and other equipment to sweep the area after the building had been evacuated, she said.

When law enforcement found no explosives, the nonprofit theater was allowed to return to business as usual, Manzella said.

She said she did not know how many people were in the building at the time but that those evacuated were kept at least 300 feet away while officers investigated.

Police declined to release more information about the voice mail because they are still investigating.

"We're looking into origin of the call," Manzella said.

The president and managing director of the Theatre Arts Center, Rae Cohen, said the box office manager was the only person in the building at the time of the evacuation.

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