The Florida Theatre opened in 1927, coincidently the same year television came into being and just a few years before the Great Depression, two events which contributed to the struggles of the theatre in the early years. Even though the theatre closed several times during the Depression, it survived financially with programs such as Screeno, an on-screen Bingo game and Bank Night when ticket buyers could win a $100 prize.
The largest theatre in Florida at the time it was built, it was technically advanced. Six months before the first talking movie, the Florida already had the equipment installed to be able to show talking movies.
The Florida Theatre made national headlines in 1956 when Elvis Presley was scheduled for a return engagement. His previous performance had resulted in Elvis’s fans almost ripping all his clothes off and the civic and religious leaders did not want a repeat performance. Juvenile Court Judge Marion Gooding was ready for him with warrants prepared in the event his gyrations from the previous performance were repeated. Elvis toned down his performance and the warrants were not served.
The theatre closed in 1980 and there were talks of tearing it down. Fortunately, civic organizations and individuals came together along with grants from the State of Florida and the City of Jacksonville and a renovation was completed in 1983. The Florida Theatre continues to entertain today as a performing arts and movie theatre.