Can we officially call the attempted Tower Theatre sale a mis-Adventure?


I think Kristin, above, says it all. If you haven’t read the latest, check out stories from the Bee and GV Wire. The short version: An appeals court denied Adventure Church’s attempt to block the sale of the historic Tower Theatre to the City of Fresno. And the court decided really quickly.

Some thoughts:

• A shout-out to Corin Hoggard for his diligence in keeping on top of this story. (My attention span for the nitty-gritty of this seemingly never-ending story expired a while ago.) A nod, too, to the Bee’s extremely insightful Marek Warszawski for keeping us informed in a big-picture way.

•  At the beginning of all this, back in prehistoric times the Middle Ages the War of 1812 Prohibition 2021, I wrote a column titled: “With the neighborhood so opposed, why would Adventure Church want to buy the Tower Theatre?” (It’s one of my best read pieces ever on The Munro Review, by the way.) After all the time and money expended on the effort, I still don’t really know the answer. I wavered between theories as the months went by:

The save-the-souls theory. I never did buy this one. There are so many other locations that Adventure Church could have tried expanding. With all the legal fees spent so far, the church could have hired limos to take new converts to Sunday services.

The test-case theory. The Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000 still hasn’t been litigated all the way to the Supreme Court. Deep-pocketed religious conservatives have been looking for a way that churches could use the worship card to squash local zoning regulations. Perhaps the Tower Theatre was the ticket? This theory lost favor, however, as it became increasingly clear that the Tower Theatre case was more about real-estate transactions than a supposed example of religious “discrimination.” If conservative judicial activists were involved at the beginning, my guess is they backed out early.


The culture-war theory. This one still has legs. Essentially, it’s the Normandy approach: Establish a beachhead on enemy territory (the gayest district in the city), then pound out the invasion from there. (Watch the hedonistic masses quiver and melt away on Olive Avenue as they confront righteousness!) I see that Anthony Flores showed up to the most recent conservative church “love the sinners but condemn the sin” romp, in the form of 50 or so pandering pastors trying to stoke parishioner fury at the city’s raising of the Pride flag. He certainly isn’t trying for a semi-conciliatory tone these days with the gay community.

The macho theory. A late-breaking addition to my theory list, this one pulled ahead as my favorite and has remained there. A quick summing up: Sandbox fight gets protracted, ugly and expensive. The smart thing would have been for the church to cut its losses and retreat. Real men don’t run, however. How much longer did this go on because of the, ahem, sin of pride?

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•  Is the story really over, as Kristin indicates above? It would seem so, for the time being. But we’re living in crazy scary times. I’m not too worried about the local conservative churches being able to pull a “Handmaid’s Tale” move in California, but at the federal level, the skies feel darker than one of Will’s interminable nightmares in “Stranger Things.”

•  Finally, and by leaving this until last, I want to give it emphasis: Thank you, Tower District community, for showing that there is still power in the streets. I have so much admiration for the organized, persistent, never-failing — and, yes, stubborn — people who protested in front of the theater for Sunday after Sunday. (Not just a month of Sundays — more like 16, right?) Go ahead, Kristin and company. Take a victory lap, have a celebratory drink, shout to the (progressive) heavens. Stay up late on Saturday night. You deserve to sleep in the next day.

Covering the arts online in the central San Joaquin Valley and beyond. Lover of theater, classical music, visual arts, the literary arts and all creative endeavors. Former Fresno Bee arts critic and columnist. Graduate of Columbia University and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. Excited to be exploring the new world of arts journalism.

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