Playhouse Theater

1852 Central Avenue,
St. Petersburg, FL 33712

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Playhouse Theatre

Viewing: Photo | Street View

This was an older movie theater, opened in 1928 as the Patio Theatre, and located just west of downtown St. Petersburg on Central Avenue at 19th Street. It was renamed Playhouse Theatre around 1934. It was closed in 1973 and was a sports bar in the 1990’s. It is currently vacant.

Contributed by Andy

Recent comments (view all 10 comments)

AndyCallahanMajorMajor on May 20, 2010 at 12:08 am

Closed and for sale. Hopefully something good will happen to the building. Both pictures are from May 2010.

Ticket booth.


AndyCallahanMajorMajor on July 23, 2010 at 3:12 pm

I’ve found evidence of a Reno Theater located at the corner of Central and 19th. The advertisement is from 1933, so either the above information about the name being changed to the Playhouse is wrong, or there was another theater across the street.

Nick DiMaggio
Nick DiMaggio on September 25, 2012 at 10:10 pm

Just did some research on this theatre. It opened as the Playhouse Theatre in August of 1935. The last day of operation as a standard theatre was on September 6, 1966. It remained closed until October 12, 1966 when it reopened as the Playhouse Adult Theatre. It finally closed for good on May 22, 1973.

I didn’t see any ads for a Reno Theatre around the time the Playhouse opened. Since Andy has found evidence of a Reno Theatre either at or near this location a search of the 1933 ads will hopefully clear this up.

I’ll post a few ads from the Playhouse shortly.

ATOSbill on July 8, 2014 at 6:41 pm

Actually the Playhouse Theatre was originally the Patio Theatre. Built as an open air Garden style.(Ampitheatre) In 1928 a roof was added and enclosed the theatre.(atmospheric) By 1934 it was Renamed to the Playhouse. Closed as a movie theatre around 1973. It was later used as a sports bar with a second level added under the proscenium. The Playhouse Adult Theatre was at a different location in downtown St.pete. The only Reno Theatre was in Tampa Fl. We are in a position to purchase the Old Patio/Playhouse Theatre and will have a Wurlitzer organ and silent films. We also hope to sell Pizza at this location.

Robert L. Bradley
Robert L. Bradley on July 8, 2014 at 8:11 pm

The Playhouse had a beautiful curved CinemaScope screen, but it had no movable masking. When a flat picture (1.85:1) was shown, the whole width of the screen was exposed. It had a curtain which was manually operated. It opened in a jerky manner, as if someone was using just one hand on the rope.

HDEngineer on June 21, 2015 at 1:56 pm

The Playhouse was owned and operated by the Boardman family. They also operated the Royal theater in St. Petersburg. The Royal was the “colored” theater in town, an old un air-conditioned Quonset hut. The Playhouse was in financial trouble in the early ‘60s, unable to compete for first run films with the chain theaters. The Boardmans hung on, hoping that the freeway would be built through their property. In 1963, Boardman had managed to secure the exhibition rights for a little known film “Lilies of the Field”. He was running the film at the Royal when Sidney Poitier won the Academy Award. He quickly moved the film to the Playhouse where it ran SRO for four weeks, saving the theater financially and breathing new momentum into it for a few more years. If someone has an active plan to save this old theater, feel free to contact me.

HDEngineer on June 21, 2015 at 2:05 pm

The Patio/Playhouse was originally a vaudeville house; with stage, footlights and spotlight, flyloft, orchestra pit, and dressing rooms. When the roof was put on, the building was air-conditioned; probably one of the first buildings in St. Pete to be so equipped. In the early days, the theater ran nitrate film. Its a wonder it never burned down. Bill Moore

P. K. "Budd" Ballard
P. K. "Budd" Ballard on December 2, 2016 at 12:45 am

One night when I was the projectionist at the PLAYHOUSE, the intercom buzzer went off. When I answered, it was a very excited Mr. Boardman. He said, “Turn off the sign immediately.” After turning off the sign, I called Mr. Boardman back and asked him why he was so excited. He said, “ Driving down Central Avenue to the theatre, he noticed a malfunction with the sign. One side said PAYHOUSE and thew other side said LAYHOUSE. The sign was repaired the next day. The booth had SUPER SIMPLEX projectors and BRENKERT "ENARC” lamps with a small motor-generator in the booth for power. A nice feature of the PLAYHOUSE was a large snack bar to the right of the box office. The front opened up to face Central Avenue and food was served to patrons who were not in the theatre. An added bonus was that this was also the location of a city buss stop.

Robert L. Bradley
Robert L. Bradley on December 2, 2016 at 5:02 am

When I went to the Playhouse in the early sixties, the curtain was not motorized. When it opened, it looked like someone was pulling the rope with one hand, it was so jerky. I also noticed they did not mask their flat picture, but had the screen opened all the way. I worked in some theatres where the curtain was used for side masking, but I didn’t see this at the Playhouse.

HDEngineer on December 2, 2016 at 4:46 pm

Playhouse trivia….The curtain was indeed opened and closed by hand, when someone bothered. There were tape marks on the rope to show the proper masking positions, again if someone bothered to follow them…….

Is the building still for sale ?? Does anyone know how much and who the seller is ??

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