1852 Central Avenue,
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Previous Names: Patio Theatre, Reno Theatre, Ritz Theatre, Playhouse Adult Theatre, Playhouse Adult Cinema, Encore Dinner Theatre
This was an older movie theatre, opened in 1925 as the open-air Patio Theatre, and located just west of downtown St. Petersburg on Central Avenue at 19th Street. In 1928 it opened as an indoor theatre. It was renamed Playhouse Theatre around 1934 and closed on September 6, 1966 with Richard Burton in “Night of the Iguana” & Richard Chamberlain in “Joy in the Morning”.
From October 10, 1966 it was operating as an adult theatre, screening “The Alley Cats”. It was closed on May 22, 1973 with “The Degraders” & “My Sister’s Business”. By April 1989 it was operating as the Encore Dinner Theatre presenting live shows. It was a sports bar in the 1990’s. It is currently vacant and in 2019 was ‘For Rent’.
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Recent comments (view all 21 comments)
HDEngineer. Why don’t you try the phone# on the side of the building that appears in Street View? 813-205-2028. The picture was taken in March 2015.
I tried the number above but the person answering did not know anything….any other lead on the building ??
HDEngineer. My husband & I have been trying for the last 2yrs to get info on this building to restore it etc. We have went round & round as it keeps changing commercial real estate companies for the sale. Now the $ of the building has went up 50% since it switched to the new listee. How can I get ahold of you to discuss?
Hello Historic Gal: I was hoping to hear from you… Bill
I flew down from DC and visited the Playhouse today, fully intending to make a good offer to purchase the property. Regretfully, I found the theater in such poor condition that, in my opinion, any theater renovation effort would likely be prohibitively expensive. My best guess would be on the order of $20M. The bar folks appeared to have destroyed virtually everything that would have been of value in a theater renovation effort. The balcony risers and projection booth are gone. The main floor, stage, and orchestra pit are bastardized to accommodate the bar. (I have posted a picture.) The roof has been penetrated and evidences major water damage in several places. So, shed a tear and have a drink to the old Playhouse. She did her best, but her various owners neither respected her nor gave her the care she deserved. May she rest in peace.
This theater is eligible for National Register. The SHPO survey calls her “Papa’s Dream” because it served as the music ministry venue of Freddie Langston. It has been connected to 1833 1st Ave. So. and is under construction as well as for sale. There is a fairly large crew. I’d guess it will reopen as a bar/club within a couple of months. It may se4rve the niche of the State Theater just a few blocks away, which is under severe scrutiny for life-safety issues. If HDEngineer is correct, it may no longer be NR eligible, but might fill a niche in StP.
The Patio Theatre was originally an airdome, and was in operation by 1926 (a number of modern sources say it opened in 1925.) The advertisement for the house in the April 14 issue of The Tampa Bay Times that year boasted: “PATIO, Central and 19th, Handsomest Open Air Theatre in America”. It’s possible that the 1928 opening that other sources give was its re-opening as an indoor theater.
An article about three early St. Petersburg airdome theaters in the January 16, 2002 Tampa Bay Times gives four additional aka’s for the Patio: the Reno, the Ritz, Papa’s Dream, and the Golden Apple. The latter two sound like they might have been used during the theater’s years as an adult house. As of 2002, it was the home of a sports bar called the Extra Inning.
When it was operating as the Patio (and perhaps during the early Playhouse era) it was also a vaudeville house. When I worked there in the ‘60s it still had footlights, “X-Ray” borders, a vintage carbon arc spotlight, several sets of drapes, dressing rooms and an orchestra pit. The original square format movie screen (still there) was mounted on the upstage wall. It would be interesting to know who played there during that era ?