Theater stakeholders look to refurbish San Clemente icon

Miramar1
Fred Divel has been working to revive the Miramar Theater and adjacent bowling alley, located at 1700 Deschecha off El Camino Real. Photo: Eric Heinz

By Eric Heinz

Resurrecting the Miramar Theater has been a process spanning more than two decades.

Now, a group of people is trying to give the dormant entertainment center some help.

On Friday, Fred Divel, a San Clemente resident who said he has had family in the area since the 1920s, hosted a fundraiser at OC Tavern to raise awareness of the theater’s current state as well as help fund a new nonprofit organization dedicated to reviving the Miramar.

“For a first event, we did very nicely,” Divel said. “We only had about 100 people attend, but we had nice auction items and the raffles and a few donations.”

Divel did not disclose the total amount raised during the event, but he did say it was enough to start the nonprofit, which is expected to be filed under the name San Clemente Theater, Inc.

“What happened was rather amazing of the people who have come out of the woodwork … they have ideas about the theater’s future,” Divel said.

Divel’s goal for the nonprofit is to raise $2 million and, if possible, partner with other entities to fund projects.

The San Clemente Historical Society is trying to help with restoration and upkeep, but the society does not get involved with planning how the theater would be operated and what kind of entity would occupy the space.

Marc Spizzirri was part of an ownership with the Miramar Theater from 2007 until at least 2011 when it went back on the market. Today he is more of a consultant to El Camino Real Holdings, LLC, which owns the theater.

Spizzirri said he’s received more interest in the theatre in the last year than when he was part of the ownership.

“There’s been a lot of local developers and people trying to get involved,” Spizzirri said. “Ideally, the goal … has been to find a way that preserves the dignity and the history of the architecture but at the same time provides an opportunity economically. It would be premature to say what it should be. Some of the things that have been discussed have been a community center, event center, retail—a broad gamut of things.”

Spizzirri said more than a dozen people have expressed interest in utilizing the theater, including investors, builders and others who have “very clear and defined” ideas of what they’d like to see Miramar become.

“You get one shot at this and doing (this project) right and you want to make sure everyone’s on board,” he said. “No one wants to do a project the city and the community don’t want. Multiple ideas are better than one.”

Divel said he would like to see the theater return to operating as a movie theatre, playhouse or some other kind of entertainment center, but as long as it’s functional he would support a legitimate proposal.

“The first line of business is to clean the theater up and make it look nice and become a visitors center,” Divel said.

Social networking has been integral in spreading information to interested people.

“Young people are starting to become involved with the original buildings and they feel violated when something is torn down,” Divel said.

Some of the items sold at the auction and raffled off to benefit the planned nonprofit included a surfboard painted by Drew Brophy and some paintings of the Miramar Theater.

For more information about the Miramar Theater organization, visit www.sanclementetheatre.com.

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