New Tampa Theatre microcinema opening in 2021

Tampa cinephiles will soon have a unique new place to enjoy a diverse array of films with the opening of Tampa Theatre’s new microcinema, nicknamed by the movie palace’s staff as “T2.” 

Construction on Tampa Theatre’s new T2 microcinema is slated to begin in spring 2020 and should be completed in early 2021. The $1.3 million renovation project is being funded by a $650,000 grant from Hillsborough County Board of County Commissioners’ Capital Asset Preservation (CAP) program, which matched $650,000 in private funds and pledges contributed to the theater for this project. 

The new micro movie theater, to transform a space adjacent to the majestic 1,200-seat “starlit” movie house that opened at 711 North Franklin Street in 1926, will accommodate 40 to 50 guests and offer an intimate filmgoing experience unlike any other in the Tampa Bay Area.

Local architectural firm Kreher Barna Design Studio has begun working on designing the new space alongside the team at Boston Light & Sound, which has provided audio-visual technology for the Sundance Film Festival and award-winning filmmaker Martin Scorsese’s private screening room. 

“The idea of creating a small screening room in this space has been around for so long that I honestly can’t remember who first suggested it,” admits Tampa Theatre President & CEO John Bell. “But T2 has long been collectively and universally accepted by the board and staff as a great idea because of its potential to expand and serve the community.”

No single type of demographic is targeted with the new project, which Bell says will serve varied audiences with varied programming. But he hopes the films offered there serve as an extension and expansion of Tampa Theatre’s current artistic and education programming, which includes 550 film screenings each year, art-house fare, film festivals, among many other endeavors. 

While Tampa has had its share of single-screen movie houses over the years, the format largely fell out of favor in the 1960s and ‘70s due to a variety of circumstances. Tampa Theatre itself was on the brink of demolition in the 1970s until a dedicated group of historians and preservationists swooped in to save the historic Tampa landmark. 

“Movie palaces like Tampa Theatre and most other single-screen theaters were built at a time when studios financed the construction of cinemas,” explains Bell. “In fact, Paramount Pictures built Tampa Theatre as a premiere theater to showcase their films. Several decades later, anti-trust legislation forced the studios to divest themselves of any interest in theaters, which effectively killed the single-screen cinema and gave birth to the rise of the multiplex business model.” 

Bell says the addition of a second screening room at Tampa Theatre will double the palace’s “shelf space” and provide more programming flexibility and buying power.

“Right now, we have to say ‘no’ to a lot of opportunities – shows we’d like to book but can’t because of other commitments. Even with limited seating, having a second space in the mix doubles our programming capacity, allowing us to say ‘yes’ to the live show seeking a Tampa tour date and ‘yes’ to the new film looking for an uninterrupted run,” he says. 

The leadership team at Tampa Theatre also hopes the expanded space and screening accommodations will aid in downtown Tampa’s ongoing resurgence and help the city become more culturally and artistically enriching. “It will open up a world of new opportunities.”

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Read more articles by Joshua McMorrow-Hernandez.

 Joshua McMorrow-Hernandez is a feature writer for 83 Degrees Media in the Tampa Bay region of Florida.
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