6 Things to Know About Tampa Theatre, A Local Treasure

Tampa Bay Design Week is excited about our documentary screening Eames: The Architect and the Painter tonight, but we are even more excited about the screening venue: Tampa Theatre.


Let's talk about this beloved legendary local treasure in our community! 


1. Built in 1926, this movie palace was designed by pioneer theater architect John Eberson in his most developed and promoted atmospheric theater style.

2.  One of the characteristics of atmospheric theater style is the illusion that you are outdoors under a night sky.  Tampa Theatre is successful in providing that experience. To achieve the atmospheric effect, Eberson installed a smooth, domed ceiling with 99 electric twinkling stars and projected clouds. He also created whimsical and elaborate facades of plaster, populated with reproductions of famous statuary.

3.  Tampa Theatre was enormously popular when it opened. For the first time in history, the common person had access to opulence on a scale never before imagined.  For 25 cents they could escape into a fantasyland for two hours, enjoy first-class entertainment and be treated like royalty by uniformed platoons of ushers and attendants. By the end of the 1920s, more than 90 million Americans were going to the movies every week. For several decades, Tampa Theatre remained a jewel at the center of Tampa’s cultural landscape.

4. As American cities expanded to the suburbs, downtowns suffered damaging effects in business.  In the 1960's, many of our nation’s finest movie palaces were demolished as the land beneath them became more valuable than the theater’s operations.  In 1973, Tampa Theatre faced the same fate. But Tampa’s citizens rallied. Committees were formed, community leaders got involved, and soon a deal was reached to have the City rescue the Theatre. By the time the Theatre reopened to the public in January 1977, it had become something of a national model on how to save an endangered theater.  Tampa Theatre was named to the National Register of Historic Places in 1978, is a Tampa City Landmark, and is a proud member of the League of Historic American Theatres and the Art House Convergence.

5. Today, Tampa theater welcomes millions of people to Downtown Tampa and is one of the most heavily utilized venues of its kind.  The community owns Tampa Theatre. It is operated and programmed for the public benefit by the non-profit Tampa Theatre, Inc. under terms of a 50-year operating agreement with the City of Tampa. 

6. Tampa Theatre is Hunted! Any old theatre worth its salt has a ghost or two, and they will be happy to tell you the story on the next Balcony to Backstage Tour!


“About the Theatre” | www.TampaTheatre.org.  Accessed April 12, 2018

“FAQs” | www.TampaTheatre.org.  Accessed April 12, 2018

Photos Courtesy of Tampa Theater