Tampa Theatre aims for historical accuracy in renovation

The historic Tampa Theatre is getting its first facelift in 40 years. The $6-million renovation got underway today as workers began removing the 1,400 red theater seats, which date back to the 1970's.  

"The number-one complaint was the seats,” explained Tampa Theatre CEO John Bell. “And the number-two complaint was the concession stand.”

The new concession stand will harken back to 1926, but the restoration team had to use some imagination. 

"When the theater opened in '26, it didn't have a concession stand, so it's a bit of a challenge," offered Bell.

They may not have had a concession stand in 1926, but they had style. Preserving that look is a major goal of the renovation.

"All of its architectural features are intact," said Jed Ellis, one of the craftsmen restoring the ornate designs and colors on the theater's walls. "And, to be able to restore those features to the original intent of the architect, with the color, is a blessing.” 

Ellis works for Evergreen Architectural Arts, which has worked on the restoration of several historic theaters and opera houses. 


The theater says the new seats will be state of the art, and they won't be red. They are brown, based on photographs of the theater's original color scheme. The old seats are being sold as souvenirs. 

The theater is non-profit. Smith and Associates Real Estate presented a $250,000 check at today's renovation kick-off. 

The theater will be closed for six weeks, but the popular holiday series, films like ‘White Christmas’ and ‘Miracle on 42nd Street,’ will be shown outdoors at Curtis Hixon Park.