Inside Look: Palm Theatre in San Luis Obispo Officially Reopens

The beloved Palm Theatre in downtown San Luis Obispo has officially reopened after being closed for more than a year, due to the pandemic. A group of four senior journalism students decided to give Cal Poly students an exclusive story with the owner, Jim Dee, who was very difficult to get in touch with, but gave an illuminating interview about what he and his theater have endured this year.

Community members ranging from a high school barista to a 63-year-old retired Los Osos resident all said they were curious about what a Palm Theatre experience would be like now. Would ticket prices be the same? Will they be playing the same genre of movies or resort to showing commercial Hollywood movies to make more money? Who owns the theater? Grace Power Smith relayed those questions over to writer Ivy Yahnke and videographer Yasel Hurtado who went to the theater to get some answers.

Hurtado captured video footage that takes the viewer on a tour through the theater, as if they were there themself.

“I had a blast filming the interview and the shots of the theater,” Hurtado said. “Speaking with the owner, Jim Dee, was also really cool because I’m a big fan of the Palm.”

Yahnke’s story takes readers on a journey through the history of the Palm, Dee and how COVID-19 rocked the boat for this small, local business, after answering the most pressing questions about the theater’s current status.

“We had the most wonderful interview with Jim, the owner of the Palm Theatre, and I’m excited to see how our story components all come together,” Yahnke said.

Evan Pettingill was in charge of creating an interactive element of the story that allows readers to engage with the piece. He also took some awesome images of the inside of the theater, which Dee said had some “sprucing up” during the closure.

“Covering local businesses is always an awesome experience,” Pettingill said. “This business had its struggles through the pandemic, and I think it’s an important story to tell.”

The story will be posted on, but here’s a preview of what’s to come: Jim Dee said he felt like he “experienced retirement” during the pandemic. The Palm is the second movie theater he has owned, and he opened it in 1988. He said in the movie theater business, you’re always walking on uneven ground due to constantly emerging technology, like streaming services, but the pandemic was a new challenge altogether.

“I think people are a little hesitant to come to the theater, but I’m hoping by mid-summer or by fall we’ll be back to where we were,” Dee said.

(I visited the theater recently and can tell you it’s just the same, but with slightly higher concession prices and far less people in the theater than usual. But, that’s supply and demand for you.)