Detail Medallion   What about the REAL Florida Theatre?   Detail Medallion
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 Click on the picture above to go to the real Florida Theatre Web Page, or continue reading below.
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FLA TH Ryla Procenium
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Though "The  Glorious Sound" is totally a
work of fiction, there really is a FLORIDA THEATRE other than the fictitious "Floridian Theatre" in the story.

The pretend "Floridian Theatre" made it's debut in 1924, some three years earlier than the actual FLORIDA THEATRE.  

On Friday, April 8, 1927, with "spotlights and flares to light the way," the real FLORIDA THEATRE held it's grand opening.  

The feature film was "Let it Rain" starring Douglas MacLean.  Also on the program was a news reel, "Florida News," a cartoon, "Southern Melodies,"
and "A Novelty Comedy" short.

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The self-congratulatory newspaper ads, following the "gala" opening, reported:
 Never Such a Crowd AD
"Last night thousands
greeted Jacksonville's
theatre beautiful.  
More than two
thousand saw
the beautiful
the comfort
of controlled
enjoyed the
marvelous music,
the finest motion
pictures perfectly
and declared
the Florida
to be the
leading theatre
of it's size anywhere!


View of the Florida Theatre stage
from last row, balcony.

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Admission was 25 and 50 cents for Matinees, 25 and 60 cents for Evening showings.  
On top the of the building was "The Roof Garden." Patrons were described as
"enjoying the luxury and splendor of this Spanish Palace."

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Also housed in the building, according to some sources, was the WJAX radio station's
2 manual, 8 rank Bennet studio organ.  
Mr. Jack Courtnay, who was the organist of longest tenure at the FLORIDA THEATRE,
played a live organ music radio broadcast every night at 11:45 PM.
The FLORIDA THEATRE was part of the Publix Theatre Corporation chain owned by Sam Katz.  
So powerful (and such a good customer)
was Mr. Katz that the Wurlitzer Company even made special organs for his chain of theatres.
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Jazz Singer AD
The first talking motion picture "The Jazz Singer" was released on October 6, 1927.
About movies with sound, no less than Charlie Chaplin made the prediction,
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"It's just a passing fad.  I give it three years."
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"The Jazz Singer" premiered in October of 1927, but the actual FLORIDA THEATRE was built in April of that same year.  
Talking pictures were yet a rumor, but silent pictures were a very present reality.
So . . .
. . . Wurlitzer pipe organ Opus 1569 was installed, and according to the newspaper hype, it was mighty, indeed:
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An Organ More
than the
cannot be found
Built by the
of organ builders,
it has a range
and tone
in the South!
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  The record of the organists who presided over the console of the
FLORIDA THEATRE's Mighty Wurlitzer, opus 1569, is incomplete.

  Bob Mitchell opened the house, apparently as a guest organist, in April of 1927.  
Records show that he had previously played at The Arcade Theatre
 (later aka: The Center Theatre, a rival theatre chain) beginning in 1926.  

  The Florida Theatre wasn't the first in Jax to have an organ,
but it was the last . . . Jacksonville had several theatres with pipe organs,
though little is known about them.  All are now gone with their wind - pardon the pun.

  British organist Jack Courtnay apparently presided
from some point in 1927 until some time just before 1933.
                Courtnay Console LS

 Courtnay JackinBox Cartoon

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.Cinema Organists," as they were sometimes called, were local celebrities in the 1920's.
The society page writers and editors found them interesting
enough to report on their social and personal activities.  
Mr. Courtnay's purchase of a new car made the society page:
Courtnay Car
    The caption reads:
 "Jack Courtnay, Florida Theatre organist, is shown above with his new Hudson Coupe,
purchased from the Bacon Motors Company.  
The coupe is one of the most popular of the Hudson line."

  Home town organist, Jimmy Knight, presided from 1933
until he went into war time military service in March of 1942.
  Jack Courtnay came out of retirement to preside over the console until June 1945,
when Jimmy Knight returned.  Mr. Knight resigned in 1947.
  From 1947 until the end of the 1950's the organ was apparently used only occasionally.
  Mr. Hal Sutton, who was an assistant manager of the theatre,
reportedly played "regularly" during the 1950's.
  After the 50's the movie house, due to urban desertion, became a Karate movie venue,
during which time all traces of the Movie Palace opulence was removed or painted over.
  The Florida Theatre was restored to it's original splendor by September of 1983.
However, the restoration sadly did not include restoring
Wurlitzer opus 1569, even though it was possibly available then.   
If opus 1569 had been restored to the Florida, Jacksonville
would be near the top of a short list of Theatres with
original Wurlitzers, a rare thing, indeed.  

FL Theatre Ceiling
      Florida Theatre Proscenium Arch and house ceiling as seen looking up from the stage.
The Inaugural Ceremony celebrating the reopening of the Florida Theatre was held on October 1st, 1983.
   . . . And yes, there was organ music -- played on a large electronic instrument, and played by yours, truly.  
The late Mr. C. Carter Nice, owner of The Nice House of Music in
Jacksonville and director of the Starlight Symphonette Orchestra,
used his considerable influence as a respected member of the
musical community of the city to plead for Theatre Organ music to be heard once
again in the Florida.  Mr. Nice even provided the instrument played, and the organist.

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On opening day in 1927 the Florida Theatre Organ, Wurlitzer Opus 1569,  
was a 3 manual, 14 rank, 6 percussion, instrument.
Records show that it had the following resources:

Bright brass.
Tuba Horn
Mellow brass.
Diaphonic Diapason
A bold  and rich classical organ sound.
Tibia Clausa
A sweet throbbing tone.
Orchestral Oboe
A nasal sounding reedy tone.
A sharp "Chinese Trumpet" sound.
A typical orchestral sound.
 A "sweet band" type of Sax.
Solo String
 Imitates a solo Violin.
Viol d'Orchestre
A keen "sizzling bacon" Violin sound.
Viol Celeste
 The companion tone to the V d'O, which
 together provide the "String Section"  ensemble sound.
Oboe Horn
Softer, richer, and more mellow than the thin and pungent sounding Orchestral Oboe.
A quirky flute tone found on organs of Bach's time.
Concert Flute
 A typical soft orchestral sound.
 A sweet bell tone - German for "Golden Bells."
A bright bell tone - German for "Clock-Sing"
Same as the ones in a church organ.
A bright wooden bar tone, exactly like the ones in an Orchestra.
Sub Wood Harp
A mellow wooden bar tone - just like the Marimba.
Vibra Harp
A mellow pulsating bell tone, just like ones in the Orchestra. Also called a Vibraphone in jazz.
Bass Drum
 One of the Traps.        What are traps?
Snare Drum
Wood Block
Chinese Gong
Various Toy Counter Effects
  From the 1960's this organ, apparently unplayable, remained intact, and was eventually removed
in 1970 by Mr. Bob Andre of Miami, Florida, who installed it in the warehouse of his business.
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The happy ending to this story is that the FLORIDA THEATRE's WurliTzer Opus 1569 is now up and playing and in the loving hands of the Manasota, Florida Chapter of the American Theatre Organ Society,  and is installed in the Grace Baptist Church at 8000 Bee Ridge Road, Sarasota, Florida.
Thank You for saving Opus 1569,
...visit their web page for the rest of the story!
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A humorous drawing of  Mr. Jack Courtnay springing like a
Jack-in-the-box from the organ console as seen on the cover of an April 15, 1928 Florida Theatre program.

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  Detail drawing of balcony seating.

FL Th Balcony seat detail
"An acre of seats in a palace of splendor."
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For more information about today's Florida Theatre: