The magic begins as you step into the elaborately decorated theater, complete with starry sky — Photo courtesy of Stephanie Klavens / Tampa Theatre
As you enter, you are transported away from Tampa to a beautiful, lush courtyard in the Mediterranean. And as you take your seats and the lights dim, the romantic vision becomes complete, as stars shine brightly in the night sky. There is no better place to see a movie, or anything else for that matter, than at the Tampa Theatre.
Built in 1926, the Tampa Theatre was designed by famed architect John Eberson, who specialized in creating some of America’s most elaborate “movie palaces.” For decades, it was the center of action in Tampa, a place where adults caught up on the news and the young people stole kisses on the balcony.
Things changed in the '60s and '70s, as people left downtown for the suburbs. Business dwindled to the point that there was talk of tearing the beautiful building down. But residents of Tampa joined together to save this icon of their past, and by 1977, the theater had been restored and reopened to the public. It remains as one of America’s best preserved examples of this genre of architecture.
Today, Tampa Theatre is an essential element of downtown Tampa entertainment: it hosts over 600 events a year for movie buffs, community groups and national acts. Although other types of events are hosted, this is still very much a movie theater, with many popular events focusing on films.
Built in 1926, the Tampa Theatre is a vibrant part of downtown nightlife — Photo courtesy of Joe Roberts / Tampa Theatre
Here you can see the newest art film releases, take part in the zany midnight shenanigans of The Rocky Horror Picture Show or watch a classic Charlie Chaplin movie, accompanied by live music from the Florida Orchestra. Another memorable part of your visit to the Tampa Theatre may be the playing of the Mighty Wurlitzer Theater Organ. There are performances by the Members of The Central Florida Theater Organ Society before most films.
If an all-access pass is what you’re looking for, Tampa Theatre offers balcony-to-backstage tours several times a month. For a minimal fee, visitors are shown the secrets of the theater’s art, history and mythology, and they're treated to a Wurlitzer performance as an added bonus.
A visit to the Tampa Theatre is an experience not to be missed. Check their online calendar for a listing of upcoming events.