Bay Theatre Opens on Swarthmore with Queen on the Screen

Community members gather to cut the ribbon at Bay Theatre on Nov. 9.
Rich Schmitt/Staff Photographer

By MICHAEL AUSHENKER | Contributing Writer

It was only fitting to see Queen’s frontman Freddie Mercury light up the screen, as “We Are the Champions” summed up the euphoria felt by the people behind an upscale resurrection of the Bay Theatre on Swarthmore Avenue, where, last week, posters of “Saturday Night Fever” and other movies screened during the original theater’s last days lined the entrance for a VIP opening party.

About 100 people attended the Nov. 8 reception for the Bay Theatre by Cinépolis Luxury Cinemas at the newly minted Palisades Village retail center, ahead of the cineplex’s Nov. 9 public grand opening.

Party attendees included Cinépolis USA CEO Luis Olloqui, Fandango Senior Director of Public Relations Harry Medved and KTLA 5 entertainment reporter Sam Rubin, who ushered at a West Los Angeles movie theater as a teenager.

Palisadians such as Tammy Strome, a local of 20 years, were treated to hors d’oeuvres, cocktails from the stylish in-house bar, and, naturally, free Icees, Raisinettes and popcorn to go with a luxurious screening of “Bohemian Rhapsody.”

“I’m super excited to have this here,” Strome said about the Bay’s big return. “It’s exactly what we need—a sophisticated theater that meets the needs of our sophisticated community.”

Developed by the Caruso firm and located north of Sunset Boulevard along Swarthmore, Palisades Village opened Sept. 22. The Bay Theatre, in a corner once occupied by Mort’s Deli and the Oak Room, has five theaters ranging from 30 to 77 chairs, totaling 250 seats.

Those high-tech Spanish leather recliners—similar to airline chairs—come replete with individualized lights and service buttons to accommodate mid-screening orders.

Olloqui, based out of Cinépolis USA’s Dallas headquarters, beamed as he spoke to the Palisadian-Post regarding the creation of the Palisades’ first movie house in 40 years.

“This is the second time we’ve worked with Rick Caruso,” Olloqui said, noting their first Cinépolis collaboration at The Promenade at Westlake. “He’s a great partner. He pays a lot of attention to detail. He really challenges us to do our best.”

Regarding Cinépolis’ 21st movie theater in America, Olloqui added that the Bay Theatre will remain unique to Pacific Palisades.

“We will not repeat it,” he said, even as his Mexican-owned company has new theaters in the pipeline for San Mateo and La Costa, as well as out-of-state cineplexes in Orlando, Washington, D.C., and a third location in American home base Dallas.

The Post also conversed with members of the cineplex’s design team, Long Beach firm Retail Design Collaborative, which specializes in movie houses. Inspired by the S. Charles Lee-designed Bay Theatre, which opened in 1948 at what is today Norris Hardware on Sunset near Alma Real Drive until its 1978 demise, members of the project’s interior design team sought to pay homage to and top the original’s vibe.

“Our goal was always to absolutely respect the Pacific Palisades coastal neighborhood,” Jonathan Lopez said.

“We wanted to make it fit this jewelry box,” added Sing Tong, regarding the Bay Theatre’s bigger context within the Palisades Village development. “We approached it with a lot of inventive, creative ways. Every detail, every fixture has been designed specifically for this site.”

Everyone from patrons to online ticket vendors appears excited about the shiny new venue.

“Cinépolis has been a terrific partner,” Fandango Senior Vice President Kevin Shepela said. “For Palisades residents, it’s also a wonderful touch that the marquee reflects the original Bay Theatre design, making it feel like a movie-lover’s destination that really belongs to our community.”