After Suffering Water Damage Caused by the Earthquake, Fortuna Theatre is Still Closed and it Looks Like it Won’t Be Reopening Any Time Soon | Lost Coast Outpost

After Suffering Water Damage Caused by the Earthquake, Fortuna Theatre is Still Closed and it Looks Like it Won’t Be Reopening Any Time Soon | Lost Coast Outpost

The Fortuna Theatre at 1241 Main St. in Fortuna | Screenshot from Google Earth


Fortuna residents and visitors are likely aware that the Fortuna Theatre has been closed since late last year and, with this being “Barbenheimer” season, you’ve probably been wondering lately if and when the theater will reopen, hoping that you might get a chance to view the summer’s hottest movies on Humboldt’s largest screen. 

But it looks like eager Fortuna moviegoers will have to continue to wait for a while. David Corkill, owner of Cinema West, the Petaluma-based company that owns Fortuna Theatre, said that the company is still unsure of how soon the theater will be able to reopen after it suffered some water damage that will probably be very expensive to repair. 

The closure happened after the area was rocked by a 6.4 earthquake last December, which broke a fire sprinkler line inside of the theater, causing significant water damage to the ceiling and drywall in the building. Corkill said that the cost of repairs has still not been determined, but he plans to be at the theater sometime in the next couple of weeks to have the damage fully evaluated and get an estimate for the repairs. 

You’re probably wondering, but why has it taken the owner so long to repair the building? Well, because the theater was already not making any money in recent years, reopening it has not exactly been a high priority for Cinema West, which operates 175 movie screens in 18 different locations. Corkill said that he’s still not sure if it will be worth it to invest the money for repairs and reopen the theater during a time when attendance has been low. 

“We need to make sure that the theater will be able to support itself,” Corkill told the Outpost in a phone interview Wednesday. “It’s just not quite performing like it used to.” 

The Fortuna Theatre was built in 1938 and, like most old theaters, originally held only one large screen. Cinema West purchased the theater in 1999, restoring the aging building and converting the upstairs balcony into two additional screening auditoriums. Eventually, Cinema West bought two adjoined properties and added three more screen rooms, making Fortuna Theater into a large, six-screen movie theater. One of the screens is 50 feet wide, Corkill said, making it the largest movie screen in Humboldt County. 

For a while after the remodel the theater did pretty well, Corkill said, but after a few years business started to gradually decline. When COVID hit in early 2020, the theater, like most businesses, had to close for a while and lost a lot of revenue. Since reopening after the pandemic closure, Corkill said, attendance has just not returned to what it was pre-COVID and the theater has not been profitable for Cinema West. When the earthquake-related damage happened, it seemed like a good time to close the theater for a while, and take some time to decide what to do about the repairs and about the business in general. 

Of course, Fortuna city officials would like to see the theater reopen as soon as possible and Fortuna City Manager Merritt Perry said that he has talked with Corkill and has tried to offer as much help from the City as he can, including helping find a local company to do the repairs and even offering a low-interest loan to help cover the costs. 

But Corkill said that he doesn’t need to borrow money to cover the repairs; the issue is just whether or not it is worth it yet to reopen a theater that was not turning a profit, especially after Cinema West has already spent so much money and time on repairs to the building. Corkill added that he “really would like to be able to reopen for the community,” and that, despite the unprofitability, the theater would still be open and limping along were it not for the added issue of the water damage. 

When asked if he had considered just selling the theater, Corkill said that he has not put the property on the market yet, but he would “entertain an offer” if someone were interested in buying it. If that someone is you, then you can reach out to Corkill via the Cinema West office at (707) 762-0990. 

Perry also said he would love to see the space sold to someone local and he hopes that the theater, which has been a part of the community for so long, will be able to open again soon. 

“It’s one of the few things that young people have to do in town,” Perry said. “Without a theater, we’re more of a bedroom community. It adds to the quality of life and makes [Fortuna] a better place to live.”