Saturday, August 30, 2008

Ritz Theatre (Ybor City)

Current Website:

August 1932



2009 (Photo courtesy of



Anonymous said...

Listed in the 1950 Film Daily Yearbook...1004(?) seats.

CheriD said...

I'll post this one for my husband. At the age of 16, going to the Ritz theatre in Ybor City, was not something you did with a date! It was 1965 and the Ritz had fallen on hard times. It showed what we then called "X" rated movies - by today's standards you could watch those movies on cable tv! But anyway, one Sunday afternoon, he and a neighborhood buddy bought tickets and managed to get in (apparently not much ID checking happened). The movie had just started when the theatre started to shake as if it were going to come down around the boy's heads! They were panic stricken - how would their mothers feel when they recovered their bodies from the rubble of an X-rated movie??

It turned out that the CSX train was making its daily run out of the Tampa station right behind the theatre! Needless to say - neither boy shared their experience and they didn't stay to see the rest of the movie! (or so I'm told)

Anonymous said...

Seminole, was right behind HHS, it was a Sat. serial kids movie, Sem. Hts, Northtown, very unknown to my crowd, not our stomping ground, Springs, went there most, across from Springs pool, reg. path Sat., swimming a.m., movie after, also kids serial type, most well-known among Seminole Hts kids, Roxy, not us, too bummy, Garden, Green bldg, Nebraska ave, not on our list, out of our area, not too popular with us, never went there, Ybor City, Ritz, it also was a burlesque place in the 70s, porn movies, changed quickly. All of we High Schoolers were Drive-in nuts, Fun Lan, Tower, Hillsboro, Skyway, AutoPark, that was where we went in high school, only went to movies when I was around 5 yrs until 12 or so, Park Theater, was a one time visit while in High School, Three Coins in a Fountain, I remember, Bridget Bardot movie was a sensation there, not in our territory. I lived on Shadowlawn and 19th St. our first house, we took kids to Fun Lan, they loved it, we did too when they went to sleep, that was when the three dependents were very small. That's about it for me and the theatres, The Tampa, The Springs were my favorites, went to Springs almost every Sat. 14 cents to get in, my aunt was in ticket box. In Junior High all of us hung out mostly, Springs Pool, Ralston Beach, Colonial Beach, all on Egypt Lake, we danced to Juke box combed our Duck Tail haircuts, messed with the women, they also messed with us, that's fair! All of us guys had Elvis haircuts, and clothes, Pink and Black, was the color, I had Blue Suede Zipper shoes with tassle pulls, a real heart-breaker, tough guy, I thought. You name the place in Tampa, I've either been in it, know of it, or been thrown out of it, in 70s never dropped a drink, that went on for about 10 years or so, then rehab. then back to the grind, been here ever since, haven't seen it all, but didn't miss much!

Anonymous said...

Ybor City's Ritz Theater reinvents itself again
By By Alexandra Zayas, Times Staff Writer
In print: Friday, May 2, 2008

YBOR CITY — If the Ritz Theater could talk, it might describe how it feels to die and come back to life, time after time after time.

Since it opened in 1917 and expanded in the 1930s, the building at 1503 E Seventh Ave. has seen silent films, all-day matinees, live nude shows, plays, rock concerts, foam parties and black-tie affairs. It has answered to the names Rivoli, Ritz, Manchester and Masquerade.

Its marquee has been Ybor's sign of the times and a testament to the staying power of old theater buildings in Tampa.

After an almost two-year hangover, the Ritz is back, with a $750,000 facelift. The Capitano family, which bought the theater 20 years ago, didn't want to invite another club into the historic building. Instead, they turned it into a four-room event venue.

The Ritz hosted its first event in March and is now open for weddings, concerts, galas and other parties. Owners have big plans to use it during next year's Super Bowl and say a famous band has booked the stage. An invitation-only grand opening party is planned for June.

The big, circular, art deco mirrors still greet guests in the grand foyer. The black-and-white tile floors have been deep cleaned. The bathrooms, dressing rooms and 25- by 44-foot stage are all new, as are the high-tech lights.

"It's a blank slate," said executive director Nicole Capitano Nassif. "But it has character."

Glimpses of the Ritz's past


Audiences packed the Rivoli for Blood and Sand, which a poster billed as "The love epic of a Spanish Toreador. Imagine Valentino, a dare-devil Toreador, a fiery Spanish lover!" Admission: Children, 15 cents; adults, 35 cents.


Angie Tripolino Zambito, 82, of North Tampa says the theater is where her boyfriend, Rosario Puleo Zambito, asked her to marry him. "Right there at the theater, gee. You know, we would sit as far back as we could so nobody could see us. He would actually be kissing me on the cheek. That's how he proposed."

They were married for 40 years when he died in 1984.


Nick DiMaggio, a regular in the '60s, said, "When A Hard Day's Night ran one Saturday afternoon, the theater was sold out to the walls. There were people standing against the side walls and along the back of the theater. The manager, evidently fearing a possible riot, turned the house lights up, walked on stage just before the film began, and gave the audience a stern warning that everyone would be given a refund, and the theater would be shut down, if there was any screaming or rowdiness or excessive noise. They ran the entire feature with the house lights turned up."

'60s and '70s

"There was a consistent tone, during the sexual revolutions of the '60s and '70s, to any news story about the Ritz: all negative," according to a 1984 article in the Tampa Tribune. "Undercover cops continually arrested burlesque dancers like '48-24-36 Queen of the College Campus' Anne Howe and 'Minnie the Mermaid' for flashing more flesh than local law allowed in public. Judges frequently viewed the theater's blue movies, like Man and Wife and Animal Lovers and declared them 'lewd.' "


About a dozen people living in dilapidated apartments above the former Ritz Theater protested their eviction by Freedom Savings and Loan Association. One resident complained that tenants weren't told they had to leave until the day Freedom Savings officials began changing door locks.


"The Ritz presents mostly alternative rock acts, from Nine Inch Nails to Fishbone to Deicide," a St. Petersburg Times story says. "The bands that take to the club's generously sized stage usually set their knobs to ear-splitting volumes, so it's difficult to assess the room's acoustics. The Ritz is an especially good spot for people-watching — outrageous clothes, hairdos and chalky pallors are everywhere."


A tragic melee ensued during a heavy metal concert by the band Corrosion of Conformity. Two women knocked over a man in the mosh pit, which led to a brawl. The man stabbed four people, killing one, before running out of the club brandishing a knife.


The club closes after the property's developers, Capitano & Garcia LLC, filed a lawsuit alleging the Masquerade nightclub owed more than $90,000 in rent and other costs.

A sampling of old theater buildings still standing

The Tampa Theatre
(Built in 1926) The theater is a local treasure and still hosts performances and screens first-run films as well as classics. 711 N Franklin St.

The David Falk Theatre
(1928) It showcases student productions at the University of Tampa. 428 W Kennedy Blvd.

The Rialto
(1925) It was the site of some plans presented to the City Council last year to develop a private club called Print. 1621 N Franklin St.

The Seminole
(1923) It is now home to Praise Cathedral. 5103 N Florida Ave.

Some theater buildings are long gone. The Alcazar Theatre (1911) stopped showing movies in 1921 and was eventually absorbed into the Maas Brothers Department Store in downtown Tampa. So was the Strand Theatre (1915). That entire block was demolished in 2006 to make way for condos that still haven't been built. The Palace Theater (1920) was billed at its opening as the most modern theater constructed of the finest materials. It was renovated in 1962 to accommodate the three-projector process Cinerama and later packed sold-out, first-run shows. In 1976 it closed and was demolished in 1979. The Skypoint condos now replace it.

Anonymous said...


The Ritz Theatre opened in Tampa's Latin Quarter of Ybor City in 1917 and had a lengthy run that ended in the 1970s. Originally a one screen theatre showing first run movies it was one of several theatres in Ybor. The building itself is a brick structure and the interior of the lobby is Art Deco. The theatre area itself is an elaborate Spanish Colonial look...very Hacienda.

Like much of Ybor City the theatre was in terrible shape by the 1970s and had sufferred a fire. In the 1980s the seats were removed and the theatre re-opened for concerts and also housed a gothic/alternative dance club The Masquerade. The Masquerade moved to a different location in the 1990s but the Ritz remained in operations as a concert venue as Ybor experienced a renaissance and businesses returned. Late in the 1990s The Masquerade returned to the Ritz.

Contributed by Todd Frary

Anonymous said...


This theater holds some wonderful memories for me. I attended The Ritz nearly every weekend during the early-to-mid sixties. During this period The Ritz was essentially a B-film house specializing in horror/sci-fi and campy teen films that played to packed houses on the weekends. Alternatively both standard film fare as well as Spanish language films also played.

Beginning with William Castles' 13 Ghosts in 1961 to Village of the Giants in 1965 I saw hundreds of films over a 5 year period. On Fridays and Saturdays The Ritz would run a triple-feature program such as The Fly, The Spider, and The Deadly Mantis. The following weekend Black Sunday, The Raven, and Day of the Triffids would be playing. A couple weeks later the attractions were The Brain Eaters, The Screaming Skull, and Brain from Planet Arous.

On one Sunday afternoon Presley's Fun in Acalpulco teamed with Bye Bye Birdie packed the house. And the following weekend The Blob, Blood of the Vampire, and Tarantula were playing. Blockbusters like West Side Story and It's A Mad Mad Mad Mad World also played from time to time. When A Hard Day's Night sold-out the theater on one Saturday afternoon the management, evidently fearing a possible riot, ran the entire feature with the house lights turned up.

Unbelievable as it sounds today, admission during this period was 20-cents for children under 12, and 60-cents for adults. I do not recall a separate price for students although it was probably half the adult admission.

The auditorium was Basic Mediterranian Revival. The interior was painted a combination of patterns of red, orange, and pink, and the side walls of the auditorium contained house fronts complete with red-tile roofs, chimneys, and windows lit from behind. Beige curtains illuminated by red stage lights hid the 35-foot wide CinemaScope screen within the procenium. Capacity was 700 which was later reduced to 400 when new larger seats were installed when theater converted to running adult films.

At the end of 1965 the theater was purchased by a company out of
Miami that owned and operated several adult theaters statewide, and on January 1, 1966 it became The Ritz Adult Theater. Triple-X films and live nudie stage shows were now the attraction, and it ran for an amazing 15 years.

It was also used for a short time by The Playmakers, a local stage production company. In the early eighties it was purchased by a private owner who had hoped to transform it back into a movie house featuring first-run films. The building was given a complete makeover in preparation. The interior and exterior was repainted, and new carpeting, seats, and curtains were installed. The screen which had been moved up against the rear wall was still in good condition and was moved back into place. The original 35mm projectors had remained in the booth and were still functional.

Unfortunately due to a drain on funds and resources, as well as lack of support from the public, the owner was never able to see his dream of running movies materialize. For a short time several concerts were presented (mainly heavy metal and punk) but a larger core audience never fully developed and the doors eventually closed.

After sitting empty for some time the building was purchased and completely remade for an alternative dance/nightclub called The Masquerade.

I had a chance to visit the building shortly after the new club had opened. All seating had been removed and the village house fronts on the side walls all been stripped down to the bare concrete walls. The floor had been leveled out and a mosh pit had been dug out in the center. Sadly the only remenants to show that it may have once been a movie theater were the stage and the procenium. The Maquerade had apparently done very well for several years attracting hordes of alternative and undergound concert goes, but early in 2006 it finally closed it's doors. The building currently remains empty.

posted by Nick DiMaggio on Sep 17, 2006 at 6:49am

Anonymous said...

In the late 50's and very early 60's, my family lived in east Tampa and every weekend made a trip to Ybor City which had the nearest grocery store,library branch, dime stores and the Ritz Theater. My sister and I were given a quarter which covered admission and a box of popcorn. I can specifically remember seeing "The Green-Eyed Blonde" and "Jailhouse Rock." After the movie we would usually get deviled crabs from a sidewalk vendor (they carried them in little square metal boxes) and for a special treat we would get pressed cubans from The Silver Ring. I'm glad that the building has been preserved.

Unknown said...

I remember going there with my grandfather and my dad in the 50's . I have such fond memories of Ybor City

Ybor seems closer here,
The smell of cigars and the scent of mama’s sauce,
A casual picture of so much memory and so
Little a remark that takes me there,
It lives behind my obvious view, my perpetual stare,
We never forget the places we love,
They fall as white lace softly over our every thought,
Part of our inheritance.
A guide of some conscience to bare
And Rose has just walked through the gate
To meet Darrel, Sandy, Jessie and Tom at last,
Just in time for this Christmas,
So now when I remember Ybor
They will be part of the cast.