Palace Theater

700 Tampa Street,
Tampa, FL 33601

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Palace Theater

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The Victory Theater opened in 1920 as one of downtown Tampa’s premier theaters. Located on the northwest corner of Tampa Street and Zack Street, it opened as a live playhouse venue featuring vaudeville and stage plays in addition to silent, and later sound films. Capacity was 1,200 which was reduced decades later when theater was remodeled for Cinerama.

The Palace Theater was owned and operated by ABC Florida State Theaters. In 1947 it was completely renovated and modernized to the plans of Jacksonville based architectural firm Kemp, Bunch & Jackson. Luxurious drapery was installed throughout much of the auditorium. The theater reopened on Christmas Day 1947 as the New Palace Theater.

It was the first theater in Tampa to show CinemaScope in 1953. Introduced shortly after 3-D films had hit theaters, CinemaScope was advertised as “the modern miracle you see without glasses” and “the new wide modern miracle mirror screen and stereophonic sound”. “The Robe” was the first CinemasScope feature and it played for several weeks.

Nine years later in 1962 the Palace Theater was completely renovated once again for the installation of the three projector process known as Cinerama. To accommadate Cinerama a new screen was installed in front of the old stage, and the first few rows of seats on the orchestra level were removed. A new booth housing the three 35mm projectors was built on the main level center section and the last three rows of seats at the rear were also removed.

The curvature of the screen also required the removal of several seats at the far end of the right and left sections in the orchestra as well as the balcony thus reducing the capacity from 1,200 to 750. New ceiling-to-floor red curtains hid the massive screen which was curved at 146 degrees and measured 75' wide and 32' high. Eleven speakers surrounded the audience with seven-track stereo sound.

The Palace Theater presented Cinerama exclusively for the west coast of Florida. It was the only theater within 500 miles equipped to show Cinerama, and it attracted large crowds from miles around. Many showings were sold-out for the first few weeks of each film’s opening. All films played as “roadshow” engagements: two performances per day, reserved seating, an intermission midway through the feature, a musical prelude before the film, and exit music at the end.

The presentations were more refined than those at standard theaters. Prior to the start of the film the musical prelude would began playing for several minutes, and the main auditorium lights would fade very slowly. This was followed by the dimming of the red lights illuminating the main curtain as the film began and the curtain parted.

The initial feature, “This Is Cinerama”, with it’s famed roller coaster sequence, had the more sensitive patrons grasping their armrests tightly and feeling a bit queasy. The film was followed by six other Cinerama productions:

“Seven Wonders Of The World”, “Cinerama Holiday”, “The Wonderful World Of The Brothers Grimm”, “Search For Paradise”, “South Seas Adventure”, and “How The West Was Won”.

Prices were slightly higher than standard theaters, and tickets could be purchased in advance either at the box office or by mail. Because of the limited seating capacity it was advisable to order tickets weeks in advance of the opening of the next Cinerama attraction as most new films sold-out weeks in advance.

During the first few weeks of each new opening there were very few available tickets for walk-ups. Initially only drinks and candies were available at the concession counter; no popcorn or foods were sold.

“How The West Was Won” was the last film to play in the three-projector process. The expense of producing these films plus the cost of exhibition (a five man crew was required for every showing) eventually forced the fading out of the Cinerama Corporation. The three-projectors were stripped out and 35/70mm projectors were installed. For 70mm presentations the screen was masked down to 58' wide by 32' high. The width remained the same for 35mm widescreen presentations but the height was reduced to approx 25'.

The 35mm roadshow presentation of “The Sound Of Music” smashed all box office receipts when the film opened in April 1965 and played through September 1966 – a record breaking one year and five months. Among several other big attractions that played were: “It’s A Mad Mad Mad Mad World”, “Mary Poppins”, “Gone With The Wind”, “Dr. Zhivago”, and “Cleopatra”. The following films played in 70mm Cinerama: “Grand Prix”, “Circus World”, “Song of Norway”, “Krakatoa East Of Java”, “2001: A Space Odyssey”, and “Ice Station Zebra”. “2001” played for three months initially and was later brought back several times in both 70mm and 35mm.

Other notable films continued into the early-1970’s but as moviegoers began patronizing the newer suburban theaters and audiences began dwindling more and more, so did the quality of films. The 70mm versions of both “This Is Cinerama"and "The Sound Of Music” returned in 1973 and ran for several weeks apiece. “Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid”, “The Prime Of Miss Jean Brodie”, “The Poseidon Adventure”, “The Last Picture Show”, and a re-release of “The Exorcist” were just few of the last notable films to run.

By the mid-1970’s the Palace Theater had closed and the entrance was boarded up. During this time the Tampa Theater, a block away, had been playing second run double features and black exploitation films. When Florida State Theaters finally closed the Tampa Theater they reopened the Palace Theater just a few days later, and continued running the same product that had been playing at the Tampa Theater.

On September 29, 1978, the Palace Theater finally closed for good. The building remained boarded up until it was demolished in December 1979. The land was paved over and used as a parking lot for many years. A high rise condo was eventually constructed on the site.

Contributed by Nick DiMaggio

Recent comments (view all 49 comments)

Nick DiMaggio
Nick DiMaggio on June 6, 2013 at 2:05 pm

I checked the city directories for 1920-1929 and found a listing for “The Palace” under Sodas-Retail at 706 Franklin Street which places the fountain in the former Citizens Bank Building. The address for the Citizens Building is listed as 702-708 Franklin St. Strangely enough the fountain doesn’t appear under the listing for Soda Fountains in any directory.

tampapix
tampapix on June 7, 2013 at 1:56 pm

Nice work, Nick! So the soda fountain was about a block away from the Victory Theater, and same block, across from where the Tampa Theater was built in 1926.

Nick DiMaggio
Nick DiMaggio on June 8, 2013 at 1:48 pm

That’s right Dan. Also the Citizens Building was right next door to the Florida Theatre which may have been called the Franklin Theatre at the time. It opened as the Florida and later became the Franklin and was then changed back to the Florida years later.

Nick DiMaggio
Nick DiMaggio on July 23, 2013 at 6:24 pm

“Gone With The Wind” ad from 1968 showing posted under photos tab.

Nick DiMaggio
Nick DiMaggio on April 7, 2015 at 3:35 am

Fifty years ago today “The Sound of Music” premiered at the Palace and ran for a phenomenal 77 weeks. Presented in TODD-AO and 6-track stereophonic sound on the curved 58-foot wide screen, the reserved seat engagement played to capacity audiences for months with thousands seeing it over and over again, myself included. The 70MM print was later exchanged for a 35MM print for the duration of the run. An article published in the Tampa Tribune during the film’s final week noted the long run as being “unprecedented in Tampa history.”

Coate
Coate on April 7, 2015 at 1:26 pm

Nick… I’m pleased to see others mentioning the 50th anniversary of “The Sound of Music” given that film’s popularity and the fact it holds the long-run record in many (most?) of the theaters in which it played. That’s trivia to some, of course, but to me it’s essential information for a website such as this one that seeks to document the history of movie theaters.

You may have noticed during March I had been mentioning on the relevant pages here an “It premiered fifty years ago today” for the theaters in which “The Sound of Music” opened during its first couple of weeks. But a lack of subsequent comments suggested few were interested in such information and so I skipped the bookings for the last week of March. (Or maybe it was the article plugs that readers found off-putting?) Anyway, maybe now I’ll resume with the April 7th bookings (other than Tampa’s Palace since you just mentioned it).

Nick DiMaggio
Nick DiMaggio on April 7, 2015 at 7:01 pm

Mike, I felt it was a must to note the record run of the film on its 50th anniversary at the Palace. I’ve watched for comments on other anniversary dates but have seen practically none. I have also noted your various postings in March drawing attention to the anniversary dates, and am fairly shocked and surprised at the seemingly lack of interest and/or comments. This is sad to say the least.

Johnny62
Johnny62 on April 8, 2015 at 5:45 am

Coate, I read and enjoy all your posts and box office reports. I just don’t post a lot. I saw the SOM the first time at the Midtown in Philadelphia and several more times at the Boyd in Allentown, Pa. Please keep the information coming.

irvl
irvl on April 8, 2015 at 10:01 am

What a great write up on the Palace, and the photo section is fantastic. I saw all of the Cinerama pictures at the Palace as well as IT’S A MAD, MAD WORLD and 2001. I lament its passing.

Patsy
Patsy on April 8, 2015 at 11:22 am

This theatre should be designated as demolished.

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