The downtown Florida Theater is one of Jacksonville’s treasures. Built in 1927 as Jacksonville’s largest movie theater, this Mediterranean Revival style building is one of only four remaining movie “palaces” in Florida. The main lobby is designed as a Moorish courtyard, complete with glittering stars, balconies and fountains. Longtime Jacksonville residents remember fondly hearing the Mighty Wurlitzer Opus 1569 pipe organ played at most events.
One of the most famous artists to perform at the Florida Theater was Elvis Presley in 1956. It is said that Judge Court Judge Marian Gooding sat through the entire performance to make sure Elvis’s body movements were not too suggestive!
As our population deserted downtown and moved to the suburbs, the Florida Theater fell into disrepair. A major renovation in 1983 restored the building to its original splendor. Sadly, the renovation did not include the Mighty Wurlitzer, now adorning Grace Baptist church in Sarasota.
Today, the Florida Theater seats 1,900 and offers an incredible variety of over 200 events each year. From Merle Haggard (country), to Pat Metheny (jazz), Beach Boys (60s rock), Jake Shimakuburo (ukulele), the Temptations (do-wop), magicians, Chinese acrobats, and more, there is truly something for everyone. Check out their schedule at FloridaTheatre.com.