Royal Theater

1011 22nd Street South,
St. Petersburg, FL 33712

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Royal Theater..St. Petersburg Florida

Viewing: Photo | Street View

The Royal Theater opened in 1948, on 22nd Street, in the heart of St. Petersburg’s African-American community with the Western film, “Panhandle”. It was built for Bill Boardman and Horace Williams, Jr., two St. Petersburg businessmen.

The 700-seat movie house was built in Quonset Hut style, and was one of a couple movie theaters catering to African Americans during the segregation era, including the long-demolished Park Theater and the Harlem THeater. Besides movies, live entertainment and talent shows packed the Royal Theater to overflowing in its hey day.

The theater closed in 1966. It now houses the Southside Boys and Girls Club and underwent a major renovation in 2003. The former Royal Theater is a focal point of the revival of the 22nd Street South area, and still regarded with fond memories by older residents of the neighborhood who recall when it was hailed as “an inspiration for the whole community” by a local newspaper when it first opened. It still can be described as such today.

Contributed by Bryan

Recent comments (view all 8 comments)

Lost Memory
Lost Memory on March 18, 2005 at 4:11 am

“Built in circa 1948, the Royal Theater was designed by Philip F. Kennard for the Gulf Coast Entertainment Company. The Royal Theater is one of the few remaining "Quonset Huts” within St. Petersburg. As a lightweight, portable, and economic building type, these huts are inherently rare pieces of architecture. The huts were designed by the George A. Fuller construction company of New York which used a British prototype from the First World War called a “Nissan” hut. The Fuller company put designers Peter Dejongh and Otto Brandenberger to work. Within a month they had set up a production facility near Quonset Rhode Island, and started producing two basic models. The smaller model was 20 feet wide and 48 feet long. The larger was 40 feet by 100 feet. Using these basic modules, around 170,000 Quonset huts were produced during the war. These basic units were used singly and in combination to accommodate everything from barracks and M.A.S.H. units to warehouses and airstrip facilities".

Photo of the Royal theater is here:
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Broan on June 19, 2005 at 7:59 pm

“In St. Petersburg, Fla., however, the c. 1948 Royal Theatre, a designated local landmark, is undergoing a $600,000 renovation funded by block grants and private donations. Fitted with a marquee, the theater was one of the city’s few movie houses for African-Americans. "The community still fondly recalls going to the Royal with their soon-to-be husbands and wives on dates,” says Rick Smith, the city’s preservation planner. “So it has as much a social and cultural affiliation as an architectural one.”"

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Lost Memory
Lost Memory on November 14, 2007 at 5:07 pm

The Royal Theater looks much better in this photo. And here is a close-up view.

Lost Memory
Lost Memory on August 30, 2008 at 7:35 pm

Here is a website for the Royal.

jflundy on June 14, 2009 at 11:10 pm

The St. Petersburg Times of 25 May 1949 contains an ad calling this venue “South’s Finest Colored Theater”.

Featured on that date a double feature of “Each Dawn I Die” with James Cagney and “Dark Horse”.

Link to Page 25 St. Petersburg Times of that date:

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