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The Cultural Gem of Tampa June 12, 2011

Posted by Adam in Memorable Events.
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I have been in Florida for about a year now, and considering I was coming from a few years in DC, it has been a bit of a letdown. There are beaches, but the waves are practically non-existent (plus, I’ve never been much of a beach person anyway). The winter weather was warmer, but the massive, constant humidity almost negates it. And while it’s certainly not true that Florida is nothing but old people, they are undoubtedly a constant presence. Still, there is one thing that I absolutely love here: the Tampa Theatre.

The theatre was built in the 1920s, so walking into it is truly like going to a different world. To start with, the imagery is just magnificent. Observe:

You may have noticed an organ in that picture. Indeed, that Wurlitzer organ is played at least before every showing. The tunes are standards from the 20s-50s, and the organists playing them are quite talented.

Most of the year, the theatre plays one first-run arthouse films a week. But during the summer, a series of classic films are exhibited at the venue. This is when the experience of going to the theatre is just unbelievable. In addition to just seeing the movie on the big screen, the pre-show music is often correlated with the time of the film’s original release, making you feel as close as you can to seeing it when it was new. This is especially true for me, often feeling like I was born born a decade or two too late.

This year’s lineup is quite good. Among the films featured are Spellbound, Some Like it Hot, The African Queen, The Day the Earth Stood Still, The Red Shoes, and my all-time favorite, The Godfather. In addition, a golden-age Looney Tunes short is playing before each film. It’s a hoot seeing those on the big screen as well, as they’re exhibited less frequently (it’s the first time I’ve been able to experience it).

Even better, I think, is when the theatre shows silent films. Last August saw a restored print of Metropolis at the theatre. There’s something just…indescribable about hearing live accompaniment to such a great film. Ditto for The Phantom of the Opera; the organ makes a particularly appropriate companion there. This year, the silent film is Peter Pan. It will be interesting to hear a whimsical score as opposed to the ominous ones mentioned before.

Realistically speaking, a theater would not be enough to keep me in a location I was not fond of, even a magnificent one such as this. Still, it’s great to have it around, and I’ll be glad to experience it as much as I can.

For now, at least

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