Mission Bell Square Theatre
12799 North Dale Mabry Highway,
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United Artists Theatres opened Mission Bell Square Theatre on June 26, 1981. The new complex was located in the recently completed Mission Bell Shopping Plaza. The plaza was anchored by a K-Mart and several other stores along the strip plaza. The theatre sat on the left end of the strip facing Dale Mabry Highway. It was UA’s first and only theatre in Tampa.
The opening day attractions were: “Stripes” “For Your Eyes Only” “Great Muppet Caper” “Swiss Family Robinson” “Ordinary People” “Raiders of the Lost Ark”
The complex contained eight theatres consisting of two large, five medium-sized, and one small auditorium. Each theatre was equipped with Dolby stereo and one large theatre was equipped for 70mm projection. The theatre interiors were decorated nicely enough with designs on the side walls although there was no drapery or curtains to hide the bare screens.
Prior to showtime and during intermission an attempt was made to hide the screen somewhat and entertain the audience as well. An unusual light show consisting of weird and colorful psychedelic-like designs that slowly changed and evolved was projected on the screen. Somewhat interesting to watch but only for a short time as it tended to become very repetitious.
The theatres thrived for several years and were especially popular on Tuesdays when all seats were priced at $1.00 (including new attractions.) Regardless of the film playing, each theatre was packed for the evening shows. The studios eventually got wind of the policy and issued a warning to theatre management to discontinue the policy of $1.00 Tuesdays. Theatre management placed an advertisement in Tuesday’s movie listings stating that it was not their decision to cancel the policy but was in fact due to complaints received from the studios.
Some films I remember seeing here were:
“An American Werewolf In London”
“Raiders of the Lost Ark”
“Curse of the Pink Panther”
Sometime around the mid-to-late 1990’s Mission Bell Square Theatre ran “Lawrence of Arabia” in 70mm. As far as I can tell this was the only 70mm film to play here.
The final day of operation was Thursday, October 14, 1999. The final features shown were: “Double Jeopardy” “Jakob the Liar” “Mumford” “For Love of the Game” “Blue Streak” “Adventures of Elmo in Grouchland” “Stigmata” “Runaway Bride”
Within the next five years many stores began closing and deserting the shopping center. K-Mart was the final store remaining, and when they finally closed their doors in 2005 the entire center was razed shortly afterwards. Today a Lowe’s Home Improvement store sits on the K-Mart site, and a new strip of stores sits on the site of the former Mission Bell Square Theatre.
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