Historic Lompoc Theater to be renovated, revamped

Posted at 7:29 PM, Aug 10, 2018

When it was first built in 1927, the Lompoc Theater exuded elegance and showcased advances in the film industry, making it what some called the "crown jewel" of the Central Coast.

"It was a beautifully designed theater, designed by a Hollywood scenic designer," said Lompoc Theater Project Board Member Anne Ramsey.

But the once gorgeous sconces, high ceilings and artistic motif are now coated in dust and spider webs. The only guests the theater has seen in years are pigeons.

"The whole time I’ve lived here, it’s been abandoned, derelict," said Lompoc Chamber of Commerce Communications Director Marlee Bedford. "Kids would throw rocks at the windows."

Though the theater is now a mere shell of its once charming image, it’s undergone some major structural improvements since the Lompoc Theater Project got the keys two years ago.

"What we’ve accomplished in two years is remarkable," Ramsey said. "We’ve cleaned out the entirety of the theater. It’s perfectly safe to be in here now, where once upon a time you didn’t come in without a mask and hard hat."

In the process of abating the building, crews took down walls which revealed historic movie posters tucked into the walls, likely as a form of insulation.

Despite all the progress, there’s much more work to be done.

About $6 million dollars worth of work remains, improvements that depend on funding and community support.

"In the past, sometimes we talked to the community and they patted us on the shoulder and said ‘good for you’ or they were Debbie Downer about it, saying it would never get done," Bedford said. "People don’t want to give money to something that won’t come to fruition."

But the mood of the public has changed, according to a recent feasibility study.

The study, which was conducted by an independent organization, found about 90 percent of those polled in the community support improvements to the theater. The findings of the study make the theater more attractive to state grant money holders.

"We’re going to have rock concerts, ballet, theater, salsa," Ramsey said.

Ramsey said that same report found the theater has the potential to return $4 million to Lompoc each year, something the Chamber of Commerce is very excited about.

"It will be great to have more to Lompoc’s tourism industry than wineries and skydiving," Bedford said.

Bedford was one of about 400 people to attend a social event at the theater Thursday night, kick-starting the plans to move the project forward.

"It will help the hotel industry, the restaurant industry, retail shops will open," Ramsey said.

Ramsey said the building’s top floor would be rented out for retail space and the rent would help sustain the theater.

"This is such a jewel and we want to revive the history and beauty of the building, historically and accurately, to bring it back to its former glory."

The Lompoc Theater Project plans to launch a capital campaign in the near future. The theater likely won’t be fully renovated for about three years, according to Ramsey.