Frankly, I’d rather see Jezebel, the film starring then-Laguna Beach resident Bette Davis that opened the Lido Theatre in 1938, but while we instead get Gary Marshall dreck Mother’s Day tonight, at least we can say the historic single-screen cinema is back, baby.
Follow the bouncing curtain: The Lido operated as a movie house for 75 years. Regency Theatres had been leasing it from owner the Fritz Duda Co. for 10 years when, in 2014, it was announced a new operator would be moving in due to declining ticket sales.
Lido Live, a company owned by Hammer Brunch, signed a 20-year lease and installed a stage to turn the theater into a live entertainment venue. Through December 2015, the likes of Smokey Robinson, Andrew Dice Clay and every flavor of cover band performed there.
Then Lido Live’s lease was unexpectedly broken—even though the company said it had acts booked through this year.
Local reporters filed teary-eyed reports about a cinema era ending with the official closure of the Lido on Jan. 1, 2016. But earlier this month, Fritz Duda Co. reached a new agreement with Regency, according to the cinema company’s president Lyndon Golin.
(In the interest of fairness, Golin also denied ticket sales were flat in the past, saying the operation had been thriving when Regency ran the place before.)
The agreement did not come in time for the Lido to be used throughout the eight-day Newport Beach Film Festival, which concluded Thursday night, but all 600 of its seats were sold for the fourth festival screening of the local action sports documentary Dirty Old Wedge Wednesday night. Gregg Schwenk, the NBFF CEO and co-founder, had Golin take a bow from the back of the room before the lights dimmed.
Lido Theatre was also back in play the following night, fulfilling its historic duty of being the official screen for the festival’s closing night picture, which this year was The Fixer, Ian Olds’ fish-out-of-water tale about a former helper for journalists in Afghanistan relocating to California’s northern wine country. The surrounding Lido Plaza once again served as the site for the festival’s closing night party, where free Stellas and Tito’s Vodka flowed.
Which brings us full circle to tonight, when Mother’s Day becomes the first general admission presentation at the brand new old Lido.
Matt Coker has been engaging, enraging and entertaining readers of newspapers, magazines and websites for decades. He spent the first 13 years of his career in journalism at daily newspapers before “graduating” to OC Weekly in 1995 as the paper’s first calendar editor. He went on to be managing editor, executive editor and is now senior staff writer.