Regency Lido Theatre
3459 Via Lido,
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The Lido Theatre was opened in 1938, and the first film it played was Bette Davis in “Jezebel”. The reason for that was that Davis lived nearby in Corona Del Mar and traveled by the site daily. Upon stopping onsite, she told the owner “they had better open with my picture.” And they did. Davis also is responsible for the sitting parlor in the ladies room that harkens back to a time when women sat and smoked and chatted while arranging makeup in the mirrors. The parlor stools are period pieces and add such a wonderful touch.
Included in tribute to Davis, is a framed lobby card of “Jezebel”, which hangs on the parlor’s wall and greets you upon entrance. There were supposed to be a Men and Women’s room downstairs, but Davis insisted on the the sitting parlor for the ladies, and so the men’s room was relocated upstairs.
The entire theatre has been restored, down to the tile work done in the 30’s by an Italian family. The tile setting, called Catalina Tile, is only seen in one other site. The original family restored the tile.
The Lido seats 622, of which 410 seats are downstairs and 212 are in the balcony, which are prime seats for all ages.
The poster cases are original, as is the tiny box office located outside the theatre under the Grand Marquee, and the Lido still uses manually dispensed real tickets instead of computer generated ones. The Grand Marquee is spectacular, with neon that lights the entire street, and painters and photgraphers can be seen daily in front of the theatre. Many companies rent the Grand Marquee to use in portfolios or in commercials, and it has been a popular site for film and television backdrops. Even the movie show on the TBN Network, “Master’s Theatre”, filmed it opening on the
marquee, and in the projection booth and inside the theatre.
The Lido has a waterfall red velvet curtain that rises with each show, and no pre-show advertisements are allowed by the owners.
The theatre’s interior features period movie art, from “Gone With the Wind”, “Casablanca”, and others. But a most stunning feature is in the auditorium, where black light illuminates the wall paintings of ocean scenes.
Regency has put in a sound system that is rated one of the best in Southern California, and even sound engineers rave about it.
(Laemmle does not own the theatre or operate it, but shares its advertising with Regency.)
The Lido features independent film, and has become a landmark for the independent and foreign genre. However, the Lido is only a block from the ocean, and surfers of all ages live in Newport Beach, so the Lido is also the surf film capital of Southern California, and runs a schedule of classic and new surf films. Many surf films, such as “Riding Giants”(Sony), have had their wolrd premiere there, with a parade of Woodys bringing the stars to the front, where during surf premieres, they walk a blue carpet to the theatre’s doors. Once a summer, senior surfers (60-95) compete on Senior Surf Night to tell tales of local escapades and surfing adventures of times long gone, to the cheers of surfers in their teens and twenties.
The Lido is also home for premieres of skateboarding, skating, and skimboard films. Regency also works extensively with the Newport Beach Film Festival(NBFF), and the Lido is a location for prime features of the festival, which is held each April. Together, the Lido and NBFF also present cinema treasures, such as a yearly Christmas screening of “It’s A Wonderful Life” to families and children.
The Regency Lido is alive and well, and the theatre staff receives thanks daily from generations of families who attend regularly, and it is common to see grandparents, their children, and their grandchildren attending together, and rushing for the balcony seating! The Lido is located on Via Lido, just off Newport Boulevard as you cross over to Balboa Penninsula in Newport Beach. There are many restaurants and stores in the area, and directly across the street on the bay is Lido Village, a quaint and eclectic group of stores and restaurants. One block away is the pier and the fishing village, and of course, Newport Beach.
The Lido Theatre prides itself on service, with each visitor being greeted upon arrival and thanked as they leave by being offered a special mint, but one of the biggest favrites for movie viewers is on weekends, when noted announcer and restaurant critic, Jim Woodin, introduces the shows with tidbits and trivia, and always gives away prizes to an unsuspecting guest. And as his hand raises to the screen, and his voice booms out, “Ladies and gentlemen, enjoy the show,” the lights go down and Hollywood magic has returned.
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