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Tampa Theatre Closed For Extensive Restoration

The Tampa Theatre is one of the oldest movie palaces in the country - and it's showing its age. It's being closed for six weeks, and parts of it will be returned to its former splendor.

Workers are busy pulling out every one of the seats in the Tampa Theatre. Contrary to what many believe, they're not original - these red velvet seats were added in the 1970's. They will be replaced with replicas based on the original design.

John Bell, president and CEO, says it was built as an architectural statement in 1926. But it means much more than that.

"It means a lot, not just because of the architecture and the history that's imbued here, but because of all the memories that people have that are wrapped up in this building," he said. "I mean, I hear almost every day a story about how I got my first kiss in the balcony or there was a wedding proposal here. People remember the first time they ever walked in as a child."

The $6 million renovation is only the first phase of a restoration that will include restoring the original look to the lobby.

"You're going to see new seats, you're going to see new carpet that is being manufactured to replicate the original carpet that was here in 1926, which was beautiful," Bell said. "You'll see new grand drape. In the lobby, you'll see a restored lobby that's meticulously restored to its 1926 appearance."

Credit Steve Newborn / WUSF News
Keeping guard over the theater

Steve Newborn is a WUSF reporter and producer at WUSF covering environmental issues and politics in the Tampa Bay area.
Andy Lalino serves WUSF Public Media as a journalist, video producer/editor, and graphic designer/animator. He’s authored pop-culture journalism articles, contributed weekly columns for Tampa Bay nostalgia websites, and published features for Fangoria magazine.
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