Fremont deal a welcome development

The Fremont Theatre in San Luis Obispo.
The Fremont Theatre in San Luis Obispo. jjohnston@thetribunenews.com

We’re still looking for that Hollywood-style, happily-ever-after-ending for the Fremont, but for now, it’s welcome news that the historic theater will be open for business at least another year.

As Tribune writer Sarah Linn reported Tuesday, the Fremont’s owners and operators agreed on a one-year lease this week, and the theater is set to reopen in downtown San Luis Obispo on Valentine’s Day.

What will happen after the lease expires in February, 2014, remains to be seen, though we do want to quell fears raised by the temporary closure: Major remodeling or — horrors! — demolition is not on the horizon.

The Fremont is a protected historic resource, and according to city planners, any proposal to tear it down or to alter its architectural character, inside or out, would have to go through a stringent environmental review process. Given the community’s attachment to this architectural treasure, it’s hard to imagine that such a plan would ever fly.

But mere survival isn’t enough: As we’ve seen in other communities, struggling old movie theaters that are open only sporadically or — worse yet — are boarded up can quickly become liabilities to downtowns.

That can’t be allowed to happen to the Fremont; it must continue to be regularly accessible to the public. We hope plans to bring in live musical events — in addition to first-run movies — will boost the theater’s long-term financial stability. If not, it’s time to explore other options as a community.

The Fremont is, after all, more than a theater; it’s an iconic city landmark that should be protected and treasured for many years to come.