A catapult for the imagination since 1926, Tampa Theatre is a symbol of our city’s glorious past and bright future. Tampa Theatre is a passionately protected landmark and one of America’s best-preserved examples of grand movie palace architecture. The mission of the Tampa Theatre is to protect, preserve and program the Theatre as a creative film and cultural center for our community.
Tampa Theatre was designed and built by John Eberson, and became the architect’s favorite example of his “atmospheric” style of design. As one of the most internationally renowned and prolific movie palace designers of his time, Eberson built about 100 theaters all over the world. Examples of his work still survive in Miami; Chicago; Ohio; Michigan; New York; Texas; Paris, France; and Sydney, Australia.
In a newspaper article that appeared on Tampa Theatre’s opening day, Eberson told of how Florida inspired his signature style: “I have been wintering in Florida for the past several years, and it is from this state that I got the atmospheric idea. I was impressed with the colorful scenes that greeted me at Miami, Palm Beach and Tampa. Visions of Italian gardens, Spanish patios, Persian shrines and French formal gardens flashed through my mind, and at once I directed my energies to carrying out these ideas.” – Tampa Tribune, October 15, 1926.
THE MIGHTY WURLITZER
The Mighty Wurlitzer Theatre Organ is a magnificent three-manual, 14-rank instrument, which was originally installed when the Tampa Theatre opened in 1926 to accompany silent films. Although the Organ was relocated to a radio station and then a church during the Theatre’s history, it was found, rescued and reinstalled by volunteer members of The Central Florida Theatre Organ Society (CFTOS) in the 1980s.
To this day, CFTOS members maintain the Mighty Wurlitzer and play the instrument before almost every film screening as part of their ongoing dedication to the preservation of the treasured art form of the theatre pipe organ and its music. Tampa Theatre also hosts a number of guest organists each year for concerts and special silent film events.
Photo by Joe Roberts