Port Theater shows potential, but no plans
Historic venue, when remodeled, will be able to hold larger events. But owner won’t reveal plans.
By Brianna Bailey
Updated: Friday, January 8, 2010 11:09 PM PST
The historic Port Theater on East Coast Highway could host film premieres and other special events again once renovations are complete, but its owner remains secretive about his plans for the 60-year-old movie house.
Newport Beach resident Fariborz Maseeh has declined all media requests to reveal what he has in store for the Port since he bought the venue three years ago. Maseeh is a noted philanthropist and founder of the investment management firm Picoco LLC.
“He’s been kind of tight lipped,” said Bernie Svalstad, president of the Corona del Mar Business Improvement District. “He keeps it to himself.”
The new theater will be able to seat 350 people and will feature movable, loggia-type seating that will allow the owner to accommodate the occasional larger event, Councilwoman Nancy Gardner said Friday. The owner also will be able to ask the city for permission to host special events for larger crowds up to 12 times a year, Gardner said.
While the Port used to seat 900, causing parking problems up and down East Coast Highway, Gardner said the remodeled theater would probably host about half as many people during the occasional special event.
“I don’t think we’re going to see a crowd of 900 people for the premiere of ‘Avatar’ or anything like that,” Gardner said.
The theater’s facade, which use to be covered in faded and peeling blue paint, has been given a new look with chrome panels and purple trim.
Renovations on the interior of the theater have not yet started.
The Art Deco-style Port Theater opened its doors in 1950 and once hosted the Newport Beach Film Festival.
It was an art house theater for nearly a decade before closing its doors in 1998.
The theater fell into disrepair, and its ownership had changed hands several times before Maseeh bought the property.