Saturday, August 30, 2008

Tampa Theatre (Downtown)

Current Website:


Anonymous said...



Opened: October 15, 1926

Architect: John Eberson

Architectural Style: Florida Mediterranean (includes touches of Italian Renaissance, Byzantine, Spanish, Mediterranean, Greek Revival, Baroque, and English Tudor)

Tampa Theatre was created by architectural designer John Eberson, one of the most prolific and internationally renowned movie palace designers of his time. His movie palaces are in Miami; New York; Chicago; Canton, Ohio; Houston and Austin, Texas; Paris, France; Sydney, Australia and many other cities. Eberson was born in Romania, attended The University of Vienna in 1893, and settled in St. Louis, Missouri. While his early theater commissions could be characterized as traditional, by the mid-1910s Eberson had clearly forged a new direction with the Dallas Majestic Theatre (1917). His first truly atmospheric theater was the Houston Majestic (1923).

John Eberson tells how Florida inspired his atmospheric theatre design:
"I have been wintering in Florida for the past several years, and it is from this state that I got the atmospheric idea. I was impressed with the colorful scenes that greeted me at Miami, Palm Beach and Tampa. Visions of Italian gardens, Spanish patios, Persian shrines and French formal gardens flashed through my mind, and at once I directed my energies to carrying out these ideas." -The Tampa Tribune, October 15, 1926

Original Construction Cost: $1.2 million

Construction Time: 1 year

Restoration Costs, to date: $2 million

First Movie: "The Ace of Cads" starring Adolph Menjou (silent)

Ticket Price for opening night movie: 25 cents

Acquired by the City of Tampa: 1976

Declared a Tampa City Landmark: 1988

Managed by: The Arts Council of Hillsborough County

Longest Employment Tenure: 45 years 1926-71 (Blondelle Gladney, box office cashier)

Number of Seats: 1,446

Number of events annually: 650

Average Annual Attendance: 135,000

Number of stars in auditorium ceiling: 99

Number of tiles on the lobby floor: 245,185

Number of Mighty Wurlitzer Theatre Organ pipes: about 1,400

Programming: specialty film, classic movies, concerts, special events, corporate events, field trips, weddings, graduations, production location, tours

Built in 1926 as one of America's most elaborate "movie palaces", the Tampa Theatre today is a fiercely protected and generously supported landmark. Designed by famed theatre architect John Eberson, the Tampa is a superior example of the "atmospheric" style of theatre design. Inside the Tampa, audiences are transported to a lavish, romantic Mediterranean courtyard replete with old world statuary, flowers, and gargoyles. Over it all is a nighttime sky replete with twinkling stars and floating clouds.

Like other new movie palaces around the country, the Tampa Theatre was enormously popular. For the first time in history, the common person had access to opulence on a scale never before imagined. For 10 cents, they could escape into a fantasy land for two hours, see first class entertainment, and be treated like royalty by uniformed platoons of ushers and attendants. By the end of the 1920's, over 90 million Americans were going to the movies every week.

For several decades, the Tampa remained a jewel and the centerpiece of Tampa 's cultural landscape. People grew up, stole their first kisses in the balcony, followed the weekly newsreels, and celebrated life week after week by coming back to the Tampa .

But by the 1960's and 70's, times had changed. America 's flight to suburbs was having a damaging effect on downtown business districts across the country. Hardest hit were the downtown movie palaces which dotted
America's urban landscapes. Audiences dwindled and costs rose. Many of our nation's finest movie palaces were quickly demolished before anyone noticed because the land beneath them became more valuable than the theatre operation.

In 1973, the Tampa Theatre faced the same fate. But in Tampa citizens rallied. Committees were formed. City leaders became involved, and soon a deal was reached to have the City rescue the Tampa by assuming its leases. The Arts Council of Hillsborough County agreed to program and manage the Tampa with films, concerts and special events. By the time the Theatre reopened in early 1978, the Tampa had become something of a national model on how to save an endangered theatre.

Today, Tampa Theatre is a remarkable success story, presenting and hosting over 600 events a year. With a full schedule of first run and classic films, concerts, special events, corporate events and tours, the theatre is one of the most heavily utilized venues of its kind in the United States.

Since its reopening, over 2 million guests have enjoyed film events, over 800,000 have attended concerts, and over 700,000 elementary children have enjoyed professional touring theatre productions in the context of one of Tampa 's largest historic preservation projects.

Private support is critical to the Theatre's continued success and service to the community. In spite of its successes, the Theatre only earns about 65 % of its annual operating budget through earned income. The non-profit Tampa Theatre Foundation helps to make up difference by through memberships, special fundraising events, sponsorships and planned giving programs.

Tampa Theatre was named to the National Register of Historic Places in 1978, is a Tampa City Landmark, and is a member of the League of Historic American Theatres.

Anonymous said...

Address: 711 Franklin Street

CheriD said...

I think I may have been in my twenties before I realized that the stars shining down and all the tiny windows looking out on the audience were FAKE! One of the best parts of going to the Tampa Theatre was the time spent before the movie started just fantasizing about the people who lived in the little villa. I laughed at myself when I actually made that realization because I knew all along - but its like telling your kid Santa Claus stories - its a lot more fun if you still believe!

No matter how hot it was outside - it was always cool and quiet in the Tampa Theatre. It provided complete removal from the real world - not only with the comedy or drama on the screen but from the very moment you walked over the tiny tiles of the foyer. Even the ladies restroom provided something special - I always loved the tiny child's stall! No visit was complete without a trek up or down stairs to visit the restroom. What a grand place to envision yourself as a grown woman applying lipstick!

But of all the movies I watched there throughout my childhood (born in 1949)and into my teen years, the one that stands out the most was "Wait until Dark" with Audrey Hepburn. The ushers would not allow anyone to be seated the last 15 minutes of the movie so as not to spoil the surprise ending. My boyfriend and I watched intently from the balcony and both will testify that we jumped out of our seats at the much anticipated but not expected "surprise".

That same boyfriend would propose to me after watching "Barefoot in the Park" at the same wonderful theatre! and in the 80's we took our children to see the Flying Kramazov Brothers, thus introducing another generation to a Tampa treasure.

Anonymous said...

A Mighty Wurlitzer Pipe Organ was installed on Aug. 24, 1926. It is currently maintained by the Central Florida Theater Organ Society.

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...

Tampa Tribune (Florida)
December 22, 2007 Saturday

Still Star-Struck At 80

By Kurt Loft, The Tampa Tribune

TAMPA - Our city has its share of movie houses, concert halls and auditoriums, but it covets one above all, a magical place where history drifts like a ghost and a starlit sky twinkles above our heads.

The Tampa Theatre is more than a landmark. It is part of the city's body and being, a breathing remnant of the past that refuses to fade or lose its
luster. For in this lavishly appointed palace, time moves in all directions, and
visitors slip enchanted into another era.

Tampa rightly takes pride in its prize in the heart of downtown, a 1,450-seat theater built more than 80 years ago and now on the National Register of
Historic Places. Nothing like it exists here, a mixed-breed of Italian
Renaissance, Byzantine, Mediterranean, Spanish, Greek Revival and English Tudor.

Gleaming marble floors and palazzo tile add touches of regal weight.

Defending the premises are mythological figures standing in alcoves around the proscenium, and exotic beasts, gargoyles and birds hide among darkened nooks and crannies. On any given night the Mighty Wurlitzer organ - a staple during the age of silent film - pops up through the center of the stage.

Designed by architect John Eberson and built for $1.2 million, the theater was Tampa's first "air-cooled" building when it opened on Oct. 15, 1926, featuring the silent film "Ace of Cads" for 25 cents. Today, the theater offers more than 700 films and other events each year in an ideal marriage of form and

"What's important is the programming the theater does," says Art Keeble,
director of the Arts Council of Tampa-Hillsborough County. "You can see great
movies and concerts, get married there, go to wine tastings. And while you go
for the event, once you walk in you're struck by the beauty of the place. It's
the heart of the cultural district."

That heart nearly was ripped out by indifference and neglect. By the 1960s,
more and more people were leaving Tampa proper for the suburbs, and soon new malls and multiplexes stole business from downtown. With lost revenue, the historic theater fell into decay, leaving little budget for sufficient maintenance. Termites and rust replaced Gable and Garbo, and a final act loomed: the wrecking ball.

The mere suggestion that anyone would raze the place sends tingles down the
back of Randi Whiddon, president of the Tampa Theatre Restoration Society and
an architect with Urban Studios.

"People have taken down some amazing buildings that are part of our history,
but this is a real Tampa icon," she says. "It's full of unbelievable detail and workmanship. There are only a handful of theaters out there with this kind of feel."

Florida State Theaters, which owned the building at the time, bailed out by
selling it for $1 to the city of Tampa. Local politicians, in particular City
Councilman Lee Duncan, realized the potential of the theater and worked on a
preservation plan with the arts council.

In 1977, the theater reopened as a quasi-nonprofit film and special events
center, and the next year was named to the National Register of Historic Places. It was declared a Tampa landmark in 1988. A fundraising effort in the 1990s injected $1.5 million in much-needed restoration work.

Today, the theater is regarded as one of the country's best preserved examples of grand movie palace architecture, and each year more than 135,000 people
attend its classic film series, concerts and social events.

To accommodate the crowds and preserve the theater's charm, management keeps restoration on the front burner. Nobody seems to mind.

"The day-to-day care and love takes a lot of work and money," says Tara
Schroeder, a theater spokeswoman. "But I'm privileged to work here. I feel like
we're stewards of a community treasure."

Reporter Kurt Loft

Anonymous said...

As a Tampa Native, I grew up going to movies downtown with my mother. Always followed by a snack at the Walgreen's dining section down the block. The Tampa was so cool, literally (being air conditioned), in the steamy Tampan 1950s, and the pseudo-architecture inside was so fascinating to a kid. My mother reports that the first movie I ever sat thru entirely, without even a bathroom break, was in the Tampa, and it was "Davy Crockett".