The Tampa Theatre shows off Reid Wagner’s congratulatory message for his high school graduation. Be sure to get one too with a $150 donation to the Tampa Theatre.

By Jadon Khor

In bright lights and large signs, the Tampa Theatre flashes messages of congratulations along Franklin St. Illuminated by LED panels, stylized in unique vogue antiquated by flashbacks to former theater decades, the Tampa Theatre brightens the city with its newly advertised Marquee Messages program.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Tampa Theatre shut down in-house operations in March, including its Marquee Messages program, causing financial burdens for the company. But earlier this month, the theater reopened its Marquee Message boards in bright and colorful fashion.

For donations of $150, the Tampa Theatre will display messages on its historic marquees for one hour and it offers three distinct time periods for the message to be displayed in: 1926, 1956 and 1996.

These styles pull on the Tampa Theatre’s historic roots, with each one being a hallmark representation of the theater’s episodic timeline. These donations help the Tampa Theatre to maintain costs, including rent and staff payments, and avoid losing its signature, historic environment.

To Director of Marketing and Community Relations Jill Witecki it was imperative the Tampa Theatre stay afloat. So it came as a hint of relief when, in a meeting discussing options for fundraising, a former employee asked if it were at all possible to display a congratulatory message to their son for his graduation.

“A lightbulb went off for us,” said Witecki, as Tampa Theatre realized that, with its newly installed and advanced marquee boards, it could remotely display messages.

So far, the program has attracted congratulations for high school graduations, birthdays, weddings and more. Most recently, a couple’s 58th anniversary was stapled in lights with many more following.

Though the shutdown has hindered the Tampa Theatre in allowing moviegoers to enjoy a good film and popcorn, it doesn’t stop them from pursuing ways to participate in their community.

To schedule a Marquee Message, contact Tampa Theatre Box Office Manager Dawn Kidle at dawn@tampatheatre.org to make your donation and schedule your date and time. Digital proofs will be provided prior to the display going live to ensure your special message is camera-ready at the appropriate time.