The Tampa Theatre and Office Building is a historic U.S. theater and city landmark in the Uptown District of downtown Tampa, Florida. On January 3, 1978, it was added to the U.S. National Register of Historic Places. The Theatre features a wide range of independent, foreign, and documentary films on a daily basis. It is Tampa's only non-profit theater and operating costs are largely covered by its membership program, various corporate sponsors as well as ticket sales. It has periodically been used as a backdrop for movies, MTV videos and local programming.
Designed as an atmospheric theatre style movie palace by architect John Eberson, the Tampa Theatre opened on October 15, 1926. The Besides being architecturally stunning both inside and out, the theatre was the first commercial building in Tampa to offer air conditioning. This fact gave the theater even more appeal during Florida's sweltering summer months. Inside the Tampa, audiences are transported to a lavish, romantic Mediterranean courtyard replete with old World statuary, flowers, and gargoyles. Over it all is a nighttime sky with twinkling stars and floating clouds.
Like other new movie palaces around the country, the Tampa Theatre was enormously popular. For the first time in history, the common person had access to opulence on a scale never before imagined. For 10 cents, they could escape into a fantasy land for two hours, see first class entertainment, and be treated like royalty by uniformed platoons of ushers and attendants. By the end of the 1920′s, over 90 million Americans were going to the movies every week. For several decades, the Tampa remained a jewel and the centerpiece of Tampa‘s cultural landscape. People grew up, stole their first kisses in the balcony, followed the weekly newsreels, and celebrated life week after week by coming back to the Tampa.
But by the 1960′s and 70′s, times had changed. America‘s flight to suburbs was having a damaging effect on downtown business districts across the country. Hardest hit were the downtown movie palaces which dotted America’s urban landscapes. Audiences dwindled and costs rose. Many of our nation’s finest movie palaces were quickly demolished before anyone noticed because the land beneath them became more valuable than the theatre operation. In 1973, the Tampa Theatre faced the same fate. But in Tampa citizens rallied. Committees were formed. City leaders became involved, and soon a deal was reached to have the City rescue the Tampa by assuming its leases. The Arts Council of Hillsborough County agreed to program and manage the Tampa with films, concerts and special events. By the time the Theatre reopened in early 1978, the Tampa had become something of a national model on how to save an endangered theater.
Today, Tampa Theatre is managed by the not-for-profit Tampa Theatre Foundation and is a remarkable success story. The Theatre presents and hosts over 600 events a year including a full schedule of first run and classic films, concerts, special events, corporate events, tours and educational programs. The Theatre is one of the most heavily utilized venues of its kind in the United States. Since its rescue in 1978, the Tampa Theatre has welcomed over 5 million guests including over 1 million school children for school field trips and summer camps in the context of one of Tampa ‘s largest historic preservation projects.
The glam metal band Sleeze Beez filmed the music video for the song "Stranger Than Paradise" at the theater, while other artists such as Ani DiFranco, Arlo Guthrie, and Old Crow Medicine Show have performed live shows at the venue.