Nothing harkens memories of glamorous silent film superstars and Vaudeville acts quite like seeing an old theater complete with its steel statement signage and chasing lights. You're immediately transported back in time to the roaring 1920s, imagining how elegant a night out was for patrons as they gussied up for the evening performance. Florida is home to many iconic structures of yesteryear but these historic theaters are real classics, they are beautiful and special and have fortunately been preserved for us to still enjoy today.
The Saenger Theatre
Location: 22 E Intendencia St, Pensacola, FL 32502
Opened in 1925, the Saenger Theatre’s Spanish Baroque architecture took nearly 13 months to complete. In the early days, it was home to vaudeville road shows and silent movies. In 1979 it closed and began a four-year restoration project. Today it’s home to performances by the Pensacola Symphony Orchestra and top touring artists.
The Florida Theatre
Location: 128 East Forsyth Street, Suite 300, Jacksonville FL 32202
When the Florida Theatre opened on April, 8, 1927, it was the largest theater in the state of Florida at the time. Admission was 25 and 50 cents for matinees, and 25 and 60 cents at night. It’s always been home as well to live performances, including six shows by Elvis Presley in 1956.
Location: 124 N Florida Ave, DeLand, FL 32720
The Athens Theatre with its Italian Renaissance architecture opened its doors Jan. 5, 1922. The town’s newspaper declared the venue “Florida’s Handsomest Theatre.” Why the name Athens, you ask? It turns out city founder Henry DeLand was determined to make DeLand the “Athens of Florida.”
Cocoa Village Playhouse
Location: 300 Brevard Ave, Cocoa, FL 32922
This was the “Aladdin Theatre” when it first opened in 1924. It would later become the town’s first home of “talkie” movies. In 1991, the venue joined the National Register of Historic Places and officially became The Historic Cocoa Village Playhouse.
Location: 139 Florida Ave S, Lakeland, FL 33801
With a population hovering around 15,000 in 1928, Lakeland was an unlikely place to build a movie theater in 1920s Florida. During the Great Depression in the 1980s, a “Grocery Night” promotion offered free food to movie-goers, and a “Bank Night” offered a lottery featuring a large cash award to ticket-buyers. The theater’s interior is best known for its recreation of a Mediterranean village complete with faux balconies, windows and townhouse.
Location: Franklin Street Mall, 711 N Franklin St, Tampa, FL 33602
Built in 1926, the Tampa Theatre features a Mediterranean courtyard feel in the interior, replete with statues, flowers and gargoyles. These days, it’s perhaps most beloved by its patrons for its Mighty Wurlitzer Theatre Organ, originally installed to accompany silent films but still played today before most feature presentations.
Location: 174 E Flagler St, Miami, FL 33131
Like the other notable historic theaters in Florida, the Olympia Theater opened in 1926 as a home for silent movies. The auditorium featuring Moorish architecture and a simulated night sky on the ceiling, complete with clouds and twinkling stars.