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Campaign Under Way to Restore Lompoc’s Valley Drive-In Theatre to Former Glory

Lompoc Valley resident launches effort to produce a sequel for long-closed venue at city’s northern entrance

Lompoc resident Christopher King hopes to revive and reopen the Valley Drive-in Theatre on the north side of the city. A gravel company and a recycling operation use part of the property now. Click to view larger
Lompoc resident Christopher King hopes to revive and reopen the Valley Drive-in Theatre on the north side of the city. A gravel company and a recycling operation use part of the property now. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

A Lompoc Valley man wants to bring new life to an old eyesore on the city’s north side by re-opening the Valley Drive-In Theatre.

Christopher King, who moved to the Lompoc area two years ago and works as general manager at an Avila Beach hotel, launched an effort to restore the run-down drive-in theater on H Street at the northern entrance to the city.

He began exploring the options and started a Facebook page, ​Re-Open The Valley Drive-In Lompoc, that in one week gained more than 2,000 members, and passed 3,550 Saturday.

“It’s really caught some incredible steam,” he told Noozhawk.

He said he recently met with the property owners, Carol and Ken Calvert, and said they seemed enthusiastic but cautious.

That summarizes what King contends will be his approach, too.

“I want to be realistic, but I also want people to be enthused about it,” he said.

The Calverts did not return several Noozhawk calls for comment.

Local Economic Development Committee members have long talked about the need to make the city’s northern gateway more attractive.

“We are thrilled the Lompoc community supports revitalizing the drive-in theater and that someone is willing to take the lead on organizing this,” said Jenelle Osborne, EDC chairwoman. “The EDC agrees, that in its current state, the drive-in is not a very welcoming entrance for the north side of town.

“The challenge for Lompoc is the property is privately owned and located in the county. Many EDC members have approached the owners about making improvements over the past three years. It’s great to hear the owners may have found the partners they wanted to update the property.”

King said he recognizes there are some huge hurdles in getting the theater re-opened, but remains undaunted.

Thanks to modern technology, they don’t need to acquire old-fashioned poles with speakers. An FM transmitter so audio could be broadcast via car radios would cost $2,000.

However, a digital projector would run $100,000 to $200,000.

“The funding efforts for $200,000 isn’t as hard as it sounds,” King said.

He initially opened an online fundraising campaign for the drive-in theater’s re-opening, but later closed his Go Fund Me site, saying he ended the solicitation “due to a lack of understanding on what the money would be used for.”

The theater property is in Santa Barbara County’s jurisdiction, not the city’s, so King is contemplating annexation, reasoning that it might be easier if the site were within city limits.

An annexation can be a costly and time-consuming process, however.

One big challenge may be traffic since the theater entrance is on heavily used North H Street, which doubles as Highway 1.

Flooding and fish and game matters are other issues that must be settled.

And an engineer will need to determine if the huge drive-in screen is structurally sound.

King is banking on the fact a drive-in theater already operated at the site.

“It’s much easier to reopen an existing business than to open a new business,” he said.

And the proposed California Space Center may help with some of the complicated matters like the traffic study since that project must complete an analysis anyway, King said.

He said he has talked to California Space Center leader Eva Blaisdell, whose ambitious project calls for an IMAX theater. Still, King stresses the two efforts are separate.

Another possibility is exploring historical landmark status for the site, he said.

Even as he rattles off the ideas, King is quick to note how new his effort is.

“These are all ideas,” he said. “Nothing is set in stone. This is very, very new.”

Meanwhile, another group is working to untangle the legal paperwork for the ownership of the closed walk-in Lompoc Theatre in the 100 block of North H Street. A committee has been formed in an effort to revive the facility as a regional entertainment venue.

The two projects do not conflict, King contends.

“I think they complement each other very well,” King said. “I think both projects will support the other.”

Earlier this year, the Lompoc Theatre Project premiered plans for a $6 million rehabilitation and renovation of the 87-year-old structure, and held a fundraising concert Saturday night.

“We are watching the discussion taking place on social media with interest,” said Mark Herrier, president of the Lompoc Theatre Project.

Herrier, an actor and director, grew up in Lompoc and appeared in the ​Porky’s film series in the 1980s.

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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