Opened in 1952 as the Jones Beach Marine Theater, with only 8,200 seats this outdoor theater hosted musicals. Robert Moses had several box seats designated for his own use. Robert Moses’ friend Guy Lombardo performed at the theater often in the early years.
The opening show was the operetta extravaganza “A Night in Venice” by Johann Strauss II, produced by film producer, Mike Todd, complete with floating gondolas and starring Enzo Stuarti, Norwood Smith and Nola Fairbanks. Lombardo’s final show was the 1977 production of Finian’s Rainbow, with Christoper Hewett in the title role. After Lombardo’s death in 1977, the series resumed in 1978 with Annie Get Your Gun, starring Lucie Arnaz.
Beginning in the 1980s, the primary focus of the venue would change to concerts. In 1991 and 1992, under contract from concert promoter Ron Delsner, the theatre would undergo an extensive renovation, adding a second level, and increasing the capacity to 11,200 seats. The capacity was expanded again in 1998 to hold 15,000 seats.
The original design of the theater had a “moat” — the stage was actually on Zack’s Bay and separated from the beach, and performers could be brought to the stage by boat (some scenes had floating scenery). The moat was covered or filled in during the first renovation and seats closer to the stage were installed. The Guy Lombardo Orchestra would pass through the “moat” on a yacht during the intermissions. The band would play tunes while floating in front of the audience.