Polk Theatre, Inc.
- Arts & Culture
- Children & Youth
Location121 South Florida AveLakeland, FL 33801 United States
To contribute to the cultural enrichment of the citizens of Polk County and environs by serving as a performing arts center, providing quality films for the community, making the Theatre available to the community at large through rentals for stage productions and meetings, collecting and preserving historical materials that relate to the Polk Theatres past, and working with other organizations of similar interest to preserve the heritage of the American Theatre. To provide an opportunity for the general public to share and enjoy common interests in the Theatre and the arts. To provide prestigious public attractions in order to enhance the prestige of the community and to assist in revitalizing the downtown business district.
Through the war years in the '40s the Polk provided up to date news on the front and wartime fundraising activities were frequently held. However, the '40s are seen as the end of the "golden years" in Hollywood, due to a number of factors, not the least of which was the rise of television. By 1957 movie attendance had dropped 50 percent from its historically high mid-1940's level. Theatres across the nation closed as living rooms replaced theatres as entertainment centers. The Polk survived for three decades after the end of World War II, but it's luster faded as years past.
During the '60s and '70s as Lakeland grew and became an increasingly suburban town, the Polk's downtown location became a district liability. And, with the advent of multi-plexes old movie palaces were vulnerable targets for closure or worse. The Polk managed to stay operational into the '80s, but there was a growing possibility that the downtown landmark could be razed. The Polk was like a fine lady who was forced by economic conditions to pawn some of her jewelry, but she never sacrificed her dignity.
In 1982, a group of concerned citizens banded together to save the Polk. They formed a non-profit group, borrowed money, secured a grant from the state, and purchased the theatre for $300,000. As a non-profit, the Polk continues to rely upon grants and donations in order to meet its financial obligations.
Major restoration of the building was completed in October, 1999, but as with any historic property it continues to need work.
The Theatre is supported by revenue from films, its Performing Arts Series, two fundraisers a year, rental income, and memberships.