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NEWPORT BEACH | Community News Focus

Balboa Theater Sale Nears Completion

May 14, 1997|JOHN CANALIS

Owners of the historic Balboa Theater, one of the county's oldest movie houses, plan to finalize a purchase agreement Thursday with a foundation committed to restoring its original Spanish-colonial style.

CJW Inc., owned by siblings Cathy Wervey, Wayne and John Wortmann, agreed to sell the theater to the Balboa Arts Theater Foundation for $550,000, an amount that must be raised in 10 months under a special arrangement.

If the foundation does not come up with the money by the deadline, ownership will revert to the siblings, said Steve Bromberg, a member of the foundation's board of directors. Donors would be reimbursed.

"If for any reason this does not happen in 10 months, if we cannot raise it, all of the money will go back to the people who donated, every nickel," he said. "If they have concerns, those concerns should be alleviated."

The $550,000 is a starting point for the foundation, which must raise an additional $750,000 to complete improvements to the 450-seat theater, which opened in 1927 and closed in 1992.

The current owners purchased the theater for $360,000 in 1995 and partially restored it to its original appearance, said Sue Cannon, a spokeswoman for the foundation.

Negotiations to sell the theater to the foundation--committed to reopening the theater as a place to view films, live theater and attend community events--began six months ago. The theater could reopen by next spring, Cannon said.

From the 1930s to '60s, the landmark at 707 W. Balboa Blvd. was a premier place to view a film. Then in the 1970s, it went through several owners who screened everything from classic film revivals to pornography to midnight viewings of the "Rocky Horror Picture Show."

It is now considered key to revitalization plans for the Balboa Peninsula.

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