Some may recall that March 11, 2020 was also the final screening the Tampa Theatre held before Tampa Theatre closed its doors due to the global pandemic.
Things have changed on the inside of the historic Tampa Theatre since the last time viewers sat in the seats.
Fans of the grand cinema will notice a few changes when they return next month: Movie tickets must be purchased online instead of at the Box Office. Temperature checks and masks will be required for entry.
Limited capacity screenings
The 1,200-seat auditorium will limit capacity to 200 patrons per screening, and elasticized bands around certain chairs will guide guests to socially distanced seating options. Instead of waiting in line in the lobby for snacks, patrons will use the new Noble Concessions App to order from their seats, and will receive a notification when the order is ready to pick up.
Despite the necessary safety modifications, though, that unforgettable Tampa Theatre Experience remains the same, including the triumphant return of the Mighty Wurlitzer Theatre Organ pre-show.
Nationally renowned theatre organist Steven Ball has accepted an Artist in Residence position at Tampa Theatre and will be showing off the 96-year-old instrument before each screening. Fans will recognize Ball from dozens of silent film presentations over the past decade, and – more recently – two “live-streamed silents” last year. He has recently relocated from St. Louis to Tampa, and looks forward to becoming a more permanent fixture for both artistic and educational programming at the Theatre.
What to expect in 2021 at Tampa Theatre
As excited as the Tampa Theatre Team is to make this announcement, Theatre President & CEO John Bell cautions fans not to expect a return to the packed pre-pandemic schedule – more than 700 show times a year – right away. “Nobody has wanted to get this building back open more than we have,” Bell says. “We are cautiously optimistic that the time is right, but The Father will be our test balloon to see whether our audiences are ready to come back. What we see over these two weekends will determine what we do next.”
Bell says that in addition to public film screenings, the Theatre will focus on booking small private events and screenings, tours and portrait sessions through the spring and summer. But, he speculates, it may likely be spring of 2022 before Tampa Theatre sees a return to the type of sold-out live shows and lectures that made 2018 and 2019 record-breaking years for the nonprofit Theatre.
“Since 1926, Tampa Theatre has survived The Great Depression, World War II… and all seven Police Academy movies,” Bell often jokes. “Soon, we’ll be adding ‘a global pandemic’ to that list. And with our 100th anniversary right around the corner, we’re looking forward to getting back to business as usual, and setting up this amazing landmark for its second century.”