Make us your home page

St. Pete Beach's iconic Beach Theatre closes

ST. PETE BEACH — For 72 years, a marquee over the Beach Theatre's entrance has told passers-by what's playing on its lone screen.

This weekend, the red letters were arranged into a message: "THANKS FOR THE MEMORIES."

St. Pete Beach's iconic movie theater, which for years faced financial problems, has closed.

Opened Jan. 15, 1940 — when movies with sound were still a relatively new phenomena — its closure was made official on Nov. 18, 2012, with a post on its Facebook page: "We would like to thank everyone for supporting us over the years and making so many 'Beach Theatre Memories.' A sad day has come in the life of the 'St. Pete Beach Theatre.' We will miss you all!"

Owner Michael France said in a text message Sunday night that he was unavailable for comment.

France — a St. Petersburg native and screenwriter with credits including Cliffhanger, GoldenEye, and film adaptations of comic books The Hulk, The Punisher and The Fantastic Four bought the theater at 315 Corey Ave. for $850,000 in 2007. In 2011, France told the Tampa Bay Times that, despite cutting costs, he was struggling to keep it open.

France kept ticket prices low until the very end — $5 for a matinee, $7 for every other show — but it apparently wasn't enough to attract a big enough crowd.

He said in 2011 that he needed to get the Beach Theatre classified by the IRS as a nonprofit organization, which would have reduced the theater's tax bills and opened avenues for fundraising. Across the bay, the historic Tampa Theatre is run by a not-for-profit foundation and holds more than 600 events a year.

France set up a website,, where he mentioned the Tampa Theatre. He said he planned to update fans on the process of shifting to nonprofit status and to solicit donations and volunteers.

"After 70 years, I don't want to be the guy who turns out the lights on the Beach Theatre," France wrote on the website.

The theater's quest for nonprofit status was apparently unsuccessful, though. The website was never updated after France's original post.

If France is unable to find a buyer interested in reopening the Beach Theatre, the last new film to flicker on its screen will have been End of Watch, a cop drama starring Jake Gyllenhaal. The theater also still had a regular Saturday night showing of Rocky Horror Picture Show, in which fans of the cult horror comedy musical showed up dressed in character.

A few doors down Corey Avenue from the shuttered theater, the longtime owner of a St. Pete Beach antique shop said Sunday he hoped new owners could bring the Beach Theatre back to life. Burke Prevratil, 75, remembered taking his daughter, and then his granddaughter, to see movies there over the years. He was last a regular in the early 2000s, when the theater's former owners supplemented cinematic offerings with Monday Night Football games.

"It matters a lot to the people here," said Prevratil, owner of Suzette's Antiques and Oddities. "There isn't a business out here it doesn't help."

Staff writer Steve Persall contributed to this report. Will Hobson can be reached at (727) 445-4167 or

St. Pete Beach's iconic Beach Theatre closes 11/18/12 [Last modified: Sunday, November 18, 2012 11:12pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Pinellas construction licensing board needs to be fixed. But how?

    Local Government

    LARGO –– Everyone agrees that the Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board needs to be reformed. But no one agrees on how to do it.

    Rodney Fischer, former executive director of the Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board Rodney, at a February meeting. His management of the agency was criticized by an inspector general's report. [SCOTT KEELER   |   Times]

  2. New owners take over downtown St. Petersburg's Hofbräuhaus


    ST. PETERSBURG — The downtown German beer-hall Hofbräuhaus St. Petersburg has been bought by a partnership led by former Checkers Drive-In Restaurants president Keith Sirois.

    The Hofbrauhaus, St. Petersburg, located in the former historic Tramor Cafeteria, St. Petersburg, is under new ownership.

  3. Boho Hunter will target fashions in Hyde Park


    Boho Hunter, a boutique based in Miami's Wynwood District, will expand into Tampa with its very first franchise.

    Palma Canaria bags will be among the featured items at Boho Hunter when it opens in October. Photo courtesy of Boho Hunter.
  4. Gallery now bringing useful art to Hyde Park customers


    HYDE PARK — In 1998, Mike and Sue Shapiro opened a gallery in St. Petersburg along Central Ave., with a majority of the space dedicated to Sue's clay studio.

     As Sue Shapiro continued to work on her pottery in St. Petersburg, her retail space grew and her studio shrunk. Now Shapiro's is bringing wares like these to Hyde Park Village. Photo courtesy of Shapiro's.
  5. Appointments at Raymond James Bank and Saint Leo University highlight this week's Tampa Bay business Movers & Shakers



    Raymond James Bank has hired Grace Jackson to serve as executive vice president and chief operating officer. Jackson will oversee all of Raymond James Bank's operational business elements, risk management and strategic planning functions. Kackson joins Raymond James Bank after senior …

    Raymond James Bank has hired Grace Jackson to serve as executive vice president and chief operating officer. [Company handout]