Cavern Theatre Project

Durham Mackay Architects is very proud to have been selected as the Architect for the Cavern Theatre Renovation Project by the City of Carlsbad.  Our firm has created this page to keep the public informed on the progress of the theatre from behind the scenes.  If you have any question concerning the information on our website please feel free to contact our office here.

Theatre Tastic:

3D Animation Preview

Posted 7-15-16

Want to take a walk through the new Cavern Theatre?  Check out the Animation Video below currently being edited for music and sound by the City of Carlsbad.  


Green Room Scene from Video - Design Visualization by Brian Panisiti


3D Animation In Development

Posted 3-17-16

Incremental progress is ongoing, as DMA and The City of Carlsbad are proceeding on schedule with Phase 1 (Basic Opening) and Phase 2 (Façade Marquee) of the Cavern Theatre Renovation. Excitingly, a 3D animation fly through video, which will provide the public with a virtual fly through of the theatre interior, including the front lobby, auditorium, green room and work shop, is in development. Fundraising efforts for this grassroots project are ongoing, and your help will allow us to continue with the upcoming phases of this project. 



Design Visualization by Evan Michalski

DMA & Design Team Update:  

Posted 1-19-16

As 2016 begins, work continues on the Cavern Theatre project.  Now that the asbestos abatement is complete our team will continue work on the construction documents for the theatre.  The project will be completed in 3 Phases to ensure funding can be obtained for the end design.


Phase 1-Primative Opening:  DMA will assist the City of Carlsbad in rewiring electrical, upgrading the building HVAC, and specifying a temporary stage / projection and sound equipment so the theatre can be used temporarily till funds can be raised.  Most items purchased and used in phase 1 can be reused in the final construction phase of the Cavern.


Phase 2 – Façade Marquee:  DMA will develop plans to rehabilitate the front Marquee with new LED lighting, finish repair and roofing.


Phase 3 – Major Construction of the complete plan.


Throughout Phase 1 and 2, our firm will be working on promotional renderings and aminations of the final construction phase, so when the public is in the theatre, they can view these items, raise awareness, and/or contribute to the final design.

While all of this is going on, we will continue to complete the Phase 3 drawings, so the city can hire a certified professional estimator, who will review and provide the city with a final budget and target amount.  We will be meeting with consultants at the end of January 2016.



Phase 3 Design Renderings

Photo Rights to Francelia Carrasco

Performance chair donor Bob Light selects new Cavern Theatre Seat:  Posted 8-7-15

There are many components essential to the design of a performing arts center, an important one being the spectator seats.  So when it came to selecting the right chair to capture the essence of the Cavern Theatre, the DMA Team put our thinking caps on and did some research.  We wanted to select a strong chair which would last close to 100 years, while going 50 years before having to be reupholstered.  We wanted to select a chair which would complement the acoustics in the theatre, as well as aesthetics, and the seat most definitely had to be comfortable.  The City of Carlsbad was graciously approached by Bob Light, a former owner of the Cavern Theatre, whom volunteered to donate all of the new auditorium seats.  This meant when a chair model was selected, his approval was needed for a final selection.  On Thursday August 6, Bob came to the Durham Mackay office to “have a seat” and listen to the future plans for the Cavern.  After sitting for about an hour, Mr. Light mentioned the seat was very comfortable and said he had nowhere to be!  Rest assured after the renovation of the Cavern Theatre is complete, when you sit down for a performance, your seat is Bob Light Approved.



Photos of Bob Light at DMA:

Precedent Research

Photo Rights to Francelia Carrasco

Understanding Performing Arts Centers:  Posted 7-13-15

To truly understand the functionality of theatres and how they work, it's best to visit successful theatres in the area.  This past Friday, the Durham Mackay Staff visited Pope Joy Hall in Albuquerque New Mexico to chat with theatre managers and find out the "Do's & Don'ts" for theatre design. What we discovered were a lot of items that will be very useful in our Cavern Theatre design, most importantly the theme and feel of the theatre.  The direction of the interior design will focus on the 50s classic theatre era.  Since funding of the project is an important topic, we also investigated different ways for patrons to contribute to the theatre financially, seat name plate markers was one way, amongst many others.


Photos of Popejoy Hall:

New Theatre Design: 

Preliminary Perspective

Cavern Theatre Performing Arts Center: - Posted 7-7-15

Until its closing the Cavern Theatre served as a movie cinema.  After the upcoming renovation, the theatre will function as a performing arts center.  The installation of a new motorized cable fly system, which will allow the theatre to operate as a movie cinema, opera house, symphony performance space, or theatre/Broadway stage.  The original theatre building will now have an addition consisting of stagecraft workshop, greenroom, men's & women's dressing rooms, along with wardrobe and prop. storage facilities.  The addition will total approximately 5,334 S.F.  As of right now, DMA is focusing on working with our theatre, structural and mechanical/electrical engineers to determine how the existing conditions and systems will effect the design of the theatre.  Once the plan is finalized we will start the construction document portion of the project.



Preliminary Design Drawings:

Existing Conditions:

Bob Nymeyer Photo Collection Ray V.Davis

Understanding Performing Arts Centers:

Navigating the Theatre: Posted 7-6-15

Since there were no original construction drawings on record for the Cavern Theatre, DMA has been, from January to April, documenting the existing conditions ("As-Builting") at the Theatre.  Is has been a very interesting task to crawl through old ceilings and climb to the roof top of the existing 50' tall building.  The Cavern Theatre has a lot of interesting unique construction details and should pose a lot of design opportunities for the future to come. As-Builting was completed at the beginning of May '15.


More photos of this project:

Asbestos Report:

Since the Cavern Theatre was constructed in the 1950s, there is a level of asbestos reported in the existing structure and finishes.  Currently the City of Carlsbad Taskforce Committee is working diligently to raise funds to remove the asbestos amongst other needed items for construction.  The removal will need to be complete before construction on the theatre can begin.  The total estimated cost for the abatement is approximately $70,000 - $80,000.  If you are interested in helping, please contact Patsy Jackson with the City of Carlsbad.


UPDATE: Posted 7-15-15

Lodgers Tax as been approved to be used for the asbestos abatement in the amount of $75,000.


Cavern Theatre Asbestos Report - GWC
Cavern Theatre Asbestos Report.pdf
Adobe Acrobat document [12.0 MB]
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