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Local News

Key Work Underway For Revival of Historic Lompoc Theatre

Efforts include asbestos and mold removal along with eviction of pigeons and installation of tarp on roof

Lompoc Theatre Project President Mark Herrier talks about the restoration efforts for the historic building marking its 100th anniversary in 2017. Click to view larger
Lompoc Theatre Project President Mark Herrier talks about the restoration efforts for the historic building marking its 100th anniversary in 2017. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

The  pigeons have been evicted and the leaky roof temporarily has been covered, some of the first steps toward bringing the Lompoc Theatre back to life.

Work on the building on the 100 block of North H Street has quietly occurred to prepare for the larger renovation, according to Mark Herrier, president of the Lompoc Theatre Project board of directors.

“We’ve been getting a lot of support from local contractors — either they’re doing things at cost or at a minimal markup or some are even donating their services,” Herrier said. “It’s instrumental in us being able to get this done.” 

McIntosh Roofing covered the top of the building with a white tarp to stop leaks for at least two years.

“God willing, we’ll have the roof done by then,” Herrier said.

The first goal has been to improve the auditorium’s condition by the 90th birthday on May 27, when the owners plan to hold a party in the parking lot .

“We’re going to have the celebration we’ve been putting off for a long time, and for the first time people will be able to walk into the theater safely without hard hats, without breathing masks  and it will be nice,” he added. 

The grassroots, all-volunteer Lompoc Theatre Project wants to see the restored building become a cultural events center, hosting community performances as well as professional entertainers in the building Herrier said has legendary acoustics. 

They estimate the project will take $6 million, and have raised approximately $100,000 so far. 

The timeline for the completion depends on fundraising.

Existing movie theater seats at the Lompoc Theatre are being removed because they were deemed too moldy to remain. Organizers hope to replicate the seats as part of the theater renovation. Click to view larger
Existing movie theater seats at the Lompoc Theatre are being removed because they were deemed too moldy to remain. Organizers hope to replicate the seats as part of the theater renovation. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

“If somebody writes me a check right now, I’ll have the doors open two years from today,” he said.

A donation from actors and directors Julia Louis-Dreyfus and her husband, Brad Hall, Montecito residents, funded removal of mold, asbestos and other hazardous matter in the auditorium and lobby. 

In what Herrier likened to a pigeon wrangling rodeo, loud noises helped drive the flock of birds from the building before crews sealed up holes to keep the pigeons from returning.

“The pigeon poop is mostly removed now,” Herrier said.

Existing movie theater seats are being removed because they were deemed too moldy to remain. However, the Irwin Seating Company, one of the premiere theatrical seating companies, is working to replicate the seats and will provide a sample for future fundraisers, Herrier added.

The grassroots group working to revive the decrepit building took possession of the keys in early 2016 after untangling ownership from a bureaucratic web.

Getting the keys, and taking ownership, meant the nonprofit organization could begin settling back property taxes — a debt of $75,000 with interest. 

Through negotiations with Santa Barbara County, the group worked to get the bill reduced and split payments over five years. 

“We intend to have that paid off before the five years,” Herrier said.”The good news is that’s the only debt on the theater. We own it free and clear.”

They also have updated the structural engineering assessment, and were relieved to find the condition had not worsened since the last one conducted six years ago.

The volunteer group spearheading the renovation includes people who grew up in Lompoc and newcomers. 

For Herrier, the old theater played a pivotal role, recalling watching The Music Man at the Lompoc Theatre. 

“Robert Preston’s performance in that is what made me decide to be an actor at 10 years old. So that literally changed my life,” he said. 

Among films Herrier appeared in the Porky’s series of movies. 

Later, a film he directed, Popcorn, showed at the theater, with one of his most cherished possessions being a Polaroid picture announcing the film on the marquee, he said.

“So I had a movie actually play here, and the Porky’s movies all played here. To grow up in a town and then to have your work in that town, it’s seminal. So yeah I want to save it. It means a lot to me.

“But more than that, it means everything to this town,” Herrier said, adding that other communities that restored theaters have seen old downtowns flourish.

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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