Moving Forward: Introducing the New Owners of The Morro Bay Theater

Written by Judy Salamacha

January 19, 2024

The week of October 16, 2023 Mary Lou Jannopoulis turns over the keys to Scott and Cameron Wilson celebrating a new era of family ownership for The Morro Bay Theater. Photo submitted by Cameron Wilson

“Somewhere over the rainbow, skies are blue, and the dreams that you dare to dream really do come true,” wrote L. Frank Baum, author of “The Wizard of Oz.” As my first 2024 column for Estero Bay News, I wanted to share at least one example of a Morro Bay community dream that came true in 2023. I had no idea my intended example to introduce the new owners of our local movie theater came with an announcement of a premier blockbuster movie by Director Jay Silverman starring Beau Bridges on January 20 with guest appearances and proceeds benefitting Morro Bay High School Arts! Check out 805Tix.com.     

But first the backstory! In 2021 EBN’s reporter Neil Farrell announced that after 25 years The Bay Theater owner, Mary Lou Jannopoulos said, she had “held out as long as she could during the pandemic closures…” (but) the last single-screen, storefront theater exclusively showing movies in San Luis Obispo County was officially up for sale. As a family owned and operated business, she added, “We didn’t get rich…but (it was) profitable up to 2020…It breaks my heart to have to sell it.”  

Farrell’s story caused a firestorm of concern by Estero Bay patrons. Letters to the editor, posted concerns on social media, and even a brief campaign to find a buyer or raise funds to purchase it – guaranteeing it would remain a community entertainment resource. Jannopoulos would continue to serve the community offering movies and special events until 2023 when she accepted the sales’ offer of Scott and Shannon Wilson of San Diego.  

After meeting the Wilson’s son, Cameron, who is the onsite owner/general manager, I am convinced the community dream also held by the Jannopoulos family has come true. The Wilson family intends to build on the community asset they purchased. In fact, they have worked closely adopting Mary Lou’s best business practices and have demonstrated they intend to keep pricing affordable, collaborate community activities that make sense for a movie theater, offer current and classic films as well as the best popcorn in town and maintain their long-term loyal staff, including Heather Jannopoulos,   

New Year’s Eve Cameron took time to share his family story with me. “Mom and Dad met attending Cal Poly and still visit friends here. They love the area. It was my sister, Michaela Lusteg, who told Dad about the business. She lives in Atascadero and is the chef at Halfway Station on Hwy 41. My dad recently sold a golf simulator company he developed in 2009 and she knew he was looking for a new investment. 

“Dad intends to be very involved in the business. He stayed with me for two-months while we trained with Mary Lou.” They kept the business open during the escrow for Cameron and Scott to have hands-on experience learning everything about the business – from running the projector to nightly cleaning the popcorn machine. Together buyer and seller decided the perfect movie to launch the new ownership. “’Barbie’ was a risk since it had been out for a time,” Cameron said about their launch week beginning October 16. “Mary Lou and her girls ran it Monday and Tuesday and then mid-week we had a Barbie-style celebration when Mary Lou officially turned over the keys to us. The community all showed up in their pink. I am still feeling the positive energy from my neighbors and appreciation from the community that we are still a movie theater.”  


During The Morro Bay Theater’s featured movie presentation of ‘Wonka,’ Cham Louie impersonates Willie Wonka with sidekick Cameron Wilson, new owner/general manager of the theater, to the delight of movie patrons. Photo submitted by Cameron Wilson

What is Cameron’s background? He graduated from film school, but it was his musical career he decided to pursue. He sang and played base-guitar with a group that toured the USA after graduation hoping to fulfill their dreams of making it big. Once they landed in New York City, however, the love bug bit him. He met his life partner, Rachel Louie, and stayed. She is on the management team of a storefront set fabrication company producing numerous Manhatten display windows. Eight years later when Scott asked him if he wanted to operate a movie theater in Morro Bay, Cameron knew it was the right career move for him. “Rachel has visited several times. She will be following soon.” 

The Wilson family does not intend to change much. They are still working with film broker, Ken Kruse, and consulting with the Jannopoulis family to select the films that best fit the Estero Bay residents and visitors viewing interests. For example, Cameron and Scott believed timing was important to show the film “Killers of the Flower Moon” directed by Martin Scorsese. Note: Cameron loves to showcase the directors of films. Patrons will see directors’ names sharing the movie marquee announcements typically reserved for the film’s featured stars.  

Testing out film preferences of the community, Cameron has tried split schedule for movie bookings. He believes there is often a different audience in the afternoon than for an evening screening. Recently he screened “Eileen,” a psychological thriller, in the afternoon and in the evening screened “The Boy & the Heron,” a new fantasy adventure by Academy Award winning director Hayao Miyazaki.    

The Wilson family anticipated The Morro Bay Theater would selectively collaborate on Estero Bay community events, but Cameron didn’t expect the first one to happen so soon – and so big – after their grand opening. Mayor Carla Wixom brought him an offer he couldn’t refuse – maybe even a bonus dream come true! 

Last spring Hollywood director Jay Silverman and members of his production crew were scouting a location site for his newest movie, Camera. Morro Bay was perfect, they decided. By happenstance they stopped to eat at Carla’s Country Kitchen and met General Manager Haley Foerst, who happens to be Mayor Carla Wixom’s daughter. Excited, a Hollywood producer/director chose their restaurant, she introduced the crew to her mother and a bond was forged. 

As Mayor Wixom told me, “One of the best parts of my job is connecting the dots to make something positive happen for Morro Bay.” When filming last fall, Silverman mentioned to her he hoped to premier the film in Morro Bay. She introduced him to Cameron, who was able to schedule Friday, January 20 at 5pm. Not only is film star Beau Bridges scheduled to make a guest appearance, but Silverman will be on hand to announce his preference that all proceeds will benefit Morro Bay High School Arts Program. Tickets available at 805Tix.com if not sold out by EBN’s publication date.  

“Camera” is an uplifting story that centers around a boy named Oscar, play by ingenue actor Miguel Gabriel, who moves to a fishing town with his struggling widowed mother. He’s picked on and bullied and yet still sees great beauty. When he finds a broken camera and meets Eric, an eccentric old repairman (Beau Bridges), magic begins to happen.  

Check out the website www.morrobaymovie.com for other special events coming up. Cameron has scheduled the classic “Citizen Kane” and the award-winning local film “Botso” produced by Tom Walters. 

Estero Bay residents, the best way we can continue our dream-come-true is support The Morro Bay Theater by choosing to enjoy our movies at our own local movie theater. 

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