Lakeland’s Polk Theatre – 1920s Movie Palace Tradition Still Alive Today

Lakeland, Florida boasts many wonderful cultural opportunities for its residents, but one of the most amazing and cherished of them all has to be the historic Polk Theatre.  Located at 139 South Florida Avenue, this late 1920s era vaudeville stage and movie provides a window into America’s Golden Age of Entertainment.

Polk Theatre - Lakeland FloridaThe Polk Theatre’s exterior really does little to prepare you for the visual treat you’re in for once you enter. Envisioned  initially by Lakeland businessman John E. Melton,the exterior was set up as a business building and retail space to provide income to help finance the theatre.

Eventually, the Publix Theatre Corporation finished up the project, and brought the entire structure together. And trust me, the interior of this building is breath-taking.  Words, and even pictures really can’t do it justice.  In my opinion, this building stands up to any of its type in the country.  (Note: The Publix Theatre Corporation had no ties to George Jenkins’ Publix Supermarkets.)

Without fail, it’s the interior of the Polk Theatre that continues to amaze both casual visitors and architectural buffs alike.

Polk Theatre - Lakeland

According to the Polk Theatre website:

The architect, J.E. Casale, an Italian-born immigrant, recreated a Mediterranean village in the heart of Central Florida. Flanked by Italianate walls with niches, sconces, and faux balconies and windows, the patron’s eye was drawn toward the stage and the full scale Italian renaissance “townhouse” setting that dominates the Polk’s interior.

S0, what can you expect to see at the Polk Theatre?

ledgeradIn years past, the Polk Theatre has been host to some of the biggest names in show business – perhaps most notably, one Elvis Presley.

As usual, the girls in the audience swooned, and Elvis rocked the house as much with his signature hip bump, leg shaking moves as with his music.  Long time Elvis backup Guitarist Scotty Moore’s website provides one of the most comprehensive accounts of what was perhaps the most famous show ever to be held at the Polk Theatre.

Moore does a great job recounting not only Evlis’ interview session with then Lakeland Ledger reporter Elvalee Donaldson, who interviewed Elvis during his show at the Polk Theatre, but he also adds some wonderful historical information about the theatre itself.  Please do yourself a favor and read through this information.  If you’re an Elvis Presley Fan – you will absolutely love it!

Today, the Polk Theatre has once again come into its own as a well-attended local Lakeland, Florida landmark.  Whether you’re interested in cinema, or one of the great live shows the theatre brings into town as part of its ever-popular Polk Theatre Performing Arts Series, there’s surely something sure to entertain.

I love the Polk Theatre, and I think you will to.  As you consider your Lakeland real estate purchase, think of how nice it will be to have such a vibrant and historic cultural landmark close by!

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