The curtain is about to rise on the revival of the Boulton Center for the Performing Arts.
The nearly 100-year-old playhouse in downtown Bay Shore is set to reopen Friday with a concert by The Machine, a long-running Pink Floyd tribute band that will headline the first performance since the 261-seat theater on Main Street closed early in the pandemic.
And its new owner has a decades-long attachment to the place, which was once a single-screen moviehouse.
“I saw The Beatles and Elvis movies there as a kid,” Frank Boulton, a 72-year-old Bay Shore native, told Greater Long Island. “I saw ‘Old Yeller’ there.”
Boulton, the founder and chairman of the Atlantic League of Professional Baseball and the owner of the Long Island Ducks, first bought the theater in the late 1990s with his wife, Karen. The couple then donated it to the Great South Bay YMCA and helped raise money for its conversion into a popular performing arts center that opened in December 2003.
“Marvin Hamlisch, Judy Collins, the bass player for The Eagles, Timothy B. Schmit, Richie Havens — they all played here,” Boulton said. “The Jonas Brothers played here when they were just starting.”
But after YMCA officials last summer pleaded for an “angel” to help save the struggling center — which was not eligible for the federal government’s pandemic relief — the Boultons stepped up to the plate again to save their namesake theater.
“Being involved with the Y for so many years, I just felt it was something I wanted to do for the community,” said Boulton, who served on the Great South Bay YMCA’s board of managers for more than two decades. “I didn’t want to see it become something else.”
He said YMCA officials were not sure “if they wanted to stay in that business or not” as Long Island emerged from the pandemic.
Among the challenges was replacing the marquee, which collapsed in September.
Boulton said the new marquee will go up this week, touting upcoming attractions that include concerts, comedy and ballet performances. Film festivals and more community events are also being looked at for the future.
Stadium seating is a key feature inside what Boulton described as one of the most “up close and personal” venues on Long Island.
“Dolly Parton could sit in front of you and you would still be able to see over [her] hair,” he said. “The sightlines are great here.”
Boulton appeared in an October promotional video for the theater that bears his last name. In the social media clip, he pops out from behind a curtain and sits on a stool to say, “We hope to see you in November.”
The Boulton Center in August brought in Ben Stein, a 2005 graduate of Babylon High School, to serve as general manager for a venue whose website lists performances through next spring.
“We’ve got a pretty full calendar and we’re going to build on that,” Boulton said.
The first date on the calendar features The Machine, a four-member tribute band that has performed Pink Floyd music around the world for more than 30 years. Doors open at 7:15 for an 8 p.m. show, with front orchestra tickets going for $52 and orchestra seats for $47.
But even before the grand reopening, Boulton said another jolt of good news arrived last Friday when the Great South Bay Arts and Entertainment Foundation — the nonprofit started last year to help support the theater — was awarded a $500,000 grant as part of Suffolk County’s JumpSTART Small Business Downtown Investment Program.
The money, Boulton said, will be marked for capital upgrades to a building that first opened in 1929 and that has received recent boosts to its sound and lighting.
“We’re going to be good to go on Friday,” Boulton said. “And we’re excited.”
The Boulton Center for the Performing Arts is located at 37 W. Main St. in Bay Shore.
Top: The construction that’s underway replacing the collapsed marquee at the Boulton Center in Bay Shore. (Credit: GLI/Mike White)