Which silver screens shine?

By Rick Gershman
Published May 25, 2007

Sure, we know many of you prefer to enjoy your filmed entertainment at home these days. Whether it's DVDs, pay-TV movies on demand, or YouTube films of dogs riding skateboards - you like watching it at home. Still, some of us still enjoy the theater environment. Otherwise Shrek the Third and Spider-Man 3 wouldn't be earning hundreds of millions of dollars. But where to go in (and near) Tampa to dig the silver screen? Here's a guideline of several options. (And, no, we didn't forget central Tampa's iconic Fun-Lan Drive In: Look for it in an upcoming column.)

Theater The Pitch The Catch The Deal Ranking (Out Of 5)
AMC Veterans 24 9302 Anderson Road, Tampa With 24 screens — albeit several showing the same flick — you have a little more to choose from. Convenient location just off the Veterans Expressway. Can be tough to navigate through the 50,000 teenagers massed out front every weekend night. The bubble gum-pop music piped into the parking lot likely was liberally employed at Abu Ghraib. A perfectly okay, if unexceptional, option for your viewing needs. 3
AMC Regency Brandon 20 2496 W Brandon Blvd. Lots of screens, lots of showings, and — for dinner-and-a-movie types — tons of dining options within a 3-mile radius. Despite an enormous parking lot, finding a Friday night space is like trying to win the Lotto. This lot also draws a hearty allotment of, let’s say, “boisterous” teens. If you want to catch a movie in Brandon, your choices are here and, well, here. So order ahead to avoid the lines, saving valuable time for the oft-unending search for a parking spot. 3
Channelside Cinemas 10 and IMAX 615 Channelside Drive Occasionally mixes in alternative fare with blockbusters. Enormous IMAX screen, plus incredible sound, is the only appropriate way to see films like 300, Spider-Man 3 and the upcoming Live Free or Die Hard. Parking — the garage is remote and can be a pain to navigate. Valet service generally costs $5 (plus tip), and it’s not always available. IMAX tickets aren’t cheap ($12 for a regular adult ticket), though in my opinion, they’re worth it. Worth it to catch big-budget, special effects-laden action flicks in IMAX. Conveniently walkable for Harbour Island and Channel District folks. 4
Movie Majestic 20 @ Centro Ybor 1600 E Eighth Ave., Tampa Good screens, good sound, stadium seating. Easy to get great seats any weekday, because hardly anyone ever comes here. The four adults-only “Premier” theaters serve booze (and free popcorn). Centro Ybor’s new developers plan to remove some screens for other uses. Ybor City can be a challenging environment (parking-wise, and otherwise) Thursday through Saturday. Management is cool. Well, it was when a buddy and I drunkenly stole a giant inflated “Shrek” from the lobby one night. (We soon returned it, after showing it around Adobe Gila’s.) 4
Tampa Theatre 711 Franklin St. Historic and gorgeous. Often the only place around showing particular independent and foreign films. Just one screen means just one film at a time. Not a destination if your tastes lean more mainstream. Street parking’s the only parking, which can fill up for big events. It’s the jewel of downtown Tampa. Which, granted, isn’t hard in downtown Tampa. Just pace yourself (virtually) next door at the Hub. 5
Westshore Plaza 14 210 Westshore Plaza, Tampa Fairly new theaters, clean, bright screens with good sound. Offers something nearby competitor International Plaza doesn’t: movies! Main entrance is from the mall roof. I’ve been there many times, and I still forget which ramps go up to the theater. Also can get packed with adolescents and teens. And departures can get backed up. Generous parking on the roof area (when you find it) and a solid experience overall make Westshore a fine option. 4
Zota Britton Cinema 8 3938 S Dale Mabry Highway, Tampa Closest option for MacDill Air Force Base employees and neighbors. Prices a bit lower than competitors. That’s because the theater is like 10,000 years old, and it looks and sounds it. Outside, it can get a little sketchy, especially in the evening, with loiterers and other characters. Consistently amazes by remaining open (except for a short hiatus a few years back) long after most nonstadium-seating cinemas shuttered. There are many better options. 2