Originally known as The Williamson Theatre, The Ritz was built in 1925. The Vaudeville style theatre was home to live musical performances including a 50 man Orchestra, silent movies known back in the day as "talkies", black and white film, live theatre performances, and concerts of all levels.
As the roaring 20s, 30s, and 40s brought change, it also brought the movie industry to Polk County. Many movies were filmed in Polk County, several at Winter Haven's own; Cypress Gardens. "EASY TO LOVE" staring Esther Williams, made its debut here at The Ritz and the film industry came alive on the stage. The movies, live concerts, and theatre performances continued at the Theatre well into the 1960s and 70s. As the communities and surrounding areas began to grow and change, so did a need for The Ritz Theatre to take on a new face. The movie houses were no longer viable; the theatre went dark. In the 1980's the Theatre opened as a Teen Night Club. After a short time, the Theatre was closed and boarded up.
In 1996 a group of concerned citizens joined forces and formed the Ritz Theatre 100, Inc. with one goal and one goal only "to save The Ritz". After 16 years, over 83,115 volunteer hours, and clearing many hurdles, the facility was restored to its original beauty. Today, the Theatre operates as a movie theatre, concert venue, home stage for Out of the Box Improv, and much more.
Tom Westberry, President
Kim Short, Vice President
Austin Tharp, Secretary
Steve Kalogridis, Treasurer
Gannon Olmert, Past President
Anita Strang - Mainstreet WH liaison
Brian Yates - City of WH liaison
Sara Beth Wyatt - Chamber of WH liaison