National and regional officials joined a fundraising presentation on October 17 at the Lompoc Theater. From left, Jeremy Ball, Lompoc city councilmember; Joan Hartmann, Santa Barbara County 3rd district supervisor; Salud Carbajal, U.S. Congressman; Jenelle Osborne, Lompoc mayor; Monique Limón, state senator; Mark Herrier, Lompoc Theatre Project executive director; and Dean Albro, Lompoc city manager. | Credit: Sherrie Chavez Photography

A diamond in the rough, the Lompoc Theatre Project (LTP) is poised to breathe new life into a community that’s ready for revitalization. This iconic local building in Lompoc’s Old Town has a long and winding history. Now in its second phase of fundraising under the guidance of the Lompoc Theatre Project Corporation, a registered nonprofit, great things are in the works as we usher in the new year.

It’s easy to fall in love with this theater; a quick glance at the project’s social media presence and website will leave you yearning to quit your day job, roll up your sleeves, and get to work polishing floors, scrubbing walls and fixtures, and combing through its treasure trove of ephemera. Old posters, tickets, and hand-painted promotional signage are regularly unearthed as renovations take place. 

The theater has often inspired and elicited an emotional response, with everyone from jazzman Sonny Clay, to Tex-Mex superstar Freddy Fender, R&B legends The Coasters, the Mickey Mouse Club, and Liberace taking the stage. During its opening week in 1927, proprietor Walter Calvert sent an open letter to the local newspapers, which stated, “As an integral part of this community, the new Lompoc Theatre is hereby pledged as a public institution, where daily worries, work, and cares may be obliterated through the medium of the universal language — motion pictures. People of the Lompoc valley, this theater is YOURS.”

The goal of the current $3 million Phase II fundraising effort is to replace a section of roofing over the office building, renovate the facade and upstairs offices, move the historic Land Office from the rear of the property to H Street, and regrade/repave the parking lot, among other upgrades and repairs. The board has already retired all debt and owns the theater free and clear. Additionally, tests have confirmed the building is structurally sound, and they’ve acquired land that expanded their parking lot, and completed phase I critical cleanup, remediation, and repairs. 

Whether you’re a film buff or simply a fan of local history, the theater is an important piece of a puzzle — this dormant beauty is at the ready to morph into a state-of-the-art community arts and education center. Executive Director Mark Herrier shared, “Completion of Phase II will enable regular live performances on the Lompoc Theatre stage for the first time in 50 years and enable outdoor events and fundraisers,” He continued, “the theater will be available at no charge for performances from our local dance studios and high schools.”

When it comes to the area’s youths, elementary school students will be able to enjoy PCPA productions in an actual theater, instead of their cafeterias. Once opened, the LTP will provide after-school programs and student film festivals. Surely, parents and community members alike will benefit from seeing the children of Lompoc thrive with their own cultural arts incubator. 

Many other communities throughout the country have restored their downtown theaters and witnessed amazing revitalization in their surrounding areas. Lompoc is ready, as a statement from the theater states: “Vibrant communities have vibrant arts programs.” 

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