The Glitz of the Ritz Theatre and Museum in LaVilla

The Ritz Theatre and Museum has a rich history full of amazing stories, but it wasn’t always the Ritz we know today. Back in 1929, The Ritz was exclusively a movie theatre where people came to watch their favorite movies and Saturday cartoons.

I was able to sit down and interview the Ritz’s marketing director and host of amateur night, Octavius Davis. He told me, “The Ritz Theatre in 1929 was the Harlem of the South, the heart of LaVilla. In 1929, The Ritz Theatre was exclusively one of the few predominantly black movie theatres in the south.” He then spoke about how, back in 1929, some people used RC bottle caps to get into the movie theatre. About two RC bottle caps could get you in to see your favorite Saturday morning cartoons.

The Ritz Theatre back then mostly showed action films, such as The Lone Ranger and The Little Rascals, but the films shown also included silent films and several films from Jacksonville’s own Norman Studios. Eventually, however, businesses closed or moved to better parts of the area due to the  economy, which led The Ritz Movie house to close in 1971.

“The Ritz Theatre and Museum is a celebration of culture, art, and entertainment. To truly experience all the Ritz has to offer, you need to see it for yourself.”

On September 30, 1999, The Ritz Movie Theatre was turned into The Ritz Theatre and Museum to pay tribute to the LaVilla area and the people who made it what it was. The Ritz Theatre and Museum has been rebuilt from the ground up. The northeast corner and the sign are the only original pieces standing. Walking into the Ritz is like walking into a theatre lobby, with huge black and white pictures of famous musicians and artists. The museum is filled with historical African American figures of Northeast Florida and St. Augustine. To the right is the theatre, which seats 436 people and hosts live performances, spoken word, and amateur night.

“The Ritz Theatre and Museum is a celebration of culture, art, and entertainment. To truly experience all the Ritz has to offer, you need to see it for yourself,” says Davis.

Believe me, the Ritz has something for every age, so come learn about the rich history of the Ritz and be entertained. I promise you won’t be disappointed. The Ritz is located on North Davis Street, Jacksonville Florida or call 904-807-2011.

About Britney Broussard

april, 2022

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