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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.
This theatre is one of the screening venues for the annual Gasparilla Film Festival. In 2008 director Herschell Gordon Lewis and producer David F. Friedman hosted an anniversary showing of “BLOOD FEAST” as part of the festival’s theme of films made in Florida (the film was shot in Miami.)
Prior to the showing they mingled with fans for an autograph session, and afterwards they had a Q&A with the audience. Lots of details on the filming and initial exhibition problems in various cities as the film opened across the country.
The 35mm print they ran was in awful shape. The light was dim, the color faded, print had dirt, scratches, and splices, and occasionally jumped in and out of focus. Mr Lewis apologized after the showing referring to the print as “battered.”
The following year (2009) the filmed in Florida series continued with “DEATH CURSE OF TARTU” (shot in the Everglades.) Director William Grefe attended the showing which was DVD projection on the giant screen as a 35mm print could not be located. Mr Grefe also did a very interesting Q&A answering questions on all his features.
Aside from these I remember seeing at least two other films here: “SERVING SARA” and “Y TU MAMA TAMBIEN.” Channelside 10 Cinemas are clean, comfortable theatres with nice size auditoriums and wide screens.
Mike: Yes, CLEOPATRA was a four hour movie (including intermission.) I finally saw it a week or two afterwards. I don’t recall if we made it to another movie that night. I’d have to check the ads to see what was playing at the Florida and the Tampa. That might clue me in on whether or not we saw another film. Hard to believe that was 48 years ago!
Here’s some trivia that took place on a horribly tragic day. In looking through the theatre ads for 1963 I noticed BLOOD FEAST opened at the Florida Theatre on Friday, November 22, 1963. President Kennedy was assasinated at 12:30 PM, and the first showing began at 1:00. Shortly after the news hit the air many theatres nationwide closed down for the remainder of the day and the following day as well. Not certain if the Florida or any other local theatres closed or remained open. More than likely they ran the first afternoon showing (since tickets had already been sold) and cancelled all other showings.
Although BLOOD FEAST is well known as an extremely low budget drive-in programmer, it actually opened in several first run theatres nationwide before hitting the drive-in circuit. I remember seeing the trailer at the Florida the week before it opened. Audiences that had come to see THE LEOPARD with Burt Lancaster were totally grossed out!
I thought Ewa had faded into oblivion but following CANDY she appeared in several Italian films during the 1970s and one other American film, START THE REVOLUTION WITHOUT ME which did very little box office in the U.S. According to Wikipedia she was forever typecast as a “blond nymphet” by the industry and her dream of becoming a serious actress never materialized. She eventually gave up acting, went to University and became a teacher. Good career move!
Thanks for posting them Dick. I never would have thought to look on ebay for these but I’m glad you did!
I think Mike’s question is for both of us. He’s posted many ads on his photo page and is wondering if they should be posted on the individual theatre pages instead, right Mike? I think either way is fine. But if a theatre page doesn’t have any photos at all then I would certainly post the ad on that specific page.
A great handbill from the early 1950s – thanks for posting!
Thanks for the nice handbill! “20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA” was one heck of a popular Disney movie. I notice “CinemaScope” in the ad. I’ve always thought drive-ins without a CinemaScope screen should not advertise it in their ads. The Fun-Lan never had a CinemaScope screen. The original screen which is still standing is exactly the same size as it was back then.
Another great handbill – thanks!
Thanks for the great program! However, “on our giant panoramic screen” is certainly misleading. The Dale Mabry had a small squarish screen during this time. It wasn’t until 1964 when a larger wide screen was installed.
Thanks to whoever posted this nice vintage program!
Whoever posted the nice vintage program – thanks!
Wow! Fantastic interior photo. This had to have been taken about the time when the theatre first opened. Later shots show a slighlty more modern look with curtains within the proscenium. Thanks for posting!
Nice historical coming attractions handbill—thanks for posting!
To whomever posted the great marquee photo—THANKS—
very nice! I scanned the Tribune for days but could not find a single shot of the Loew’s building inside or out. This shot is from the evening of the grand opening on Friday, December 20, 1968. Nice memories of a great theatre before it was twinned and totally ruined.