GCC Grove CInema I & II
1617 Bartow Road,
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Architects: Donovan Dean
Previous Names: Grove Theatre, Grove Cinema, Loews Grove Theatre
Grove Entertainment headed by Lakeland’s Polk Theatre operators, Jeanne Hart and Herb Roller, launched a new-build suburban luxury single-screen venue known as the Grove Theatre. This movement in movie theatre exhibition featured new-build cinemas often in strip centers and shopping malls that often boasted of “acres of free parking”.
The 900-seat Grove Theatre opened with “Walt Disney’s The Incredible Journey” on November 17, 1963. Five days later, the theatre was open on the date of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination and reported a box office take of just one ticket sold. The theatre was located in the Grove Park Shopping Center that was originally announced in 1958 and opened theatre-less in 1961. An expansion of the Grove Park Center announced in May of 1963 brought about the new $250,000 cinema.
In July of 1969, Hart announced the sale of the Grove Theatre to the Loews Circuit. The theatre became the Loews Grove Theatre on July 15, 1969 and operated on a newly negotiated, 20-year leasing agreement. In a major business development announced on May 30, 1972, Loews sold all of its theatres in Florida to its rival, General Cinema Corp. (GCC), effective June 14, 1972. The venue’s name was changed to the GCC Grove Cinema.
The theatre hosted a Florida sneak preview of the film, “Royal Flash” on November 8, 1975. GCC closed the venue temporarily on May 2, 1976 following showings of “All the President’s Men” to twin the venue. It reopened June 11, 1976 as the GCC Grove Cinema I & II with “Hawmps!” and “Lifeguard".
The Grove Twin survived into the multiplex generation. General Cinema announced that the venue would close at the end of its lease. It said that the theatre was no longer profitable or just “marginally profitable” and that “the days of one or two (screen) theatres was over".
The theatre closed with Bette Midler in “Beaches” and Ted Danson in “Cousins” on May 25, 1989 just prior to the July 15, 1989 leasing expiry. GCC’s other Lakeland Cinema Twin, the Imperial Mall Cinema I & II, closed on August 27, 1992 at the end of its 20-year lease. The Grove Theatre space was converted for other retail purposes and was still in use as of the 2020’s. It was still fairly recognizable as a theatre space from the rear of the building.
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