267 W. Central Avenue,
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Opened in 1925 as the Williamson Theatre in the heart of Winter Haven’s business district, the theater was originally designed for both live stage shows and motion pictures.
Inside, the auditorium held a balcony, a small orchestra pit, dressing rooms and an organ.
It was remodeled in 1932, and also renamed the Ritz Theatre, and became strictly a movie house from then on.
In the 1950’s, high school students with an ID card could get in for 15 cents to see a feature, though regular admission was only a dime more.
In the mid-1980’s, the Ritz Theatre shut its doors after almost 60 years of continous opearation. However, in 1989, it was reopened, less its auditorium seats and its floor made level as a teen dance club called Off Limits. Within a few years, the club also closed, and the Ritz Theatre remained empty until 1997 when the non-profit group The Ritz Theatre 100, made up of concerned citizens determined to save and reopen the historic theater, bought it.
In 1999, the State of Florida awarded the group a grant of nearly $250,000 to begin the restoration of the Ritz Theatre, while meanwhile, the drive to raise more funds for the theater continues.
It is hoped the theater will be reborn as a venue for film, performing arts, children’s theater and civic and religious events.
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