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Tampa Theatre recognized as the most outstanding historic theatre in America

inside an old theatre with a blue velvet curtain on stage and a pianist at the center
Photo via Tampa Theatre

This Historic Tampa Theatre (711 N Franklin St) is one of the best movie palaces in the world, and they also serve some of the best theatre popcorn around. That’s how we feel, at least, and now The League of Historic American Theatres (LHAT) joins in showering the Tampa icon with praise. LHAT has named Tampa Theatre as its Outstanding Historic Theatre for 2024 and bestowed upon Tampa Theatre President and CEO John Bell the Joseph Rosenberg Award for Outstanding Individual Contribution. Both awards were announced at LHAT’s 48th annual National Conference in Milwaukee.

The Outstanding Historic Theatre Award recognizes a theatre that demonstrates excellence through its community impact, quality of programs and services, and quality of the restoration or rehabilitation of its historic structure. According to the nomination requirements, “an award-winning theatre will have demonstrated excellence through significant achievement, the impact of its services and breadth of populations served, and the length of time and/or intensity of its activities.” Tampa Theatre was nominated for the award by colleagues from the Belcourt Theatre in Nashville, Tenn. and the Tennessee Theatre in Knoxville, who cited Tampa Theatre’s national reputation among both patrons and peers in making the recommendation.


illuminated marquee at the Tampa Theatre.
Photo by Andrew Harlan

Tampa Theatre has a stellar reputation across the country

John Bell, who has served as President and CEO of Tampa Theatre since 1985, was nominated for the Joseph Rosenberg Award for Outstanding Individual Contribution by the Tampa Theatre staff and Board of Directors, with letters of support from numerous LHAT colleagues, fellow arts leaders in the Tampa Bay area, and state and local elected officials. The Outstanding Individual Contribution award recognizes someone who demonstrates vision, dedication, selflessness and excellence through their contribution to historic theatres and their communities as a volunteer, board member, patron, donor, service provider, staff member or historic theatre advocate-at-large. The recipients of this annual award demonstrate excellence through significant contributions, the impact of their services and breadth of populations served, and the length of time and/or intensity of contributions that benefit the field of historic theatres.

“Although I am honored,” Bell said in his acceptance speech, “it should be me presenting the League with some sort of an award to honor this group for everything it has meant to me. Because I can assure you that without this brilliant group of people – whom I have relied upon for advice and support for 40 years – I would not be standing here today.”

An impartial review panel of LHAT members is convened each year to decide the winners from among the nominations.


interior of a cinema with 50+ brown leather seats
Inside Tampa Theatre’s new microcinema

Supporting iconic venues across America

Founded in 1976, the League of Historic American Theatres is a non-profit organization with the main purpose of sustaining historic theatres across North America for the benefit of their communities and future generations. The League defines an eligible historic theatre as one that is at least 50 years old and is an architecturally significant structure deemed worthy of preservation, has played an important role in the history of American stage and screen, and/or can be used as a performing arts facility. LHAT currently represents more than 380 historic theatres and organizations across the United States and Canada.


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