Mission Bell Square Theatre

12799 North Dale Mabry Highway,
Tampa, FL 33618

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Mission Bell Square Theatre

Viewing: Photo | Street View

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”
“Mommie Dearest”
“Shock Treatment”
“The Goonies”
“Halloween II”
“First Blood”
“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.

Contributed by Nick DiMaggio

Recent comments (view all 6 comments)

JKMOVIE on August 28, 2012 at 6:51 pm

I loved this theater back in the day and I miss it. I had a lot of fun there.

Trish1217 on July 21, 2013 at 2:17 pm

This theater was the “hot spot” back in the day, mid-80’s when I was in high school! It was THE place to see and be seen and everyone cruised around the parking lot over and over. Back when gas was 80 cents a gallon! Ahh! I remember I saw a film here in 1985 and the ac was broken! I was sad when I came back to Tampa and it was torn down!

SURFACEART on September 19, 2013 at 7:37 pm

It was a nice theatre, really liked it. I remember watching “the Phantom”, “the Arrival”, and a re-release of “the Empire Strikes BacK”. gOOD TIMES :)

Trish1217 on March 28, 2014 at 7:55 pm

Update: last week my son wanted to go to a video game store in Tampa. We live in Spring Hill now but drove down in the pouring rain. Guess where it was? Sight of the old Mission Bell! I wanted to Cry when I saw an Asian joint and video game store where “The Bell” once stood!

mharmon999 on June 20, 2015 at 10:49 am

I came down from NYC to visit my family in Tampa in December 1982 for the holidays and it was my first time to this theatre and I saw Airplane 2-the Sequel.

mharmon999 on June 20, 2015 at 10:56 am

Show Biz Pizza family entertainment place was right next door to this theatre. Great way to go have dinner, play games, get prizes, enjoy Pizza and then a movie night!

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