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We’ll always have Tampa: Tampa Theatre hosts Summer Classics Series

The Tampa Theatre, which is located downtown, is in the middle of its Summer Classics program. JACKIE BENITEZ

The Tampa Theatre, which is located downtown, is in the middle of its Summer Classics program. JACKIE BENITEZ/STAFF

A bright red ice scraper, Robby the Robot and Vichy water. These iconic props are all featured in some of the movies showing at the Tampa Theatre this year as a part of its 25th annual Summer Classics series.

The idea for this series originally came about when the president and CEO of the Tampa Theatre, John Bell, and the theater’s executive board decided that having a classic movie program during this season would be a great way to attract customers looking for something to do that did not involve the summer heat. 

While the series is 25 years old, only for the past several years has the classic movie lineup has been set for every Sunday from June to August at 3 p.m.

“We always keep it at that 3 o’clock spot because after 25 years, we really want people to know that even if they don’t know exactly what movie’s playing, they know that if they come to Tampa Theatre at 3 o’clock on a Sunday afternoon, during the summer, that there’s going to be a classic movie playing,” Jill Witecki, Tampa Theatre’s director of marketing & community relations, said.

With the theatre celebrating its 90th anniversary this year, theater officials decided to commemorate this milestone by picking movies for the Summer Classics line up that are also celebrating landmark anniversaries, according to a press release sent out in May. 

The youngest movie on the list is “Fargo,” which celebrated its 20th anniversary this year, while the oldest is “M,” which is 85 years old.

“Our definition of ‘classic’ has changed a little bit because, back in the original days, it was movies like ‘Casablanca’ and ‘Gone with the Wind,’” Witecki said. “We still show those because of how popular they are, but we realize with every passing year that the people’s definition of classic (changes).”

This change in the lineup has led to a decrease in the average age of the audience, according to Witecki. Every year, younger and younger people show up in addition to the original older crowd. 

The theatre usually has a silent movie in its lineup that would attract younger people who have never seen one. However, there is no silent movie scheduled this summer.

A new addition to this year’s Summer Classics is its partnership with the Tampa Theatre’s 15th annual Winefest. The Winefest is always held in September and boasts punny themes like Planet of the Grapes, How the West was Wine, the Grapefather. This year’s theme is Caskablanca.

“Because it’s our 90th birthday as a theatre, and because Casablanca has been just such an important movie for the Summer Classics series and for the theatre, we thought it was the perfect year to do Casablanca as the Winefest theme,” Witecki said. 

“Because Winefest is in mid-September, that’s when we decided to extend the Summer Classics series to cover up until Winefest to make Casablanca the finale as part of Winefest weekend.”

After the showing of Casablanca, St Petersburg Times film critic Steve Persall and local film expert Bob Ross will lead a discussion session about the film. Most of the movies on this year’s lineup feature a film talk afterwards. This portion of the program began with retired USF professor Harriet Deer a few years ago and she still currently facilitates several of them.

There are still 10 movies left to see:

  • Sunday July 17 – “The French Connection” (1975)
  • Sunday July 24 – “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” (1966)
  • Sunday July 31 – “Swing Time” (1936)
  • Sunday Aug. 7 – “All the President’s Men” (1976)
  • Sunday Aug. 14 – “M” (1931)
  • Sunday Aug. 21 – “A Raisin in the Sun” (1961)
  • Sunday Aug. 28 – “The Maltese Falcon” (1941)
  • Sunday Sept. 4 – “The Wizard of Oz” (1939)
  • Sunday Sept. 11 – “Gone with the Wind” (1939)
  • Sunday Sept. 18 – “Casablanca” (1942)