It’s cleanout time for Bay Street’s renamed theater

Goodbye, Dragonfly: Polaris Theatre is getting a once-over by hardy volunteers

PORT ORCHARD — The little twin-screened movie house on Bay Street that closed more than two years ago — formerly known as the Dragonfly Cinema — is in full housecleaning mode these days.

Along with hauling out an assortment of excess odds and ends — boxes filled with items that could be identified as junk, outdated film reels the size of small bistro tables, and old posters advertising long-ago movie showings — the film house now has been given a new moniker: the Polaris Theatre.

The new name, co-owner and operator Joshua Johnson says, recalls the imagery of the North Star, which “all others revolve from our perspective here on Earth.”

Johnson and a group of new owners who have successfully restored the Historic Roxy Theatre in Bremerton began exploring the idea of purchasing the building from Port Orchard owner Bob Geiger and “reanimating” the space to better serve the community beyond serving as an art-house cinema.

In the theater’s mission statement on its website page, the new ownership group has defined it as a place that’s no longer simply a cinema: “The Polaris Theater will be a single-stage performance space that can also accommodate live music, special events, theatrical performances, lectures and workshops AND movies.

“We envision a space for film festivals, comedy shows, DJ nights, student productions, private events, fundraisers and anything our community can dream up.”

The building now housing the Polaris is nearly 100 years old. After opening in 1924, it was a vaudeville live performance venue. Four years later, it morphed into the D&R movie theater and continued showing films until 1965. It reopened as the Plaza Twin theaters in 1980 after some renovations and getting reconfigured into two smaller auditorium spaces. The theater operated until 2005, after which a succession of local theater operators attempted to reopen the space — most recently Nick Taylor and his wife and business partner, Gabrielle Evans.

The movie theater has since been closed for more than two years.

The rehab begins

A small group of volunteers and members of the nascent Port Orchard Historic Theater Foundation have spent their Saturday mornings the past two weeks wiping down and cleaning off rows of red velvet-covered seats that once sat in the Cinerama Theatre in Seattle, and otherwise tossing out a riff-raff collection of excess “stuff” occupying every nook and cranny of the old building.

Following a steady stream of nearly nonstop rainfall that has besieged the region this month, a portion of the theater’s aisle carpeting near the movie screens — where the two auditoriums dip to their lowest points — became soaked as a result of leaks in the old building’s foundation and a failed sump pump system that couldn’t keep rainwater from seeping into the old building.

Since then, volunteers have repaired the sump pump, added a dehumidifier to remove excess moisture from the building and took on the unpleasant task of rolling up and disposing of the aisle carpeting, which had previously gotten wet because of occasional flooding that has occurred over the years despite efforts made to patch the leaks.

In a post on the theater group’s Facebook page, organizers said it was “freeing” to dispose of the musty-smelling carpeting: “The aisle carpet was a sponge for flood water and had to go! It was oddly satisfying ripping and rolling up carpet! Nearly all of the vintage red seats got their first cleaning in years and are looking much better!”

More extensive rehab work is on the way. On Saturday, foundation board members were informed the nonprofit organization has been awarded $50,000 to replace the theater’s inoperable HVAC system, add a firewall to a portion of the building, fix the building’s porous foundation and renovate its lobby area.