Orange County News
February 27, 1993
TV Interview with Pastor Joe Magliato
By Mark Burnheimer, OCN Reporting
When you see the Son Light church from the outside it's not hard to tell it used to be something else, a theater. But take a look inside and you realize it still looks a lot more like a theater than a church.
Built in the late 20s and called the Orange Theater, the auditorium first hosted vaudeville acts, then movies and finally saw a short stint as a playhouse.
In 1976, because of financial reasons, the Orange Theater very nearly went back to movies, pornographic movies. That's when pastor Joe Magliato stepped in and agreed to buy the old building for $250,000.
Pastor Joe: I think they were really concerned when they found out it could have become an X-rated place which we turned into a cross-rated church.
Magliato describes the Son Light church as a nondenominational organization serving about 700 regular parishioners. He says the 900-seat auditorium couldn't be more conducive to giving a sermon.
Pastor Joe: For some reason theaters really work very well for churches. There are some drawbacks. One of the drawbacks is obviously the Sunday school space. You need a lot of little classrooms for the children. But as far as an auditorium, you know, look at this auditorium… it will match just about anything.
When the theater was built in the 1920s, during the vaudeville era, acoustics were everything. In fact the rumor is that Cecil B. DeMille, himself, came down to this theater and made sure the acoustics were perfect… that an actor standing on this stage could be heard all the way in the back of the theater.
But despite the advantages, the pastor admits he sometimes gets a strange feeling standing on the old vaudeville stage.
Pastor Joe: Sometimes I think about that. Sometimes I think that on that stage the go-go girls used to dance and now we have a hallelujah chorus. And there was a time there was an orchestra pit underneath the platform but now our orchestra is on stage. But I think we have a better time than they used to have 70 years ago.
Maybe they do, although it's an easy place for the mind to wander if a sermon should lose one's interest. Look at the giant tapestry towering above the stage or the old wall boxes that used to house organ pipes or the scaffolding where floodlights lit up the dancers. Take a peek down stairs where old dressing rooms now serve as storage closets and children's play rooms. Much of the original ornamentation and decoration look just as they did in the 1920s. The pastor says he's taken great care to refurbish the church with a respect for the old theater, right down to the great gold lion's head, which watches over all who enter.
Of course the modern day occupants of the building hope that the lion isn't the only one watching.
In Orange, Mark Burnheimer, Orange County News channel