Showing 126 - 150 of 175 comments
Thanx for the photo. The Hillsboro 8 was a beautiful and plush theatre when first opened. Yes, I believe the ad did have the tagline “Return of the Elegant Theatre” or something very similar. Matter of fact I remember copying the opening day ad. Will post it here if I can find it.
Welcome back Mike! Nice to see you on CT once again. Hardly ever see you on the site anymore.
Thanks John. The Tower signage was definitely one of the most original in town. Glad I was able to find the ad. The first time I visited the Tower was in 1968 when “Planet of the Apes” was playing. I’ll never forget the line of cars awaiting entrance which went down Bird Street towards Florida Avenue, wrapped around the corner on Florida Avenue, and went over the Hillsborough River bridge. Great times!
Mikeoaklandpark, The Tower’s screen was the standard size found in many drive-ins that didn’t have a Scope screen. But the worst one of all was the original screen at the Dale Mabry D/I. It was not only small but almost squarish and smaller then the Tower’s. Check the photo on the Dale Mabry D/I page and you can see how small it was for a drive-in the size of the Dale Mabry. It was finally replaced in 1964 with a larger & wider curved steel screen.
Mike, I haven’t seen you on CT for some time now…glad you’re back on!
Wow! I didn’t think the slope was that extreme but if cars were flooded that bad it was much worse than I thought. I also saw “Superman” here in 1978. It was one of the opening attractions at the Hillsboro after the theatre had been divided into two auditoriums. Do you remember the original large theatre before they sliced it up?
I hadn’t noticed it in the aerial before but you’re right. I see the Biff Burger and the playground behind it. On several occasions when I couldn’t convince my parents to go to the drive-in, I had my father drop me off at Biff Burger. From the playground you had a nice view of the screen. Sitting on the swings I watched as the cars lined up at the box-office wishing I was in one of them as they entered the theatre. Although you could barely hear the movie from the playground it was the next best thing to actually being inside the drive-in!
Dan, Here are two congratulatory ads including Cinchett Neon Signs that was published on the day of the Tower’s grand opening on October 22, 1952.
Thanks for the TampaPix link above. Sure brings back some great memories!
Just verified that “Star!” opened on December 19, 1968 and ran through March 19, 1969. Interestingly when “The Illustrated Man” played at the Palms, the ads contained a notice stating that no one under 18 will be admitted due to the previews of our next attraction. Since when does a theatre restrict admittance to under 18 because of previews? If the studio that released “The Illustrated Man” was aware of this they probably would have yanked the picture out of the Palms. The previews were for Russ Meyer’s “Vixen.”
It looks like the Park Cinema “n” Drafthouse was a different theatre. I just verified the address for the Palms Theatre which was at 4191 74th Ave. I think this is the site of the current storage facility. The Park Cinema ‘n’ Drafthouse had to have been across the street based on the address of 4110.
I remember driving past the Palms Theatre several times during the 1960s. It was on the right side of the road a short distance after coming down from the Highway 19 overpass into Pinellas Park. The Palms Theatre had the exclusive 70mm roadshow engagement of “STAR!” which opened around February 1969.
What happened to the Loew’s marquee photo that was posted on this page?
Dan, I need to check the Tower ad again. I researched the opening day by going through the Tribune theatre listings on microfilm at the library. When I found the opening day ad there was at least one full page of congratulatory ads as I recall. There may have been a Chichett Neon Sign ad although I didn’t look through all of them. I’ll be heading back to the library this week so I’ll check again. I’ll be able to locate the ad quickly since I have the Tower’s opening date. If I find a Chinchett ad would you like me to add it to the Tower page or do you just need to know they did the signage?
I forgot about the curve but you’re right. The Mustang did have a curved screen. I think if you were to cut about a 4th off the top of the Mustang’s screen it would then be true scope projection.
These drive-ins in Tampa also had a curved steel screen installed that replaced their original screens: Dale Mabry, Skyway, and Hillsboro. The Dale Mabry and Hillsboro were 100-foot wide and the Skyway was 60-foot wide. These screens were also tilted slightly downward at an angle aimed towards the booth for a more direct projection throw and better viewing from ground level.
I would say very close to scope although not true CinemaScope. As I understand it original CinemaScope had a ratio of 2 to 1 but the process was later refined to a less wider image, and Panavision eventually replaced CinemaScope. Although the Mustang’s screen was larger it still doesn’t look quite as wide as the 20th Century’s. So I’d say the 20th Century had true scope capability with the Mustang coming close.
Check out the Mustang page on CT under Pinellas Park. Just yesterday someone posted a short YouTube video showing the lot when it was a flea market. The 120-foot wide screen is still standing. It looks massive but not quite as wide as the 20th Century’s screen.
According to an ad in Box-Office magazine from 1964, the screen at the 20th Century Drive-In was in excess of 110 feet wide. Certainly one of the largest at the time until the Mustang D/I opened in St. Petersburg with its 120-foot wide steel screen that they proudly advertised.
Mike, Screen 4 was the last one put up and is actually built on the side fence if you can believe it. It’s slightly wider than the other three so you’re probably seeing about as much of the picture as you would in a standard indoor theatre with a wide screen. Screens 1 2 & 3 are about the same size (ratio-wise) with screen 4 being the smallest but widest (probably about 20-25 feet wide.)
This newest screen on the fence has to rank as the cheapest/tackiest set-up I’ve ever seen for a drive-in. Projection is from the original booth in the center of lot with the lens aimed at the screen from the top of the booth door. On the other 3 screens you’re probably missing about a 3rd of the image on Scope films since the picture projects off the sides into the darkness.
Thanks for the great write-up Stan! Very interesting to hear about presentations in various theatres even though most of them made me cringe. Evidently it was left up to the theatres to place an intermission (if they so desired) wherever they chose. The first showing I saw at the Florida Theatre in Tampa in 1962 was 35mm with a mono soundtrack. The Florida had an intermission at a very unusual spot in the film. It was right after the outdoor stairway scene on the balcony just after Tony & Maria sing “Tonight.” An Intermission card was flashed on the screen and the curtain was lowered. Up until then I had never seen a movie with an intermission within the film itself so I was stunned.
When it later played at the Ritz Theatre there was no intermission at all. I can’t recall now if there was an intermission at the countless other theatrical showings I saw. And I don’t remember an intermission at any of the drive-in showings.
The Tampa Theatre has since played the film several times since reopening in 1977. One of those early showings in the late 1970s was in 16mm. But the absolute worst print I saw was in 2001 at the Tampa although it wasn’t the fault of the projectionist but rather the print itself. It was a junk print, bady worn and battered with lines, splices, and most of the print had a soft-focus look, color was slightly fading, and the soundtrack was scratchy with an annoying background hiss. Worst of all the entire musical prologue at the beginning was missing. The film opened with a one-second flash of the tile, then jumped-cut to the overhead shot of New York. For those who had never seen the film before (lots of well-behaved teens and young people in attendance) that was not a good way to be introduced to the film.
The last time the Tampa ran “West Side Story” was in 2004. As part of the celebration of the new digital marquee they presented a free showing of the film to the sold-out theatre. It was a restored print with Dolby Digital sound. The print was a beauty with a sharp image. A flawless presention nearly all the way through. But alas something had to mar the showing during the changeover to the last reel. Tony has been shot and Maria approaches Chino and he places the gun in her hand. At that point the changeover was made and the picture begins fluttering on-screen for a few seconds and the picture goes off the screen and the soundtrack slowly grounds to a halt. Apparently the film was not threaded properly and lost it’s loop or the pressure plate in the appature wasn’t fully closed.
For this to occur anywhere else in the film would have been bad enough but at that exact scene…the climax! Well you can imagine the audience reaction! After about a minute the picture hits the screen again but with the frame line showing in the center but this was quickly corrected. The projectionist must have been sweating bullets!
I was 11 when I first saw WEST SIDE STORY. It was the opening attraction at the remodeled Florida Theatre in Tampa. Although advertised as “Exclusive Florida West Coast Engagement” there were no reserved seats so it wasn’t the true roadshow attraction. It played for 11 weeks at the Florida. I remember being excited in seeing how the newly renovated theatre looked as well as finally seeing WEST SIDE STORY which I knew very little about (other than it had won 10 Academy Awards.)
Little did I realize that first viewing was the beginning of a 50-year love affair. I’ve since seen it countless times from first-run to second-run theaters, drive-ins, network broadcasts, and video. Whenever it played locally in theatres I was there. My biggest disappointment and regret is unfortunately I’ve never seen it in 70MM.
As Mike can attest to the balcony-to-backstage tour is very informative and enjoyable. And for those interested in seeing the booth (if you’re willing and able to climb about three flights of steep stairs) a trip to the booth is a real treat. The Tampa has two 35mm machines in addition to the platter setup with DTS and Dolby Digital sound systems.
The orchestra pit no longer exists. Sometime after the grand reopening in 1977 the stage that sat over the pit was completely torn out. It was replaced with the current stage which was constructed a little higher than the original one had been. It was also built outward at the center very slightly extending just a little more towards the audience.
I had a chance to see the orchestra pit after the stage had been torn out and the new one was being built. The floor of the pit had been excavated and enlarged somewhat. The huge beams that support the stage now sit in the foundation of what was once the orchestra pit.
You can see both stages under the photos tab. The first two photos show the screen that sat on the old stage. Compare these photo with the more recent one showing the current stage without the screen. Notice how the stage is slighlty higher and extends a little more outward at the center.
Thanks imissGCC! Sure is nice to hear from a former employee. Sadly enough no other employees from any theatre in Tampa have ever posted comments on CT (aside from myself who worked at the Dale Mabry Drive-In.) When you have time please scan any photos of the theatre you might have…would love to see them.
Just came across this horrible and sad article from an old Boxoffice magazine dated Oct. 30, 1961:
The ceiling of the Nola Theatre caved in on Sunday evening around 6:30 PM. Approximately 65 to 70 patrons were trapped under a network of wire lathing and plaster. A 65-year-old woman usher was killed. Several others were seriously injured and others suffered from bruises and shock.
“Homicidal” was the movie playing that evening.
Plaster began falling from the rear of the auditorium and blanketed all but the last four rows. Pandemonium raged for several hours both inside the theatre and outside as police, firemen, as well as Army and Navy volunteers worked feverishly to pull patrons, many of them hysterical, from the rubble. The street outside was filled with cries and shouts of spectators many of whom were parents of children trapped inside. They pushed against police lines in a frantic effort to enter the theatre and find their children. The audience consisted mostly of youngsters when the ceiling fell. Ambulance sirens filled the air for several hours as the injured were taken to hospitals.
There was no explosion or fire and no construction was in the area at the time of the cave-in. One younster told police that he heard a rumbling like a drum beating overhead, and looking up he saw dust and plaster falling. He quickly ducked under the seat pulling his sister down with him. Other boys on their way to the concession stand heard a cracking noise and saw plaster coming down in one big sheet.
What a horrible tragedy. I’m suprised the Nola Theatre reopened after this. Even after repairs were made I seriously doubt I could ever see another movie there just knowing what happened.
“The Mummy” was one of Hammer’s top technicolor attractions. A very nice marquee shot of a great double feature. Thanks for posting!
Thanks for posting this great ad. According to Ann-Margret’s autobiography, “Bye Bye Birdie” was such a smash hit that it outgrossed every film that had ever played at Radio City Music Hall in the theatre’s 31-year history.
Thanks for the nice photo. Actually “Blood Feast” was released around November 1963. This same double bill program also played in Tampa opening in a first-run theatre downtown before making the rounds at the local drive-ins.
The only film I saw here was Spielberg’s “The Terminal” back in 2004. I saw the film in one of the deluxe premier theatres for 21 & over. Admission was $10 and included complimentary popcorn, beautiful leather seating, and a full liquor bar (liquor not complimentary of course.) Aside from myself and two friends there were only 3 other patrons in the theatre and this was a weekend matinee. I don’t recall seeing very many people either for any of the other films. It’s very hard to fathom how these theatres managed to survive since opening in 2000. Yes, I realize I’m part of the problem considering I patronized this theatre only once! There was some talk about a year ago of cutting the complex in half by shutting down 10 screens and transforming the space into offices but that hasn’t materialized as yet. That would be a shame since this is a beautiful complex.
Driving from Tampa on our way to Clearwater Beach during the 50s & 60s we would pass this theatre but unfortunately I never had a chance to stop and see a movie or at least see the interior. When the building was demolished there was a feature story published in the Tampa Tribune including interviews with several loyal patrons and how sad there were to see the theatre come down. Before demolition began a few people had arrived early to take whatever souveniers they could grab and carry out of the theatre. The Carib was replaced by a Barnett Bank building.
I too remember when “The Color Purple” played a very long engagement here. On the evening of the grand opening I saw a James Dean double feature “Rebel Without A Cause” and “East of Eden” in one of the smaller auditoriums. At least one theatre was equipped with 70mm. When “Top Gun” opened here in 1986 it was advertised as 70mm and I remember the picture was super sharp and the soundtrack was booming with the roar of fighter jets and music.
University Collection 6 was a very nice theatre that begin receiving competition when it’s nearby neighbor, University Square 4 Cinemas expanded to 16 screens. Both cinemas eventually became worn & outdated (no stadium seating plus other amenities.) University Collection 6 was the first to go. And with the gradual decline of the area and the nearby “suitcase city” the fate of University Square 16 was eventually sealed.