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Congratulations to Mike Shad for seeing the potential and doing something about it! It’s terrific to see an old theatre re-open, especially one with so much history. This will help the ongoing process of injecting new life into the 5 Points shopping district.
The Florida is alive and healthy. In the summer they have a movie series that’s always fund. Last summer when we were in Jacksonville we went to see “Stranger on a Train.” Vintage movies like this in a beautiful vintage setting like the Florida are special! The place doesn’t seem as huge as it did when I was a kid…but it’s still a big, handsome theatre.
I haven’t been inside for years, but the theatre appears to have been renovated and is used for special events. There is a marquee but I don’t think it’s the original. The old “5 Points” logo is no longer there. However, the building appears to have been nicely restored. I’d like to see how the theatre looks now.
This was a great drive-in. When I was growing up in the ‘60’s they showed the usual drive-in fare— double and triple features. I saw countless horror movies here and remember them fondly. The main thing about the Atlantic was that a neighborhood was right behind it. At some point there must have been some tension between the neighborhood and the drive-in because an accomodation had been reached…the homes had speakers in their backyards! How about that? Go out on the patio on a nice evening, turn up the sound, and watch the movie on the big screen straight ahead! I was very jealous of the people who lived there!
In late 1973 when I moved to Fort Myers (had my first job out of college there) the Arcade was still a first run theatre. I recall seeing some of the disaster movies of the era there…Towering Inferno among them, I believe. I also talked my girlfriend (now my wife) into going to a midnight showing of Night of the Living Dead there. That was an experience! It was a cool old theatre and I’m happy to see that it survives.
In the mid to late ‘60’s the Empress, along with the Imperial next door, was a two-bill second run house. I saw a number of good horror movies there. I recall it as being fairly small compared to the Imperial.
I’m not sure where the Lakeshore Art was located, but it is not the same theatre as the Cedar Hills. In the ‘60’s thru at least the 70’s the Cedar Hills was (apparantly) owned by the same outfit that ran the Town and Country Theatre in Arlington on the other side of town. Both theatres generally had the same bill. They shared newspaper ads and their logos were the same. The last time I drove out Blanding Blvd. the Cedar Hills building was still there…though there was no remaining signage to identify it as the movie house it once was.
The San Marco theatre continues to operate independently and, apparantly, thrive. The last time I was in Jacksonville, Pirates of the Caribbean:Dead Man’s Chest was playing…and the first night we went to buy tickets they were sold out. We went the following night and the crowd was equally healthy, though we did manage to get tickets. They have removed every third seat in the theatre and installed tables. They sell pizza, wine, beer, sandwiches, etc. and a lot of people eat before the movie. The place is very well maintained. It’s great to see a vintage theatre like the San Marco not only surviving, but competing head to head with the multi-plexes. I think after Pirates they were showing Talladega nights, so they appear to be first-run consistently. They also program midnight movies and specialty movies on weekends. The surrounding neighborhood has always been nice, but has become very “hot”…lots of building going on, trendy shops, etc. It’s a lovely part of Jacksonville, on the south side across the St. John’s River from downtown…many big, beautiful riverfront homes from the 20’s and 30’s when the area was developed, but also many apartment buildings and duplexes, so the area is lively and quite urban. Well worth a visit by lovers of vintage movie houses.
I moved to NYC in 1979…saw several movies at the Rivoli over the years while it was still open. The first was Coal Miner’s Daughter…I was blown away by the size of the screen…the biggest I had ever seen.
An odd side-note to all of this: the exterior of the Colony is visible in the 1963 skin flick “Blaze Starr Goes Nudist”. Blaze, weary from working under hot studio lights, goes to a movie to relax. She watches a film about a nudist camp in Homestead (“why that’s just a few miles away”) and immediately decides to become a nudist. As Blaze leaves the theatre, fans crowd around her for her autograph, confirming for Blaze that it’s time to get away for a while and become a nudist. The theatre is clearly the Colony, although I don’t think the marquee is visible. “Blaze Starr Goes Nudist” is one of several early skin-flicks directed by Doris Wishman and filmed in Miami.
The Florida was still operating at full steam when I was a student at the University of Florida from 1969 through 1973.
The Roxy was known as the “Roxy Follies” in the early 70’s when it was a porn theatre. This is the one the brought “Deep Throat” to Jacksonville. It was located fairly close to the Farmers' Market. The old A&P bakery and coffee roasting plant was also nearby.
The information above that the Imperial closed and was torn down in the 1950’s is incorrect. It was still going strong during the ‘60’s as a 2nd run movie house. When I was in junior high school I often went downtown with my best friend to this theatre for horror movie double bills. The Empress theatre was right next door, a smaller theatre with similar bills. I remember seeing many of the Roger Cormon Edgar Allen Poe movies at the Imperial (Fall of the House of Usher, etc). It was not a movie palace like the Florida Theatre a couple of blocks away, but it still had vintage theatre charm from the pre-mall, pre-multi-plex days. Both the Imperial and Empress were still operating when I went away to college in the fall of 1969 and they continued to show movies for at least four or five years after that. As I moved to another part of the state after graduating, I lost track of such things, so I can’t say just when they shut down and were razed.
The Florida remains a great movie house. My movie memories there include “You Only Live Twice”, “The Graduate” and “Hush, hush Sweet Charlotte.” My best friend and I often took the bus downtown to go to the Florida for first-run movies, or the Imperial and Empress down the street for double-feature horror movies. Later, when I was old enough to drive, The Florida was a great destination with a date. I agree with the comments above…it’s a shame The Florida is left alone downtown. But at least it’s still there…some cities don’t have any of their downtown theatres left…and this one is a gem.
The 5 Points was indeed one of the premier theatres in Jacksonville. My movie-going memories are primarily from the 1960’s. The 5 Points was the theatre where big movies played…I recall, for example, Dr. Zhivago, The Sound of Music, Thoroughly Modern Millie, The Godfather. Usually, the big movies played the 5 Points, and, downtown, at the Florida and the Center theatres. And, at the 5 Points, the movies would play for weeks, even months. I also recall a point in the late ‘60’s when the theatre turned a corner. All of sudden, movies such as “Russ Meyers’ Vixen” were playing. Perhaps it was a sign of things to come, as 5 Points in general (the shopping area around the theatre— named for the convergence of several roads into 5 points) went into decline. Happily, the area is undergoing quite a revival with lots of contruction in the surrounding Riverside neighborhood.
I was a regular at the Arlington, along with a lot of kids from my neighborhood, in the early and mid-‘60’s. I can remember more than one occasion when a stray mom or dad would wander the aisles calling their child’s name because it was time to come home. I can also recall a time or two when the kids in the audience got so rowdy the projectionist would stop the movie, turn on the lights, and cry out from above “Ok, I’m not starting the movie again until y'all calm down.” I remember seeing several of the great Hammer movies at the Arlington— “Brides of Dracula” stands out as one of the scariest (for me, at least). And I will never forget the Saturday when a couple of tame movies were followed by “Night of The Living Dead.” You could have heard a pin drop in between the parts that brought screams from the audience. I mean these were 12 and 13 year olds watching! Triple bills were the usual weekend fare. Oddly enough, I even have a vague memory of seeing the original King Kong at the Arlington. It must have been available to theatres in the early '60’s. The theatre took an unexpected turn in the late '60’s. Inexplicably, it closed one day and remained shut for a couple of weeks. Suddenly, the Arlington re-opened to present “I Am Curious (Yellow)”…a scandel for sure! Curiously, the theatre did not continue in the direction you might have expected…no descent into porn, although I think the weekends of kid’s triple features were over. For a while, they even showed first-run movies and seemed to have found renewed life. At some point, after I was away at college, the Arlington closed. For a while, state offices were housed there, although I could never figure out how they managed to use the space. Perhaps the auditorium was used for storage and the offices were in the lobby. Anyway, I have fond memories of the place. The building is still there, but I imagine many people have no idea it was ever a theatre, though from the side or rear this would certainly be evident.