Love of History and the Arts Led to Rehabbing the Ritz

TAMPA, FL -- Built in 1917 as the Rivoli Theatre where silent movies were all the rage, this facility with a checkered past has been reborn as one of the trendiest event venues in Ybor City's historic cigar-making district.

Renamed the Ritz in the 1930s, the former movie theater fell on hard times about 50 years ago. By the 1960s, it was showing triple-X rated adult movies and closed in the 1970s. The seats were removed in the 1980s and the theater re-opened as the Masquerade, a dance club featuring underground heavy metal acts. A man was stabbed to death in 2005 during a mosh pit melee and the deeply-in-debt club closed the following year.

Reopened as The Ritz Ybor in 2008, the facility is reaping the benefits of its listing on the Register of Historic Places and locale within the National Historic Landmark District of Ybor City. The Capitano family, owns the 17,000 square-foot building and recently spent $2 million to upgrade and rehabilitate the facility, which was one of the first movie theaters in Tampa.

The multi-use facility is divided into four rooms with live concerts held in the main theater area, which can accommodate about 1,300 guests. Concert lighting initially included 30 to 50 PAR cans strung across the 44-foot-wide stage, said Brett Lorins, Lighting Director for The Ritz. “That's how it was presented to me when I was hired, but I wanted to change it.”

Lorins previously worked on another Ybor City rehab, the Castle, and said he really liked the CHAUVET LED lights that were installed there. So he convinced the owners to redesign the Ritz's lighting, recommending an all-CHAUVET lighting rig that included CHAUVET COLORdash Par and COLORado 3 LED wash lights, Scorpion Storm FX lasers and Intimidator Spot 250 moving heads. The rig is flexible enough to use for other applications, including weddings, private parties, corporate events and art shows.

“We don't just do concerts,” he said. “The family decided to put money into the structure because of its historic value and because they wanted to restore the arts in Ybor City.”

As with other historic structures nearby, the power draw for and heat from conventional lighting and inefficient air conditioning were obstacles. “But this was all considered and was part of the reason for using LEDs,” Lorins said.

Lorins said he loves the rich colors that the COLORdash Par LED wash lights put out. “As far as I'm concerned, they are incredible -- when you want a saturated color there's nothing like LED lights.”

Lorins said The Ritz has been restored to “that Old World Cuban ritzy feel of the original Ybor City.” The restored brick exterior has a Mediterranean design commonly found in historic areas of southwest Florida. The grand foyer greets guests with Art Deco embellished circular mirrors and black-and-white tiled floors.

Inside the theater, the ornate filigree shields emblazoned with an R (for the original Rivoli name) once again flank the stage, just as they did nearly a century ago for the silent movie shows that cost 15 cents.

Gear List:

10 CHAUVET COLORdash Par

6 CHAUVET Intimidator Spot 250

8 CHAUVET PAR 38

12 CHAUVET COLORado 3

3 CHAUVET Scorpion Storm FX Lasers

5 CHAUVET DMX-4 Dimmer Pack

1 CHAUVET DMX-2X Splitter

1 Hog 1000 lighting console

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