TAMPA — At nearly 87, the architectural treasure that is the Tampa Theatre is showing its age and in need of a major overhaul, so its caretakers plan to launch a fundraising drive next year that likely will seek millions.
John Bell, president and CEO of the downtown landmark, said he did not want to specify the amount they hope to raise. Asked about the $15 million figure that has been floated as a possible goal, he said, "It's a high number, but not quite that high.''
Bell said his staff has been working with architects, engineers and consultants to do a thorough analysis of the work required to preserve the building well into the future. Bell said it is an ongoing project that began long before the International Indian Film Festival chose Tampa as the site of its awards festival next June.
The building will likely undergo an overhaul of its plumbing, electrical and air-conditioning systems. Eventually, supporters of the nonprofit theater, which receives some funding from the city of Tampa, plan to replace the seats, repaint and refurbish the plaster in the auditorium, which is designed like a Mediterranean courtyard, with gargoyles, classic statues and twinkling stars on the ceiling.
The theater was one of a number of 1920s movie palaces created on a grand scale by architect John Eberson. The Olympia Theater at the Gusman Center for Performing Arts in downtown Miami is another Eberson creation.
"I know it's going to be expensive. I know (the figure is) going to have two commas in it,'' Bell said. "But I don't want to put out a number that is not accurate.''
The Tampa Theatre, having operated with its 35mm projectors since the 1960s, added a $150,000 digital projection and audio system in April. To fund the effort, supporters raised $110,000 and borrowed the rest. The change was necessary as Hollywood phases out film in favor of digital projection.
Philip Morgan can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3435.