Arcade Theatre

2267 First Street,
Fort Myers, FL 33901

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Related Websites

Florida Repertory Theatre (Official)

Additional Info

Previously operated by: ABC Florida State Theatres

Architects: Roy A. Benjamin

Functions: Performing Arts

Phone Numbers: Box Office: 877.787.8053
Manager: 877.787.8053

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News About This Theater

Arcade Theatre

Built in 1915, it served originally as a vaudeville house. It was expanded and reopened in February 5, 1917 as a movie theatre. It was rebuilt in 1938 to the plans of architect Roy Benjamin, reopening December 20, 1938 with Dick Foran in “Heart of the North”.

The Arcade Theatre was eventually converted with a wall dividing the stage to form two screening rooms. By 1989, the theatre had fallen into severe disrepair. In 1991, a benefit starring famed ballet and film star, Mikhail Baryishnikov, raised enough money to completely restore the theatre. It is now host to the Florida Repertory Theatre.

Contributed by TC

Recent comments (view all 9 comments)

atlmike on May 15, 2008 at 9:41 pm

In late 1973 when I moved to Fort Myers (had my first job out of college there) the Arcade was still a first run theatre. I recall seeing some of the disaster movies of the era there…Towering Inferno among them, I believe. I also talked my girlfriend (now my wife) into going to a midnight showing of Night of the Living Dead there. That was an experience! It was a cool old theatre and I’m happy to see that it survives.

AndyCallahanMajorMajor on November 26, 2012 at 3:49 pm

Here are my pictures from July 2012. None of the previously posted pictures show the ornate “rear” entrance facing Bay Street. I’ve included a picture of that entrance, which is visible if you click my link.

rivest266 on September 27, 2016 at 5:13 pm

Started to show movies full-time as of February 5th, 1917. Grand opening ad in the photo section.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on December 2, 2017 at 4:37 pm

Despite numerous Internet sources saying that the Arcade was built in 1908, the name Arcade Theatre does not appear in the Fort Myers News-Press prior to 1915. The only theater names I’ve found in earlier papers are the Court Theatre, which later became the Omar Theatre and then the Ritz Theatre, and was located in the Patio de Leon, and the Grand Theatre, which was at the southwest corner of First and Jackson, and was destroyed by a fire in February, 1915.

According to this 2016 article in the News-Press, the first Arcade Theatre was under construction at the time the Grand burned. It was part of a project that included a number of shops. In late 1916, Harvie Heitman, the owner of the Arcade, rebuilt and expanded the project, including the theater. That was the house that opened in February, 1917.

This article also covers the history of the Arcade, and includes a couple of smallish photos of the theater’s Bay Street entrance, one from the 1920s and one recent.

The Arcade Theatre was rebuilt again in 1938, just about doubling its size, and formally opened on December 20 that year. According to that day’s issue of the News-Press, the plans for the expansion were by architect Roy Benjamin, who was at that time designing all of E. J. Sparks' new and remodeled theaters.

DavidZornig on September 2, 2019 at 3:49 pm

1935 photo added credit Southwest Florida Historical Society.

50sSNIPES on June 6, 2022 at 9:38 pm

Right when the Arcade reopened on December 20, 1938 with “Heart Of The North”, both the Arcade and the Lee became the dominant theaters in Fort Myers during the golden age of films.

Both the Arcade and the Lee installed CinemaScope a month apart each, with the Lee installing it first in January 1954, with its first CinemaScope film “The Robe” on February 3, 1954, and the Arcade Theatre installed it a month later on March 13, 1954 with “Knights Of The Round Table” the following day, which was also shown at the Lee during the Arcade’s installation of CinemaScope.

After the Arcade Theatre ran a 59-day run of the 1976 remake of “A Star Is Born”, the Arcade switched over to performing arts on February 22, 1977.

Trolleyguy on October 8, 2022 at 9:52 am

Hurricane Ian caused problems for the theater. Read about it here. Ian

50sSNIPES on October 8, 2022 at 11:36 am

I saw that. It appears that the Arcade is now closed because of major flooding inside from Ian. The video appears that it was taken on September 28, a few hours right after landfall.

50sSNIPES on June 18, 2023 at 8:08 am

The Arcade Theatre originally had a capacity of 1,000 seats from the 1938 rebuilt, and some original equipment featured a 15x19ft screen, Super Simplex projection, and a bubble type fountain in the ornate lobby.

ABC Florida State Theatres was the last operator for the Arcade Theatre until the Arcade closed as a movie theater on February 22, 1977. The Arcade Theatre relaunched as a performing arts theater right afterward.

When the Arcade Theatre was renovated during a nearly two-year closure that left the theater completely dark in 1989 due to low attendance, the Arcade Theatre relaunched back as a performing arts house with a downsized 393-seat capacity on November 1, 1991.

The original Arcade Theatre opened its doors on February 5, 1917 with Frank McIntyre in “The Traveling Salesman”.

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