MR. LONG BEACH: Clearing Confusion over Future of Atlantic Theater Site

A backhoe from American Integrated Services punched a hole in the side of the Atlantic Theater as part of the ceremony on Saturday. PHOTO BY BILL ALKOFER

A backhoe from American Integrated Services punched a hole in the side of the Atlantic Theater as part of the ceremony on Saturday. PHOTO BY BILL ALKOFER

In an effort to keep my thumb on the pulse of Long Beach I read a lot – including Facebook. One of the pages I routinely check is the popular Justin Rudd-run Long Beach page, aptly named “Long Beach, Calif.”

The page, which boasts almost 50,000 likes, is both fun and frustrating. Fun because it’s nice to see so many people talking about Mr. Long Beach’s town. And frustrating because many who post expect answers to legal questions or their medical problems resolved by random Facebookers.

Last week is a perfect example. Jessica Sawyer asked about the Atlantic Theater in North Long Beach. “… I heard it was slated for demo soon… Anyone know any history on it? I’d love to hear.  Atlantic + South ; North Long Beach”, she posted.

A perfectly valid question. The responses were varied. Some helpful, some not so much. So I’ll set out to set the record straight.

Many posters identified it as the Crest Theater. It wasn’t; it was the Atlantic Theater until it closed in 1976. The theater was showing Hollywood films until 1969. At the start of the next decade they began showing adult films. A classified ad in a local paper said they were searching for a “Topless go-go” girl in 1973.

In the mid 1980s Kung Fu films were gracing the silver screen. After that it was the Liberty Baptist Church and then a furniture store. It’s been vacant for about four years.

Architect Carl Boller designed the Streamline Modern theater at a cost of $100,000. The auditorium featured murals of underwater ocean scenes that glowed under blacklight during the show.

Another Facebooker said, “They’re tearing it down to put up a parking lot.” Also not true. A 25,000-square-foot library is planned for the site.

Still other posters accused the city of neglecting North Long Beach and recklessly tearing down old buildings. Many lamented the loss of the historic building.

John Royce made an attempt to clear up the confusion with his post: “Bottom line, it was NOT the City of Long Beach who made the decision to tear down this building. While there were both arguments for restoration/preservation and for demolition as part of a master plan to redevelop the area, the demolition camp very clearly carried the day.” He continued, “While it was not the decision I would have preferred, the process was very fair and the city is following the decision that North Long Beach leaders reached.”

The North Neighborhood Library, the first new one in North Long Beach in 60 years, will retain the theater’s spire and use some of the existing foundation.

The $12 million building is set to open in 2015 and be the jewel in the new Uptown Renaissance. The funding comes from former redevelopment funds.

Got a question for Mr. Long Beach? Send them to MrLongBeach@lbregister.com.