A night at the movies is typically planned around the hot ticket at the moment – the film with the most appealing advertisements, playing in “a theater near you.”
Yet, for students looking for more eclectic films that fly under the radar, there are theaters within a 90-minute driving distance of USF that cater to their interests.
From classic revivals to first-run foreign features, these four independently owned theaters showcase a wide array of films for those willing to go the extra distance.
Tampa Theatre (1)
When making your way through downtown Tampa, one of the sights that sticks out the most is the bright-lit Tampa Theatre marquee on Franklin Street.
This historic venue has existed since October 1926, and has provided consistent entertainment for the majority of that time.
Named one of the “Top Ten Iconic Show Places” by Delta Airlines’ Sky Magazine in March, Tampa Theatre offers a varied programming schedule that includes film screenings, concerts and tours divulging the theater’s past.
Tampa Theatre’s programming director, Tara Schroeder, said she loves seeing visitors connect to the theater and its films. One such incident occurred at a Nov. 10 screening of “Viva Cuba,” where she was approached by a woman who tearfully recounted leaving Cuba when she was 22 years old.
“Everyone is welcome at Tampa Theatre,” Schroeder said. “What’s great is that the diversity of our programming attracts people of all ages.”
Beach Theatre (2)
St. Petersburg’s Beach Theatre has operated since 1940, but was taken over in 2007 by Hollywood screenwriter Michael France – who helped pen the films “Cliffhanger” and “Hulk.”
“I’ve always wanted to own and program an independent theater,” France said. “I love trying to find films to run at the theater that I want to see, but that aren’t running anywhere else in the area.”
The theater’s programming ranges from new independent and well-received mainstream films to cult classics like “Repo! The Genetic Opera” and “The Big Lebowski.” On Friday at 10:30 p.m., a print of the 1981 cabin shocker “The Evil Dead” will run with vintage grindhouse movie trailers.
According to the theater’s website, the venue has also branched out into concerts and musical audience-participation screenings for movies like “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.”
Beach Theatre offers traditional concession treats and a selection of more than 30 beers and wines. With student tickets that cost only $5, the theater can easily provide an ideal night out.
Burns Court Cinema (3)
Located in the middle of historic Burns Court Square in Sarasota, Burns Court Cinema offers classic arthouse cinema.
Opening its doors in 1993, the Sarasota Film Society-sponsored theater offers a wide array of foreign and independent films handled with just as much adoration as a summer blockbuster.
This weekend’s new opening is “Fair Game,” a biopic about Valerie Plame and Joe Wilson starring Sean Penn and Naomi Watts.
The theater also hosts Cine-World – an annual showing of the best independent, international cinema. This year’s screenings ended Nov. 11, but it will return in 2011 along with the recently announced Spotlight Film Festival.
Enzian Theater (Not Pictured)
Located just outside of Orlando in Maitland, the picturesque Enzian Theater opened in 1985 as a way to introduce film as an art form to central Florida.
While it also offers a regular programming schedule, special screenings like the “10 Movies You Should See on the Big Screen Before You Die,” “Popcorn Flicks in the Park,” and “Cult Classics” help it stand out further.
This month’s special program films include “Chicken Run” on Friday at 7 p.m., “Rebel Without a Cause” on Nov. 28 at 12:30 p.m. and “Run Lola Run” on Nov. 30 at 9:30 p.m.
The theater also hosts “FilmSlam” – a monthly film festival that accepts submissions from independent and student filmmakers throughout Florida.
“FilmSlam” makes the Enzian Theater not only a great place to see movies, but also one that encourages its visitors to make them.