After 73 years, the big screen at the Beach Theatre went dark last weekend. The France family cannot say when or if the theatre will reopen.
Last Saturday night was supposed to be the final show, a midnight Rocky Horror Picture Show with the live cast, Interchangeable Parts, performing in front of the screen. A source close to the cast told the Gabber that Progress Energy (now Duke Energy) cut the power to the building before the showing, and the cast, although they had hoped to find a generator to run one last show in the historic building, was unable to perform.
While the Gabber could not reach owner Michael France for comment, locals have watched the soap opera play out for a few months. Corey merchants as well as patrons of a popular Corey bar, the Swigwam, recall police showing up while a locksmith changed the locks a few months ago. This reporter also witnessed the theatre remaining closed through advertised showtimes.
The France family, St. Pete Beach residents, are going through a divorce, locals say, and who gets “custody” of the theatre remains to be seen.
Michael France, a scriptwriter, bought the theatre for $800,000 in 2007. State records show his home address as the mailing address. Since that time he replaced plumbing, upgraded the projector, and worked to restore the theatre. A year ago he told the press the theatre needed help and that “After 70 years, I don’t want to be the guy who turns out the lights on the Beach Theatre.”