The History of SonLight



Orange City News
Orange, California

February 9, 1977

You Get Religion There But it Might Have Been Pornography

By Ian Doyle

Original Article Picture

What do X-rated movies and a church have in common?  Nothing really except that instead of walking into the old Orange Theatre to worship, you might have walked into a porno palace.

Throughout its up-and-down history, the Orange Theatre at 172 N. Glassell has been the home of vaudeville acts, movie masterpieces and stage plays.

If you listen hard enough you can hear the resounding "Encore" echo though the gold gilt hall.  But the sounds of the actors cavorting on the stage no longer reach up into the "cheap seats" in the balcony.

The history of the place is sketchy.  When it was first being built, it stood half completed for quite a while.  It was at this time that it came to be known as "Eltiste's Folly", in honor of the builder.  Later on, in the 1930's it was called the Pantages Theatre.

After many years of showing movies, the theatre reopened in July 1974 as the Playhouse.  Pat Paulsen starred in "Last of the Red Hot Lovers" on opening night.  Stars like Lucille Ball, Ruth Buzzi, and Rose Marie attended the premier.  The present owner said that the interior design was personally approved by director Cecil B. DeMille.

The Playhouse, however, wasn't making a very good go of it.  It's operators approached the city council for aid.  The council granted them a $3,500 interest-free loan.  But the venture was sinking fast, and closed shortly thereafter.   The city never recovered the money.

About a year ago, an effort was made to convert the place into an X-rated movie house.  A couple seeking to purchase the building had trouble meeting the financial obligations.

Again the building came alive.  The sounds of hammers pounding out new sets cracked through the air.  The smell of fresh paint penetrated the mustiness.   And the hum of a carpet cleaner careens down the stairway from the upstairs hall.   Again the lights came up, but on a new scene.

The Reverend Joe Magliato and his congregation have moved in.   Luckily, or perhaps through Divine intervention, the Son Light Christian Center is open.

Like the theater, this group of Christians has had a stormy past, although a shorter one that the theatre's.  They originated at the Amazing Prophecy Center in Santa Ana.  The center folded after the pastor left.  Magliato, the associate pastor there, and his congregation, were left to fend for themselves.

The group, then numbering about 300, needed a place to worship.   They found temporary quarters at the Jolly Roger Inn in Anaheim.

"Our menu was God's word and every service was well seasoned with praise." reads a pamphlet describing the meetings at the restaurant.

The capacity of the Jolly Roger Inn was only 250, and with a growing congregation, Magliato saw a need to find a new home for the worshippers.  After looking at numerous properties ranging from old warehouses to empty supermarkets, they discovered the old Orange Theatre.

For some unknown reason, the couple with the X-rated movies couldn't meet the terms of their agreement.  Pastor "Joe" believes that god wanted the place for "cross-rated" services.

The 900-seat auditorium was ideal for the expanding congregation.   Renovations contoured the building to their needs.  A stepped platform was built from the orchestra pit to the stage.  A ticket booth near the entrance was converted to a comfortable nursery.  An upstairs apartment was redone to serve as a classroom for Bible studies and meetings.  The chandeliers in the upper and lower lobbies were polished to a sparkle.  They even added a rear screen at the back of the stage to display verses for sing-a-long's.

In addition to the Bible classes and the Sunday morning worship services, the center provides free movies on Friday nights, and occasionally the center's own drama group presents plays on the still functional stage.

the atmosphere is casual.  The Sunday services are interspersed with applause and laughter.  Magliato believes that if you can get someone to smile they are in a receptive mood for the truth, and his sermons reflect that philosophy.   They are mixtures of enlightening lecture, and humorous anecdote.  It's what Pastor "Joe" calls "practical theology -- taking the truth and bringing it down to earth."

The 500 regular worshippers at the Son Light Christian Center are fundamentally Christians.  The congregation is made up of a number of different denominations.


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