Ritz Theater (Rivoli Theater)

1503 E. Seventh Avenue, Ybor City, FL 33605

OWNER: Capitano and Garcia LLC

ARCHITECT: M. Leo Elliot and B. C. Bonfoey

BUILT: 1917

SIZE: 24,500 SF

PHOTO CREDIT: Burgert Brothers


This beautiful brick building once housed one of the South’s first movie houses. Opened in 1917 as a silent movie theater, the Ritz was one of the most popular venues in Ybor City. With the first movie theater opening in New York City in 1913, The Ritz Theater was among the first theaters in the nation and placed Ybor City in the company of some of the top cities in the US as a place to see the increasingly popular motion picture. Originally called the Rivoli Theater, the movie house was expanded in the 1930s and renamed The Ritz. The Ritz remained wildly popular for decades, showing first-run movies featuring the top stars of the day like Ingrid Bergman and Cary Grant. The Ritz was “The Place to Be” for young soldiers returning from the second world war, and was one of the top date spots in the whole city.

The Ritz Theater remained very popular until the early 1960s, when attendance at all of Ybor City’s social venues declined. The loss of visitors to the Ritz Theater was just one of the many indications that the whole of Ybor City was on the decline. The neighborhood lost a number of businesses, home values dropped, and families that had lived in Ybor City for generations started to move to other neighborhoods. Though the 1970s marked the last of the movies played in the Ritz Theater, it also marked the beginning of its revival as concerned Tampa residents began to actively preserve the type of Ybor City history the Ritz represents. In the 1980s, the theater seats were removed and The Ritz became a venue called the Masquerade, which hosted dance nights and concerts until 2006. In 2008, the building underwent a $2 million renovation and also regained the name The Ritz Theater. The venue now hosts private events, musical concerts, benefits, and festivals. The renovations returned the theater into a distinct and state-of-the-art space, which is exactly what it was when the likes of Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton graced the screen at the Ritz in the early 1900s.