Casino Theatre

1536 7th Avenue,
Tampa, FL 33605

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Casino Theatre, Ybor City, Tampa FL

Viewing: Photo | Street View

The Casino Theatre was located in the rear portion of the Centro Espanol Building in Ybor City. The building was completed in 1912 and housed a clubhouse, a dance hall, and a theatre. Centro Espanol was a mutual aid society that offered healthcare and social activities for their club members.

The Casino Theatre was originally a playhouse theatre featuring stage productions and musical acts for many years. It was later converted for movies in addition to stage productions. Spanish language films were presented exclusively to entertain the vast Cuban and Spanish population of Ybor City.

These films played for years up until the early 1960’s when the Casino Theatre began running X-rated adult films in addition to risque stage productions featuring barely-clothed ladies. During this period the theatre became known as the Casino Follies. The adult films and stage shows continued up until the last day of December 1965 when they moved to The Ritz Theatre. The Ritz had been purchased by the Casino’s owners and had transistioned over from standard fare to adult films and nudie stage shows.

The Casino Theatre then reverted back to running Spanish language films once again and would occasionally feature popular English language films as well. In 1969 I saw a double feature here, "2001: A Space Odyssey" and "The Venetian Affair" in English with Spanish subtitles. I also saw "Gone With the Wind" with Spanish subtitles.

During one of my visits I saw the projectionist walk downstairs and go out the front evidently for a smoke or fresh air. I quickly went upstairs to the closed balcony and saw the booth door was wide open. Looking in I glanced at the running projector for several seconds then quickly made my way back down. Such a thrill!

The theatre interior was ancient and looked it. The side walls near the front featured boxed seating that apparently hadn’t been used in decades. Both the main level and balcony had a wooden floor so whenever someone walked in you could hear them coming.

The Casino Theatre probably closed sometime around the early-to-mid 1970’s. It remained closed until the opening of the Centro Ybor Shopping Plaza around 2000 when it was completely rennovated and today is home to the Tampa Improv Comedy Club.

Contributed by Nick DiMaggio

Recent comments (view all 12 comments)

Mike Rogers
Mike Rogers on November 4, 2010 at 8:08 pm

thanks for the story.I can’t remember did you take us to this theatre too or was it just the Ritz we saw.

Nunzienick
Nunzienick on November 4, 2010 at 9:00 pm

It was The Ritz you saw although we passed by the Casino which is one block down. But at the time I didn’t think to point it out.

Nunzienick
Nunzienick on November 4, 2010 at 9:06 pm

Before and after photos of the auditorium during renovations on this webpage: View link

Mike Rogers
Mike Rogers on November 5, 2010 at 5:08 pm

That is okay Nick.the tour of the TAMPA THEATRE was something i will never forget.

Nunzienick
Nunzienick on November 7, 2010 at 9:21 pm

A projectionist who was working the booth in 1959 recalls the day when he ran a newsreel showing where Castro had overthrown Batista and gained control of Cuba. The entire audience which was composed mainly of Cubans and Spanish patrons was so estactic that Cuba finally had a new leader that they began stomping their feet on the wooden floor so hard it caused a tremendous amount of dust to rise through the air all the way up to the ceiling. The dust was so thick you could barely see the onscreen image for several minutes.

Nunzienick
Nunzienick on November 15, 2010 at 8:28 am

Undated photo showing poster display boxes and extention of awning overhang:
View link

Mike Rogers
Mike Rogers on December 15, 2010 at 12:49 pm

Nov.7 comment must come from Charlie,Right, Nick?

Nunzienick
Nunzienick on December 19, 2010 at 3:25 pm

Mike: Yes, that bit of trivia came from Charlie who was manning the booth that day. And now that I think about it I also remember some foot stomping during one of my visits. The program that day was a Spanish language double feature. The projectionist had accidently threaded up a reel from the first feature and made a changeover right in the middle of the second feature! When the picture hit the screen the audience howled and the foot stomping began. Apparently stomping was a regular occurence whenever something went wrong or the audience was excited.

Mike Rogers
Mike Rogers on March 23, 2011 at 3:58 pm

thanks Nick.different things work.Charlie has so much history of your theatres in his head.

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