Rivian to Open Newly Renovated South Coast Theater This Saturday

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U.S. automaker Rivian will finally open its doors to South Coast Theater in Laguna Beach this weekend, its first flagship retail location in Southern California. 

Purchased in 2021, Rivian’s re-model of the historic South Coast Theater will open to the public on Saturday, Dec. 9. Photo courtesy of Rivian

Located at 160 South Coast Highway, the theater is the Rivian’s 11th space opening this year and third in California, joining sites in Venice Beach and one opening soon in Pasadena. The theater will be the company’s largest retail location at over 11,000 square feet, and hopes to serve as a “welcome center,” for car shoppers, according to a release from the automaker. 

“It’s an honor for Rivian to be part of the Laguna Beach community as steward of the South Coast Theater in its next era,” said Tony Caravano, senior director of experiential marketing and community engagement at Rivian. “The site has been a beacon of innovation, community and creativity throughout its history, and Rivian is ready to carry that legacy forward. We’re excited to deepen our connections with owners, fans and friends while making new ones as people get to know Rivian through our products, programming and experiences we have planned.” 

In 2021, Rivian purchased the theater, which first opened in 1935 as the New Lynn Theater, and underwent a multiyear restoration to preserve much of the structure’s original exterior, interior features and character. Original theater features that have been preserved and restored include the marquee, ticket booth, lobby area, balcony, auditorium, proscenium arch and original 129-seat theater area. 

After working with preservationists and community leaders throughout the restoration, Rivian submitted the site for historic designation, which resulted in the building’s addition to the National Register of Historic Places in March of 2023. 

“Rivian Spaces are purposefully designed to be casual and inviting, where anyone curious is welcome to learn more about us and our products,” said Denise Cherry, senior director of facilities design and retail development at Rivian. “We’ve peeled away the formality associated with automotive retail and focused on creating a relaxed, family-friendly environment that invites guests to stay awhile and discover at their own pace. Our Spaces are designed around the question of ‘Where do you want to go?’”

The theater restoration hopes to reflect Rivian’s deliberate approach to its retail spaces, which moves away from the formalities usually associated with car retail. Rivian’s flagship products, the fully electric R1T pickup and R1S SUV will be displayed in the center of the theater, but test drives aren’t available from the Laguna space.

To celebrate its grand opening on Dec. 9 and 10, the electric car company is offering a slew of opening weekend activities and film screenings for the public, including family art workshops hosted by Laguna College of Art and Design (LCAD). 

In keeping with the theater’s original function, Rivian will continue to show movies thanks to nonprofit Coast Film Foundation, known for its annual Coast Film & Music Festival. The first film showing will be Dec. 9 at 6 p.m. Rivian will screen “WILD LIFE,” a documentary following conservationist Kris Tompkins. More movie information, including upcoming features, can be found on Rivian’s website at https://rivian.com/spaces/laguna.

In the theater’s “Gear Shop,” Rivian will offer a selection of merchandise handmade by Laguna artisans and a collaboration with Costa Mesa-based Almond Surfboards. Women-founded and owned Equator Coffees takes residence in the theater’s on-site café, its first location in Orange County.

Some of Rivian’s weekend events at the South Coast Theater are ticketed and require a reservation. For more details on Rivian South Coast Theater events and programming, visit Rivian’s website. Regular business hours are from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday.

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