PORT ORCHARD — Thanks to a family of South Kitsap civic boosters, the dormant space housing the former Dragonfly Cinema on Bay Street will come to life once more.
Brigadoon Ventures LLC, which includes principals Steve Sego, his wife Coreen Haydock, her son Josh Johnson and daughter-in-law Sarah Johnson, all of the South Kitsap area, is the purchaser of the nearly 100-year-old building that houses the venerable movie theater. The partnership completed the purchase details at the end of June with the building’s owner, well-known Port Orchard resident and retired businessman Bob Geiger.
Sego said the partnership appreciated Geiger’s “steadfast commitment to the community” over the years. “He knew where our hearts were when we made the deal with him. His heart has been with our community.”
The sales price was not disclosed by the new owners. Dragonfly Cinema closed its doors in May 2019 shortly after hosting that year’s Port Orchard Film Festival, which has since relocated to the Historic Roxy Theatre in Bremerton and renamed itself the West Sound Film Festival.
While the Port Orchard theater’s future will include film showings, partner Josh Johnson said the business will expand on what was offered in the past. He expects there will be collaborations with area arts groups to present thematic offerings enlisting live musical performances, dramatic presentations and other multimedia showings.
“We want to have cultural options that our community wants,” Johnson said. “We want to fill the void that exists now.”
Sego said the Dragonfly’s closure created a void along Port Orchard’s downtown Bay Street the past two years, but it also has left the community without a place to enjoy and immerse itself into the world of theatrical arts.
“That’s the kind of activity that is intimate, theatrical, public, musical and cinematic,” he said.
Sego and Haydock have some familiarity with the business side of operating a theater — the couple has been active participants as members of a foundation dedicated to refurbishing and operating Bremerton’s Historic Roxy Theatre. He said it has provided them with a template of sorts as they work to create a cultural center of significance for Port Orchard.
Operating as a nonprofit
Sego, who co-owns The Dock Bar & Eatery on Bay Street with his wife, said his group is developing a three-year plan to get the theater refurbished and in operation as a nonprofit, which is the most viable business model for businesses of its kind. The first phase will involve sorting out the details of forming a nonprofit foundation — and conceptualizing what the theater will ultimately offer the community.
He expects the new enterprise will open in 2024 just in time to celebrate the building’s 100th anniversary. The former Dragonfly Cinema building has a varied history as a theater, performance hall and as the home of the Knights of Pythias, which met upstairs following its construction in 1924.
“I never would have done this without having been part of the Roxy [rehabilitation effort],” he said. “I learned that there is a way to raise money, create an organization, build a community network and prove that it can do a variety of things.”
The business owner said after a nonprofit structure to run the theater is formed, a big part of its function will be to raise money for its refurbishment and operation. He said financial resources exist to fund its operation through community-invested grant sources, private family foundation grants and public-private entities, such as the new Historic Theater Grant Program, managed by the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation.
“The community will decide the path [the theater] will take,” he said. “We’ll have a meeting with the community sometime in September” consisting of possible stakeholders of the nascent organization. The theater inside will be transformed from a two-screen cinema that seats about 70 patrons each and into a single-room setting that will likely include lounge seating and cocktail tables more suitable for viewing live acts performing on stage.
Just how much will be done to transform the space remains to be seen at this point. Haydock acknowledged that “there’s lots of money to be spent on both ends of the building.” And while it might be appropriate to look at Bremerton’s Roxy as a template for the Dragonfly’s transformation — under a new name that hasn’t yet been selected — there are significant differences between the properties. The Roxy is a beautiful art-deco-designed property, while the Dragonfly is, to be charitable, “art yucko” inside, complete with schoolroom ceiling tiles and bare concrete floors.
“Our vision is to elevate it to a state that it’s never been,” Sego said. “There’s no doubt that extensive work will need to be done to bring it to the state we want.”
Long-time South Kitsap residents Sego and Haydock say the Port Orchard theater is, for them, a milestone chart of community memories. The same is true for Joshua Johnson.
“I saw my first movie there — “American Tail” — in 1986 when I was 5. And the four of us were there at the theater in May 2019 [at a community meeting] trying to keep the Dragonfly buzzing. I remember sitting there two years ago and thinking, ‘This isn’t really going to close, is it?’
The Johnsons run Serotonin Creative, a public relations company that created the “Imagine Port Orchard” digital campaign to seek visibility for the city’s South Kitsap Community Events Center pitch for funding from the Kitsap Public Facilities District.
The couple said the building purchase also offers them the opportunity to live in roomy quarters above the 10,000-square-foot theater previously used as meeting space, while also conducting their own business there. Just how that will transpire is still in the planning stages, Josh Johnson said.