The Wiz (1978)

2h 14m / G / Family Adventure

At the time of its production, The Wiz was the most expensive movie musical ever made, a genre not known for being cheap to produce. Still: how much would you pay to get Diana Ross, Nipsey Russell, Michael Jackson and more at the peak of their artistic powers?

Directed by Sidney Lumet (12 Angry Men, Network) and written by Joel Schumacher (nothing from its Broadway play source material made it into the movie), The Wiz is a retelling of The Wizard of Oz, swapping poverty-stricken Dust-Bowl-era Kansas for poverty-stricken, run-down New York City. The Wicked Witch of the West is transmogrified into a sweatshop owner; the Good Witch of the North into Miss One, a magical numbers runner; and Oz the great and powerful into The Wiz, a … well, you’ll see.

Filled to the brim with outré fashion and Quincy-Jones-produced music, and getting branded “blaxploitation” as audiences for that genre were beginning to dwindle, The Wiz was not a success on its initial release. But it too has transmogrified: claimed as a beloved classic, it earned its place on the VHS shelves of homes across the nation. As friend of the Theatre and Tampa Bay area film critic Steve Persall wrote in the St. Pete Times, “Of course, it only took one flop like The Wiz (1978) to give Hollywood an excuse to retreat to safer (i.e., whiter) creative ground until John Singleton and Spike Lee came along. Yet, without blaxploitation there might not have been another generation of black filmmakers, no Denzel Washington or Angela Bassett, or they might have taken longer to emerge.”

Join us before the show for a special appearance by Sonya Bryson-Kirksey, co-founder of the Sonni Reading Project and the voice of the Tampa Bay Lightning, who will share a favorite children’s book LIVE on stage at 2:30pm

Sonya Bryson-Kirksey  

Guests are invited to donate a copy of their favorite children’s book to benefit young readers in our community and dress as their favorite storybook characters to participate in fun photo ops and a pre-film costume parade after Mayor Jane Castor welcomes the crowd and officially kicks off the Black Love Classics Series.

Guests attending Black Love Classics Series films are invited to raise a glass for good, courtesy of series sponsor Uncle Nearest Premium Whiskey. The company – which is founded, owned and led by a Black woman, and is named after the first known African American master distiller, Nearest Green – will donate a dollar for each Old Fashioned cocktail sold in a pledge to raise up to $1 million for Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

For more information on the nationwide Uncle Nearest HBCU Old Fashioned Challenge, visit

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The Black Love Classics Series is presented by TECO, with additional support provided by Mayor Jane Castor, the City of Tampa, WEDU-PBS, and Uncle Nearest Premium Whiskey.