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THE SILVER SCREEN

Inside Tampa Theatre’s Holiday Classics Series

Ah, the holidays. A time for friends to gather, families to bond, and coworkers to drink awkwardly at the office party for the sake of free booze.

The holidays are also a time to honor the great tradition of going to the movies.

Earlier this month, I visited Tampa Theatre with Jill Witecki, the Theatre’s director of marketing, for an inside preview of its Holiday Classics Series—an annual event that screens five seasonal films, including a few black-and-white favorites.

Needless to say, I was interested to learn more.

The main staircase inside Tampa Theatre could double as a set for Downton Abbey. Be sure to look up. The room is filled with dragons and gargoyles.
The main staircase inside Tampa Theatre could double as a set for Downton Abbey. Be sure to look up. The room is filled with dragons and gargoyles.

After lusting over the Theatre’s stunning Mediterranean architecture, statuesque gargoyles, and taxidermy aviary, Jill and I posted up at the concessions stand to talk shop. We began with one of my favorite Christmas films, “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

Find show times and ticket information now. 

I love this film because it captures both the magical allure and modern avarice of the season, plus, it spotlights a bit of the film noir, which I adore.

But considering the series only features five films—four of which are permanently on the schedule—and the canon of Christmas movies is enormous, I was curious how this one made the list.

According to folklore, some years ago the Theatre decided to switch up the schedule to include some holiday flicks that had not been featured in previous years. The community was not pleased.

For many Tampans, the tradition of going to Tampa Theatre to see “It’s a Wonderful Life” is as much a pilgrimage as going to midnight mass. And honestly, it’s no surprise why. Standing among the Theatre’s grandiose old-world architecture is almost as mystical as going to church.

The balcony of Tampa Theatre is the best seat in the house. Unless of course you're a ghost.
The balcony of Tampa Theatre is the best seat in the house. Unless of course you’re a ghost.

Since it opened 90 years ago, the Theatre has been a hub for classic movie buffs, indie-film lovers, and regular folk who want to catch a good flick. But most locals see the Theatre as just a historical landmark rather than a timeless epicenter for cultural expression.

Jill is hoping that will change.

This evening at 7pm, the Theatre will announce some “big news” about its future endeavors. While Jill remained mum about the news, she told me the Theatre relies greatly on philanthropic donations to fund much of its operating costs. In fact, nearly 35% of its budget comes from community support.

So this year, every time a bell rings, remember to support the arts, and donate to Tampa Theatre. Because, as Clarence says in the movie, we’ve been given a great gift.

Click here to donate now.

Photos by Dan Austin Photography

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