Hillsboro Eight Cinemas
3306 West Hillsborough Avenue,
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This posting continues the story following the demise and demolition of the Hillsboro III Theatres which is listed separately.
Construction of the eight-plex, which began immediately following the demolition of the Hillsboro III Theatres, was completed a mere seven months later in March 1988.
An invitational preview for a look at the new Hillsboro Eight Cinemas was sponsored by The Tampa Tribune three days before the grand opening. The ad stated: ‘Our FREE offer will send you reeling! Let us treat you and a friend to a movie and popcorn with this ad’. A free movie and a free bag of popcorn brought out the masses for the special preview, including yours truly.
The free movies were:
“2010: Odyssey II” (in 70mm), “The Mission” (in 70mm), “An American Tail”, “Care Bears Adventure In Wonderland”, “Top Gun”, “Star Trek IV”, “Raising Arizona”, “Dirty Dancing”, “The Princess Bride”, “Throw Momma From The Train”.
The new Hillsboro Eight Cinemas officially opened on Friday, March 11, 1988. The cinemas were indeed plush and elegant with shiny marble floors and plush carpeting. The lobby had a spacious concessions stand and was beautifully constructed with high archways and tall support columns reminiscent of a Roman Colosium.
The eight cinemas consisted of two large, two medium, and four small auditoriums. The two larger auditoriums had 70mm capability and LUCASFILM certified THX sound systems, and the other six cinemas had Dolby Stereo. Each auditorium also had hearing impaired systems.
I attended the opening and that ‘new theatre’ aroma was intoxicating! The seats were made of soft plush purple velour. The screen in each cinema sat within a proscenium along with a purple waterfall curtain (the waterfall curtain forms loops at the bottom and rises/decends). The side walls were dark blue with fancy designs made with tiny illuminated bulbs. Seating capacity was not listed so my best guess would be roughly 250-300 for each large cinema, 150-200 for each medium cinema, and 125 for each small cinema. The screens in the two large cinemas probably measured about 25' to 30' wide, and the other six about 15' to 20' wide.
I sat through a very nice presentation of “2010: Odyssey II” in 70mm. The picture was bright and sharp and the THX sound was exceptional.
The opening day features were:
"Hairspray" (presented in THX), "Moonstruck", "Off Limits", "The Last Emperor", "Fatal Attraction", "Masquerade", "Hope and Glory", "Broadcast News".
Other features that played in 70mm over the years were: “Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade”, “Dick Tracy”, “Far and Away”.
It was a pleasure attending this theatre but the pleasure was short lived. The new Hillsboro Eight was not without its problems. Nearly every time I attended there was a technical glitch of some type to mar the showing, such as improper screen masking at start of feature, jammed side maskings so left and right side of picture projects on black masking curtains a few feet on each side, picture out of focus or out of frame, Dolby not activated at start of feature, etc. Our local film critic wrote a column about it titled ‘Technical Glitches Plague Theatre’ referring to the theatre as: ‘a shiny disaster area.’
I sat through a disasterous showing of "Hairspray" one evening. The feature began totally out of focus and remained so through most of the opening credits. It was only after numerous patrons arose to complain (including yours truly) that focus was finally adjusted but only slightly. The picture popped into focus in the center of the screen although the outer edges were slightly blurry through the remainder of the entire film.
Carmike Cinemas purchased the theatre from Cineplex Odeon, and in 1999 it was retro-fitted with stadium seating. However, the theatre managed to survive only a mere two years afterwards before closing in 2001. Carmike should have seen it coming. Imagine the expense of retro-fitting and in less then two years the theatre is history.
A spokeswoman for Carmike said the Hillsboro was an underperformer, and the company was experiencing financial problems as a result of overbuilding. A Carmike executive also stated that closure of the theatre was a result of lost business due to road construction directly in front of the theatre for an extended period of time, making access to the parking lot very difficult.
In reality the loss in attendance was due partly to the gradual decline of the surrounding area and nearby neighborhood.
And let us also not forget AMC’s Veterans 24 Megaplex located less than 20 minutes away. These two factions slowly and effectively killed the Hillsboro Eight.
The Hillsboro Eight’s last day of operation was on Thursday, April 5, 2001, and the last features that played were: “Spy Kids”, “Say It Isn’t So”, “Exit Wounds”, “Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon”, “15 Minutes”, “Heartbreakers”, “Down To Earth”, “See Spot Run”.
Several months after closing I happened to drive by one evening and noticed two tractor trailer trucks near the building. The exit doors were open and the interior lights were on. I walked in but didn’t see anyone although I heard voices at the other end of the lobby. All projection and sound equipment had been dismantled and was sitting near the exits. There were lenses, platters, sound heads, projector heads, lamphouses, and other equipment laying all over the lobby floor.
I walked into one of the auditoriums and it was completely stripped…no seats…no screen…nothing…only a bare auditorium with empty stadium seating steps.
The entrance was later boarded up and a ‘For Sale’ sign went up on the marquee. The building sat vacant for several years. The area near the entrance had apparently become a temporary shelter for the homeless. Piles of clothing and two or three shopping carts now littered the sidewalk in front of the building next to the boarded-up entrance. Vandals had knocked over a couple of light poles in the parking lot, and there was shattered glass and other debris scattered about. Both the boarded-up building and lot looked dirty, nasty, and ugly.
The property was finally sold to Century Buick Dealership in 2006. The building was completely gutted down to the four bare walls and steel beams. It was rebuilt as a beautiful showroom and service department. The new dealership opened in 2007. I visited the showroom once to get a first hand look at the inside, and to see if there were any tell-tale signs of the theatre that might have remained. There were none. You’d never even know the building was once an elegant and plush eight-screen theatre. And that’s the story of the Hillsboro Eight Cinemas.
By the way, the Buick Dealership does have a small theatre in their showroom for customers who are waiting on their cars to be serviced. I peeked in during the time I visited and it holds about 10 theatre seats on inclines. Of course it’s DVD projection…on a small but wide theatre screen…nice!
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