While locals loved the theater when it was showing movies, some may be happy to see new development replace the boarded-up building.
"We love the old historical building, but it has been such an eyesore and it has been unkept," said Linda Leonhard, president of the Corona del Mar Chamber of Commerce. "The wind blows trash in the doorways and there's graffiti."
The theater closed when operator Landmark Theater Corp. didn't renew its lease, the Daily Pilot reported at the time. It was suggested as a site for an arts center in 2001, and it seemed poised for a revival in 2003 when the city granted the Port and three other theaters special "landmark" status.
That status allowed the theaters' owners to fix up their venues and add some amenities without applying for city permits, but it didn't protect the buildings as historic structures. Aversano, a Corona del Mar resident, bought the theater around late 2001 and by 2003 was reportedly planning upgrades.
Council members at the time said Aversano wanted to reduce the number of seats, restore the theater and add a restaurant, coffee shop and bar. On Monday, speaking through an intercom at the gate of his home, Aversano confirmed he has sold the property but declined to answer any questions about the new owner or plans for the demolition or the property.
"My interpretation of what happened is that … he couldn't find anyone to come in and run the business as he envisioned and as that landmark building ordinance envisions and have it be profitable," City Councilman Ed Selich said. "The cost of renovating the theater was greater than any kind of business that could be supported there."
Competing with modern, multi-screen theater chains is hard for smaller theaters, and many businesses near the Port face the obstacle of parking, said Councilwoman Nancy Gardner, who lives in Corona del Mar.
When she used to see movies at the Port years ago, Gardner said, "a lot of us just walked there."
Shana Sosa, who was working during lunchtime Monday at "The Place," a bar across the street from the Port Theater, said she knows a lot of people who will be sad to hear it's going to be demolished. She and her friends would sit in the balcony, where patrons could smoke or have a drink, she remembered.
Only one of four theaters Sosa went to growing up — the Regency Lido Theatre on the Balboa Peninsula — is still open, she said.
"It's just kind of sad because it's like a little piece of history gone," she said.