Warren Dewey, longtime proprietor of Golden State Theatre, will step down next month.
Saturday, October 10, 2009
Last night, Oct. 9, at the reception following the screening of the film Precious at the Golden State Theatre, a stray comment from an attendee quietly signaled a shift in the cultural and entertainment life of Monterey: "Did you hear? This place is becoming a church."
Soon after, Warren Dewey paused from breaking down the stage after the Q&A with Precious director Lee Daniels and actress Paula Patton, and talked about the new development: The proprietor who has programmed the shows at the Golden State Theatre for five years is stepping down from that role and handing the reigns over to the Monterey Church, which will continue their Sunday worship services there and operate the entertainment for, conceivably, the next five years.
"I love the Golden State Theatre," said Dewey. "But I'm tired. It's a lot of work to do this. The [Aug. 6] Lyle Lovett show was, I think, the first show where I sat in the audience and enjoyed it like everybody else."
He cites the round-the-clock work schedule, a complex and ultimately unsuccessful attempt to gain non-profit status, marginal profits--"We didn't lose as much money on the Golden State Film Festival as I thought we would," he said--and other recent developments that sapped him of the energy to continue. At the accumulation of those dynamics, The Monterey Church approached him with an offer.
"It's an idea I've been thinking about for a long time. Others made offers, but they weren't serious--the Monterey Church offer was. Plus, they have deeper pockets, and volunteers." Dewey will officially hand over the reigns to the church Nov. 1, at which time he will revert to the role of landlord to the church's tenancy. He says he wants to take a break for a couple of months, but that he wants to remain close to the revival theatre in some capacity, and that the plan is to maintain a near seamless schedule of shows.
"Our deal is that theatre will be dark on fewer days," he says. "It's going to be in use more, which is good--that's the point of having a theatre like this. If you didn't know about [the change in management], you wouldn't be able to tell [from the shows]."
Dewey deferred questions about future events at the Golden State Theatre to Pastor Bryan James with the Monterey Church, which has held its services 9am and 11am on Sundays at the theatre for over a year, but the Weekly was not able to reach church officials at press time.
Dewey eagerly praises members of his team who have helped him over the years.
"Tim McKnew...he's the technical director, the lighting, sound work, he's been great. Al Mercado has been doing all the graphic design and the website, it's all him. He's also a public face of the theatre. Jared Pachecko is like the operations manager and customer relations, taking care of people. George Brandt--the guy with the gray hair and the parrot show on Fisherman's Wharf--he's our electrician. He's been amazing. When you have such a tiny group and so little money to work with, you need people who are special. We couldn't have existed without them."
Brandt is staying on as maintenance man. The plans of the others are unclear for now.
Dewey, who restored the theatre to its original 1926 state, has brought in memorable acts like Etta James, Weird Al Yankovich, Firesign Theatre and Willie Nelson, and events like the Anime After Dark, Chinese Acrobats, the San Francisco Comedy Competition and countless film revivals and festivals.
The current show line-up remains unchanged, including Joan Osborne, The Holmes Brothers and Paul Thorn on Oct. 18, Garrison Keillor (the last show Dewey will have booked under his reign) on Oct. 25, Zombie Voodoo Scream Party Oct. 27-31, and the 10th Annual International Film Festival Nov. 5-8. The Monterey Church presents a show, Tenth Avenue North, a popular Christian rock band with hit songs in "Love is Here" and "By Your Side," on Nov. 2--one day after Dewey steps down. The church, whose website features photos of young, multi-racial people, sports the tagline "fresh - radical - timeless."