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New Name, Same Great Theatre.

Published: June 6, 2019

Timeless. Classic. Endearing. These are all words to describe the legendary Capitol Theatre, located in the heart of downtown Clearwater. For locals of the Tampa Bay area, the Capitol Theatre is an iconic building that has touched the hearts of all its fans with everlasting memories.

Almost 100 years ago, the theatre opened its doors on March 31, 1921 with a special screening of the silent comedy drama film Dinity. The theatre’s beautiful Mediterranean-revival façade with ornate parapets and arched entrances were the talk of Clearwater and still is to this day. The theatre was designed by architect Lester Avery and was built by Senator-Elect John Stancel Taylor. (The theatre has welcomed to its stage) A vast amount of diverse shows from singers, dancers, orchestras, traveling Broadway shows, pageants, along with many other acts have graced the Capitol stage.

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Photo of the Capitol Theatre from early 1930's.

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Photo of the Capitol Theatre from late 1940's.

From the early 1980s to 2008, several different companies, including the Royalty Theater Company and the Clearwater Symphony Orchestra, leased the Capitol Theatre. In 1996, local businessman Socrates Charos purchased the Capitol Theatre; for the next 14 years, the building was used as a social and sports dancing center.

The Capitol Theatre faced troubling times in late 2008, when it faced foreclosure and was very close to closing its doors for good. The saving grace was when Ruth Eckerd Hall and The City of Clearwater came together in a partnership and purchased the building.

In March 2013, the theatre closed for a major $10.7 million renovation, which resulted in expanded seating to 750, including six private lodge boxes, multiple concession stands, a larger lobby, an outdoor balcony wrapping around the building overlooking the beautiful Clearwater causeway, a VIP lounge, Frenchy’s rooftop terrace, ADA accessibility and an uncovered Panel of Honor from World War I with the names of Clearwater citizens who served in the war which is visible in the lobby and mezzanine areas.

 The renovation was completed in December 2013, which was celebrated with a sold-out concert performed by multiple-GRAMMY®-winner Michael McDonald!

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Michael McDonald performing at the Capitol Theatre on December 2013.
Photo courtesy of Jim Damaske.

Since the renovation, legendary artists such as Pat Benatar, David Crosby, Olivia Newton-John and Jay Leno have graced the legendary stage and will continue to do so.

Exciting news has recently happened for the Capitol Theatre!

In March 2019, Nancy and David Bilheimer gifted Ruth Eckerd Hall an astounding $2.5 million for the venue’s Expanding the Experience campaign. The money will go towards the Marcia P. Hoffman School of the Arts and will to support their current arts education programs.

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Nancy and David Bilheimer - Photo courtesy of the Dunedin Fine Arts Center

“Nancy and I understand the importance of arts education for children and we are thrilled to be a part of the Marcia P. Hoffman School of the Arts…. Education and access are vital for our community,” David Bilheimer. 

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Nancy and David Bilheimer with students of the Marcia P. Hoffman School of the Arts.

On May 17, 2019, in recognition of the generous donation, the Capitol Theatre’s name was officially renamed to The Nancy and David Bilheimer Capitol Theatre.

Susan Crockett, Ruth Eckerd Hall President & CEO said the following:

“This generous gift from Nancy and David will be the cornerstone to ensure the children of our community has access to quality arts education for years to come…On behalf of the entire staff at Ruth Eckerd Hall and our Board of Directors, we are deeply grateful and humbled by their example.”

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 New signage coming soon!

The Bilheimer Capitol Theatre is a great place to be reminded of the pure magic that comes from the entertainment industry and how one two-hour show can completely rekindle one’s passion and love for the arts.


Take a look at all the great events we are hosting at the Bilheimer Capitol Theatre!