Tampa Theatre is adding a unique cinematic experience for movie-goers. The historic theater is building a new microcinema in a space under its marquee that is now occupied by a flower shop.

A microcinema is a small theater — in this case, the space will be 1,100-square feet and fit 40 to 50 people.

“A lot of microcinemas have been developed, just like this one, which is in found spaces,” said John Bell, Tampa Theatre President and CEO. “You sort of find a space, drop a theater in and that’s sort of by definition, what a microcinema is.”

Bell’s team has been thinking about this idea for years, he said.

“Over the last 10 years, we’ve been focusing on higher priority items from a preservation standpoint,” Bell said. “Now that we’ve gotten the most urgent needs out of the way, we’re able to turn our attention to this project.”

In 2017, the not-for-profit foundation that manages the theater spent more than $6 million restoring the lobby and repairing water and electrical infrastructure. The original structure was built in 1926.

The new project is expected to cost about $1.3 million. It’s being funded through a matching grant from the Hillsborough County Capital Asset Preservation Program, Bell said.

“The county is providing $650,000 and we are matching it with private gifts and donations,” he said

Construction could begin by spring of next year and the theater could open in early 2021, Bell said.

“We are in the early layout stages with the architects and the design team,” he said.

Kreher/Barna, a local architectural firm, is designing the project. They are working with industry leaders to create a state-of-the-art audio and visual experience.

“Whether or not it meets a THX certification or specific Dolby certification is yet to be determined,” said Bell. “Our marching orders to the design team were ‘go forth and create a great cinema.’”

The theater, unofficially named T2 by Tampa Theatre staff, will bring increased benefits to Tampa’s downtown, Bell said.

“We’re looking forward to putting even more feet on the sidewalks of downtown Tampa and creating an even more vibrant city center,” Bell said.

“Tampa Theatre to build a $1.3 million microcinema –WUSF