Ritz Theater

1503 E. Seventh Avenue,
Tampa, FL 33605

Unfavorite 2 people favorited this theater

Showing 26 - 42 of 42 comments

Nunzienick
Nunzienick on February 18, 2010 at 7:03 pm

Hey Mike, The reunion sounds great! I wonder how many former employees the girls were able to locate and how many will show up. Hopefully the turnout is good. I know you must really be looking forward to this after so many years. And especially since National Hills was your favorite theatre.

It can’t be very easy in trying to locate former employees so I hope the girls are successful in bringing a good group together. I know you’ll be exchanging stories for hours! I’ll be anxious to hear about it!

Mike Rogers
Mike Rogers on February 17, 2010 at 5:34 pm

Nick, we have a NATIONAL HILLS THEATRE REUNION party saturday. Some of the girls are putting it together.

Nunzienick
Nunzienick on February 17, 2010 at 4:59 pm

Yes, very nice photo Bway. The verticle was rusted out and beginning to fall apart and seemed beyond repair. The RITZ lettering had been painted over years ago with “Masquerade” which had faded badly. A new and identical RITZ THEATRE verticle would certainly be a great addition to the building.

Bway
Bway on February 15, 2010 at 11:00 am

This is a quick photo of the old Ritz Theater I took when I was in Tampa a week ago:

Click here for photo

Mike Rogers
Mike Rogers on September 27, 2009 at 12:11 pm

NICK AND CHARLIE, THANKS FOR TAKING ME BY TO SEE THE RITZ THEATRE WHILE I WAS IN TAMPA. I KNOW IT IS LIKE NATIONAL HILLS THEATRE IS TO ME.

Bway
Bway on May 26, 2009 at 6:37 am

Wow, what a run down mess it was in 1988!
Lost, no I didn’t get to see the inside. Sorry for the delay, but am just going through some of these theaters to turn back on the email notifications.

Nunzienick
Nunzienick on February 11, 2009 at 3:37 pm

Go to the Ritz weblink kindly provided above by Lost Memory, then click on “Galleries”, photos, and “Old & New”. The 3rd photo is a wonderful b/w picture of the auditorium interior showing a packed house! This was probably taken sometime during the 1940s or possibly the early 1950s. Even during the time I attended in the 1960s this was the typical Saturday afternoon matinee crowd — packed with kids along with a few adults.

Also in “Galleries” under “Ritz Ybor-Philip Lloyd” there are several color photos of the lobby foyer area and auditorium as they look today. Photos 8 & 9 are especially nice. Although the small houses and buildings facades on the walls are long gone, at least they kept the proscenium exactly as it was in the 1960s — even the colors are the same.

In addition to concerts the theater can now be booked for parties, weddings, meetings, etc. They did a very nice job in bringing the building back to life. It’s apparent some big bucs were spent in alterations, renovations, and additions.

The Ritz was the site of the famous invitation-only “Maxim” party on Super Bowl weekend with several celebrities in attendance. And according to news reports it was a smashing success!

Bway
Bway on February 10, 2009 at 6:56 am

Here’s a photo I took a few days before this year’s Superbowl when I was in the Tampa Area:

Click Here for Photo

historictheatresintampa
historictheatresintampa on August 31, 2008 at 6:31 am

Please provide any stories or information that you might have about this theatre (or any single-screen theatre in Tampa) here… http://historictheatresintampa.blogspot.com
This will assist us in preserving the history surrounding these theatres in Tampa. Thank you!!

Nunzienick
Nunzienick on April 12, 2008 at 3:00 pm

Gary: Correction. The theater actually closed as an adult theater when the building was purchased by the private investor in 1982, not the late 1970s as I had mentioned. Over the years I saved all articles and news clippings that were published on the theater which were my “dates” source for this posting. Aside from this one discrepency all other dates should be correct. Oh yes! I remember the large ornate mirrors. As I recall there were at least two other identical mirrors also located in the lobby a little further down towards the auditorium entrance.

Bway: Glad you enjoyed the post! I spent many a happy hour at The Ritz. Although it was a second and third run house, it was still a jewel of a theater. I often dream there existed a time machine to take me back!

Bway
Bway on April 12, 2008 at 1:41 pm

Thanks so much for all your information! Your post gives a great history of the theater. Yes, as my photo shows, it’s being used for “something”. But judging by what’s on the marquee, you are right, it doesn’t seem it’s “The Masquerade” anymore. The marquee just says something about an art exhibit.

GaryParks
GaryParks on April 11, 2008 at 9:55 am

The Ritz was still showing adult movies when I happened upon it in 1981. I was only just starting to get really interested in theaters at the time, and didn’t have a camera with me. When revisiting Tampa in 1999, I did take photos, but by this time it was Masquerade, and looked like it does in photos posted above. A peek through the doors revealed that the lobby still had large,ornate gold framed (pseudo-Skouras) mirrors.

Nunzienick
Nunzienick on April 10, 2008 at 9:43 pm

Lost and Bway: I was a Ritz regular many years ago. This theater holds some wonderful memories for me! I attended The Ritz nearly every weekend during the early-to-mid 1960s. During this period the theater 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 regular films fare as well as Spanish language films also played from time to time. As unbelievable as it sounds today, admission was 20 cents for under 16, and 60 cents for 16 and above.

Beginning with William Castle’s “13 Ghosts” in 1961 to “Village of the Giants” in 1965 I saw hundreds of films at The Ritz over this five year period. On Fridays and Saturdays The Ritz would run a triple feature program such as “The Spider” “The Fly” & “The Deadly Mantis”. The following weekend “Black Sunday” “The Raven” & “Day of the Triffids” would be playing. A couple weeks later the attractions were “The Brain Eaters” “The Screaming Skull” & “Brain From Planet Arous”

On one Sunday afternoon Presley’s “Fun in Acapulco” teamed with “Bye Bye Birdie” played to a packed house. And the following weekend “The Blob” “Blood of the Vampire” & “Tarantula” were playing. Blockbusters like “West Side Story” and “It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World” also ran from time to time. When “A Hard Day’s Night” ran on 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.

The auditorium was Basic Mediterranian Revival. The interior was painted in a combination of patterns of red, orange, pink, and green. The side walls of the auditorium contained little house fronts built into the walls with red tile roofs, little chimneys, small wrought iron balconies, and windows lit from behind with a soft red glow. Beige curtains illuminated by red stage lights hid the 35-foot wide CinemaScope screen within the procenium. Capacity was 700 but was reduced to 400 years later when new larger seats were installed after theater converted over to adult films.

At the end of 1965 the building was sold to a company out of Miami that owned and operated several adult theaters statewide. On December 31, 1965 The Ritz ceased running standard films, and on January 1, 1966 the theater opened it’s doors as the Ritz Adult Theater. Triple X films and live nudie stage shows were now the attractions, and they ran for an amazing 15 years!

Towards the end of the 1970s the adult theater finally closed. The building was taken over by a local stage production company called The Playmakers who utilized it for a short time before closing shop. In 1982 a private investor purchased the building and announced plans to give the theater a complete makeover, and transform it back into a movie house featuring first-run films. The exterior and interior were repainted, and new carpeting, seats, and curtains were installed. The screen which had been moved up against the back wall was still in good conditon, and was moved forward and back into place. The 35mm projectors had remained in the booth and were still functional.

Unfortunately, due to a drain on additional funds and lack of public support, the new owner was never able to fufill his dreams of running movies again at The Ritz. Several concerts were booked(mainly heavy metal and punk) but a large core audience for these events never did materialize, and the doors eventually closed once again. The bank foreclosed on the property and the building sat vacant for a time. I believe it was sometime towards the mid 1980s when the theater was utilized for two motion pictures which were filmed on the site. The films were “Amateur Night” and “Phantom of the Ritz”. The former was made-for-cable, and the latter went straight to video. I recall finding and renting a copy at the video store in the 1990s but today you’d probably be hard pressed to find a copy anywhere. It was a horror spoof about an evil presence haunting the theater.

Towards the end of the 1980s the building was purchased by a new owner, and remade into an alternative dance/nightclub called The Masquerade. I had a chance to visit the building shortly after the new club had opened. The seats had all been removed, and the house fronts on the side walls had all been stripped out right down to the bare concrete walls. The auditorium floor was leveled out, and a mosh pit had been dug out in the center of the floor. Sadly, the only remnants remaining to indicate that it was once a movie theater are the marquee, the stage and the procenium.

The Masquerade had apparently done very well for several years attracting hordes of concert goers but in early 2006 the club finally closed it’s doors. I recall reading an article in the papers indicating the owner could no longer make ends meet. I was under the impression the building was closed but from the photos above, which were taken recently, it appears there is still some activity within. But I’m almost certain The Masquerade is now defunct even though the sign remains above the marquee.

Bway
Bway on February 13, 2008 at 7:33 am

Thanks Lost…. The Masquerade is still operating there, so it’s been there about 20 years already!

Bway
Bway on February 13, 2008 at 6:56 am

Here are two photos I took of the Ritz Theater, aka “The Masquerade” last week….just before seeing the Giants beat the Patriots in the Superbowl!!
Actually, I was somewhat surprised at the lack of comments here on the site about the Ritz! I was hoping to find more information about it after discovering the place last week. I can’t imagine that there would be so little interest in it, as Ybor City is right in the middle of Tampa. Perhaps “Masquerade” should be added as an aka name, as that’s the name on the place as the concert hall? It does still have one small sign that says “Ritz Theater”, so that’s how I found it here.
Anyway, I am so glad that Lost Memory at least added the place, as it’s a pretty building, in good shape it appears, and deserves perhaps a little recongnition on the site….
Any more information on the place would be appreciated, as all we have to go by here is the photo Lost posted that appears to show it was an X Rated theater for a while.

Here’s the photos from a couple weeks ago I took. It’s a nice looking building:

Click here for Photo1

Click Here for Photo2