Back Soon

There are no firm plans to reopen after former tenant Santa Rosa Cinemas screened its last films, but the sign says Lighthouse Cinema will be back.

The sign on the Lighthouse Cinema in Pacific Grove says “We will be back soon,” and the Enea family, who built the theater in 1987 and owns both the cinema and the property at 525 Lighthouse Ave., is pushing to reopen the theater that closed abruptly on Sunday, March 19.

“We plan to reopen but we are not ready yet,” says Sally Servidio, one of three Enea sisters, whose father, Salvatore Enea, and uncle, John Enea, built the theater in 1987. She has been the one spearheading the project on behalf of her two sisters.

“The previous tenant was not paying rent since Covid,” says Servidio, who now lives in Napa. That tenant was Santa Rosa Cinemas, a Santa Rosa-based company that has been running the theater since 2008. The company is not coming back to P.G., they say, and the company declined to comment for this story, except for CEO Dan Tuccini confirming they “terminated the lease.” Despite not paying, as Servidio alleges, Santa Rosa Cinemas kept the theater open even after Covid, at the same time appealing to the family to take the theater over. The company stopped screening on the weekend of March 18-19.

“We would hope to improve [the theater],” Servidio says. She envisions seat renovations and a shift to a coffee – and tea-serving menu. They are thinking about issuing coupons for screenings with local restaurants, or perhaps the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

The Eneas are a longtime Monterey fishing family, who came from Sicily and were involved in the movie business since the silent-movie era.

“The show must go on,” Salvatore Enea used to say, according to his daughter. He died a year after the theater was built, and the endeavor was later led by the next generation of Eneas.

Lighthouse Cinema was never an indie theater (unlike the Osio Theater in Monterey, which closed in March 2020) and, despite its small size, competed with larger local theaters in terms of commercial films. It got in serious trouble when Cinemark Monterey 13 opened in the Del Monte Center in 2006. Around 2007, some members of the Enea family wanted to remodel the cinema and change it into a restaurant. The partnership with Santa Rosa Cinemas prevented that.

“We are obviously sad to see it close,” says Jenny MacMurdo, CEO of the P.G. Chamber of Commerce. “Arts and culture is important to any city, and we were the lucky ones to have [a theater] here.”

Nationally, the number of movie screens continued to decline in 2022 and the cost of tickets went up, according to a 2023 report released by the Cinema Foundation, a nonprofit that monitors the industry.

Built in 1988, the building’s painstaking attention to detail and Victorian architectural style allows it to blend in with existing structures three times its vintage. What makes the space especially coveted is its location and access to a city-owned parking lot with approximately 150 spaces, which for years city leaders have been eyeing as a potential location for much-needed housing in P.G.

Ultimately, it seems, it will depend on the residents of Pacific Grove to decide if they care enough to have a movie theater. “Support us,” Servidio appeals to the community, if they want to have a “nice, little theater” downtown: “Go to the movies if you want to keep it open.” She adds they are open to prospective partners who might want to manage a theater.

The story was modified on Friday, March 23, 2023 for accuracy.

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.