Florida Theatre

5th Street South and 1st Avenue South,
St. Petersburg, FL 33701

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Florida Theatre

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Internet references state this was the first air conditioned theatre in St. Petersburg. It was certainly the largest movie theatre in the town and was designed by architects; Roy A. Benjamin & Robert E. Hall.

Contributed by John Evans

Recent comments (view all 12 comments)

theatreorganmana on October 27, 2005 at 5:57 pm

Does anyone have photos of this theatre?

theatreorganmana on November 11, 2005 at 2:26 am

According to research by Mssrs. Kinerk and Wilhelm, noted theatre historians, the architect for the Florida was not Taylor, but Roy A. Benjamin with Robert E. Hall. Located in the Famous Players Theatre Building, the Florida was one of 4 Publix super luxury theatres built in Florida in 1926 (the Olympia, Miami; the Florida, Jacksonville; and the Tampa). The theatre was located at 22 5th Street South at 1st Avenue South, on the Northwest corner. The interior of the theatre was decidedly 15th Century Spanish. After closing in 1967, the theatre property was purchased by the First National Bank and the theatre fell to the wrecker’s ball.

The first feature film at the Florida was “Tin Man” and the St. Petersburg Orange Band played as did the Florida’s Mighty Wurlitzer.
Senator William Hodges dedicated the theatre and Mayor R.S. Peace accepted.

Live acts at the Florida over the years included George Jessel, Sally Rand, and Elvis Presley. Clint Eastwwood’s “For A Few Dollars More” was the final film at the Florida and, according to journalist Dick Bothwell, “a tombstone flashed upon the screen” announcing “RIP Florida, 1926-1967”.

(information for this commentary came from an article by Scott Taylor Hartzell of the Saint Petersburg Times (June 19, 2002), and from the research holdings of Michael Kinerk and David Wilhelm, Miami Beach, FL.)

spectrum on September 9, 2007 at 5:20 pm

According to the Motion Picture Yearbook for 1936, this seated 2,400.

theatreorganmana on April 23, 2008 at 12:54 pm

Elvis Presley appeared here on August 7, 1956, PRIOR to his engagement at the Florida Theatre in Jacksonville Aug. 10-11!

rivest266 on September 9, 2008 at 5:00 pm

Grand opening ad at View link
there are about 10 pages

rivest266 on September 9, 2008 at 5:11 pm

Lost Memory The article starts at View link

rivest266 on September 10, 2008 at 5:04 pm

The world premiere for 101 Dalmantions was held on January 25th, 1961 here.
ad at
View link

theatreorganmana on October 30, 2008 at 6:38 am

Research shows that the following organists have been known to have played the Florida Theatre Wurlitzer: Zita O'Brien (orignally from Chicago and featured at the Picadilly Theatre; in St. Pete, she organized the “St. Patrick’s Morning Musical” in the early fifties at the Florida—featuring area musicians including her console work);
John H. Miller (c. 1951, who featured daily programs at the Florida and also served as registrar for the A.G.O.); Don Berger (c. mid-forties, who was also organist at WTSP Radio. Mr. Berger made news when he was discovered in a car in which he had rigged a hose to end his life with carbon monoxide poisioning in October of 1945; a “Mrs. Crowther” was featured in advertising on June 20, 1927; George Henninger was also featured in the early years of the Florida.

theatreorganmana on October 30, 2008 at 6:58 am

William J. Gilroy was featured organist at the theatre’s grand opening.

CSWalczak on October 9, 2010 at 11:20 pm

This page includes the photo above and some others, including some of Elvis’s appearance there: http://www.scottymoore.net/StPete.html

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