PICTURED:  The newly remodeled bar of the Majestic Ventura Theater, featuring Art Nouveau-inspired decor and other embellishments. Photo by Warren Barrett

by Marina Dunbar

The renowned Majestic Ventura Theater has undergone a significant remodel. The theater is one of the county’s most famous historic highlights, first opening its doors in 1928. It has consistently showcased local arts and entertainment to residents and curious visitors, and along with a prolific history comes a prolific effort to maintain it from its long line of musi-c and live theater-loving caretakers. Beginning in the midst of the COVID-19 peak, remarkable and respectful remodeling was undertaken at the site, overseen by longtime Manager Loanne Wullaert. 

Like many artists, Wullaert used the quarantine period as an opportunity to become more productive and creative. “The shutdown happened and I was trying to figure out what to do with my time . . . I got a PPP [Paycheck Protection Program] loan and was able to use that to have people from my company [I Am The Phoenix] give us some upgrades,” says Wullaert. “We had technical upgrades, such as new lighting equipment. We also had new murals put in. I painted a mural based on the art of Alphonse Mucha from the Art Nouveau era.”

Adding fresh art to the theater was a great way to remind people amidst collective hardship that there is always inspiration to be found. Wullaert drew from two main sources for this remodel. “It is art from the 1920s and we’re in the 20s now so it seemed to fit. It was also important that we represent the diversity of Ventura County. There is so much rich diversity and history here. I wanted representations of all the different cultures that make Ventura great.” 

Finding inspiration in a period of uncertainty and social isolation is not easy, and the fact that so many local artists were able to achieve this is a telltale sign that the music and art world of Ventura is nothing short of extraordinary. “[The pandemic] was awful… I know a lot of people who took the opportunity to get back into music at home which I thought was great because there’s only so much time you can spend sitting around. It was definitely debilitating that bands couldn’t get together. It was strange coming out of the pandemic because people have this urge to see live music again, but they were also hesitant to be around lots of people.”

But the hesitation is becoming less and less as word spreads about the beautifully remodeled Ventura Theater. Residents are eager for art and entertainment, and there is no better place to finally fulfill that prolonged yearning than at the place that has served as the heart of local arts for nearly a century. 

“We’re getting feedback all the time,” says Wullaert. “People keep telling us how incredibly beautiful the place looks, even though we’re not done yet. We still have work to do on the bathrooms and on restoring the sound system. It’s almost 100 years old, so there’s definitely constant maintenance that has to be done. But rather than just doing maintenance, this gave us the opportunity to really focus on making the place look incredible.”

The theater was initially designed in the style of Spanish Colonial Revival architecture, and over the years it has accumulated renovations that both add new and innovative features as well as honor the timelessness of the building’s original design. So much of the community’s unique flavor comes from its architecture and, as Wullaert points out, that’s crucial to remember when considering historical preservation.

“I think preserving historical landmarks is extremely important. It can be really sad to look at Main Street and remember that it used to be all these beautiful ornate buildings with so much character,” she said. “I think that the old buildings are the buildings with the most character. They add so much to the city, not just this city but any city.”

Majestic Ventura Theater, 26 S. Chestnut St., Ventura, 805-653-0721, www.venturatheater.net