The Port Theater History

Before John Wayne Airport and Fashion Island were opened to the public, the Port Theater was considered one of the most happening settings in Corona del Mar. You could bring your own outside food, smoke inside, and best of all, tickets sold for $1.49! The theater catered to the young and old and became the home of many memories for lovers, friends and family.

When the opening of multiplex theaters began to threaten business, Port reinvented itself with new and exciting ways to attract customers using costume, artistic film selections and sometimes live entertainment on stage. After transferring ownership more than once, financial struggles eventually forced Port to close its doors on August 20, 1998. In closing, “Rosebud” was displayed on the marquee symbolizing the great loss to the community. Local residents formed a group called “Save the Port” in an attempt to raise money and reopen Port, but unfortunately, the lack of profit and financial cost of renovating the worn down theater were too high for most investors to consider.  In 2007, the Port seemed to be near its final hour when the former owner obtained a permit for demolition.

Unexpectedly, the demolition was cancelled when a kind investor saw the potential in Port and assumed the great responsibility of reviving its name and transforming the building into a modern day theater unlike any other.

Let’s Recap…

  • September 1949, the Port Theater was first opened by Ted & Peggy Jones of the Western Amusement Co.
  • 1950, the theater featured the “Greatest Show on Earth” and had a live elephant on stage!
  • 1965, tickets sold for only $1.49 each.
  • 1967, Fashion Island and John Wayne Airport open.
  • 1975-1985, the theater featured mostly French, Italian, and Japanese films.
  • 1985, a couple gets married on stage.
  • 1989-1998, the building was an Art House featuring indie documentaries and foreign films.
  • 1990, controversy erupts due to midnight screenings.
  • 1998, the theater closes down due to a combination of newly built multiplexes nearby and a lack of public parking on a busy thoroughfare.
  • Port remained closed for over a decade. It went through multiple owners and was nearly remodeled as office space and shops.
  • The theater was finally reopened in 2012.