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After decades, longtime Bay Theatre owner to sell building and retire

Bay Theater
Posted at 6:44 PM, Jul 31, 2023

The Bay Theatre in downtown Morro Bay is up for sale.

The owner is officially retiring and looking for someone to purchase the old theater, which is listed for $1.625 million.

The general consensus in Morro Bay is that people would like to keep the theater locally owned and operated.

At 86 years old, owner Mary Lou Jannopoulos says she is ready to hand the theater off to someone who is ready to run it.

"I've been here almost 30 years and I think it's my time at my age," Jannopoulos said. "I need to get all my loose ends tightened up."

Jannopoulos originally put the theater up for sale in 2021 after the pandemic shut it down for nearly a year and she spent $100,000 to keep the screen running.

"Little by little, it's coming back," Jannopoulos said. "And I thought, 'I think it's time to put it up for sale.' It's starting to make money. It'll be good for somebody else, maybe someone that's younger."

Nearby businesses, like Gilligan's Sandwich Shop next door, say they have a great relationship with the theater. Guests waiting in line often stop in to grab a burger or homemade pizza on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays.

"Locally owned and operated, as you know, especially more of it being a small town, that's always really important," said Andy Zepeda, Gilligan's co-owner. "It will always get the support it needs to, to be a thriving business."

Santa Maria resident Andrew Santana says his first date with his partner of six years was at the Bay Theater.

"It's just so sad seeing it being up for sale now," he said. "I would love for it to stay a theater. It's such a beautiful place and has so much history to it."

Jannopoulos says the theater was originally built for the military. With the help of her family, it has been renovated over the years. The original ceilings remain the same.

"The Bay Theater is a wonderful place in this community," said Los Osos resident Don Maruska. "If you've ever been inside, you see this great, beautiful wood and interior that just makes it very special. I have such fond memories of seeing great movies over the 29 years that we've lived here."

It's important to Jannopoulos that the one-screen tradition be kept alive in Morro Bay.

"It's important to the people here. We have a lot of older people; they've been coming here since they were kids. They know it, they love it, and it's reasonable. My prices are not as high as all the other theaters, and they like it. It's their theater," she said.

Jannopoulos inherited the theater when her late husband passed away. She kept it running even when she was left in debt. Now that the business is looking up, she's ready to move on to her next step in life: writing a book.