Easy come, easy go. When the Malibu Playhouse property went up for sale a couple of years ago, residents were hopeful someone would buy it with the intention of keeping it as the longtime community playhouse. When Coldplay lead singer Chris Martin purchased it for $4.5 million in June 2018, they hoped he would be that person. Now, he’s put it up for sale again with a price tag just under $5.5 million.
The Malibu Playhouse building was once the location of Shepherd-by-the- Sea Lutheran Church at 29243 Pacific Coast Highway. It was converted into a fully equipped, 99-seat black box theater by the nonprofit Malibu Stage Company in 2002. The 6.5-acre property also has a parking lot, large trees and small office building. During the years it operated as a playhouse, Malibu residents were treated to many local productions of plays and musicals, along with table readings, concerts and other community events.
Since being purchased by Martin (more specifically, a group operating under the name Rainforest Malibu, LLC), the facility continued to be used for the nonprofit Young Actors Project, the “Stand Up!” monthly comedy shows, staged readings and special community events, but no formal plans about what, if anything, Martin intended to do with the place were ever announced.
On Jan 6, 2020, Martin applied to the Malibu Planning Commission to “memorialize” the Playhouse’s conditional use permit for the “operation of a community stage theater” so it didn’t have to be renewed every few years, as well as change weekend closing hours from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m.
The commissioners passed those approvals unanimously, but a sticking point arose. The playhouse contains recording studio equipment used to record theater productions. Martin asked the commissioners, through his representative, Don Schmitz, whether he could also use that studio to record some of his own personal music when the playhouse wasn’t being used by anyone else.
Commissioners raised an issue with the request, with the support of the assistant city attorney, Trevor Rusin. Conversation turned to the necessary permits, public hearings and other roadblocks in the way of Martin being able to record music at the location. Planning Director Bonnie Blue pointed out that all kinds of residences in Malibu have recording studios, but Schmitz conferred with his client by phone and withdrew the request.
When COVID-19 restrictions hit two months later, the playhouse was closed until further notice; there are still no answers about when performing arts theaters might safely reopen.
Shoshana Kuttner, executive director of the Young ACTors Project (YAP) and Malibu Playhouse, wrote that during the pandemic, YAP has transitioned to online coach- ing. She said she hopes a new landlord will continue to rent to Malibu Playhouse and YAP so they can continue their programs, including the “Peter Pan” and “Little Women” productions that were halted in March.
Kuttner does not know why the property owner is selling at this time, but stated she has had “an excellent landlord/tenant relationship, and that the property owner team did a great deal of work to help us recover from the Woolsey Fire and continue with our programs.”
According to Variety, Grammy Award winner Martin, 43, sold off a residential property next to the playhouse last year for $1.5 million less than the $3.7 million he paid for it. However, he still owns two residences on Point Dume: a Lautner architectural home that he paid $14 million for in 2014 and a small renovated ranch house around the corner that he purchased just last year for $5.48 million, presumably as a guest house.