April 8, 1927, opening night at the Florida Theatre. The program that evening boasted fanfare from the American Legion Bugle Corps, a live beauty pageant, and a live performance by Frank Morris and the Brilliant Florida Orchestra. The feature attraction that evening was a two-real silent film titled "Let it Rain" (1927). Organist Robert E. Mitchell accompanied the film on the theatre's new $100,000 Wurlitzer pipe organ.
The Florida Theatre has a rich history, including a notorious 1956 performance by rock n' roll icon Elvis Presely on August 10 and 11. At the time of his performance Presley was riding a wave of success that came as a result of his hit singles "Heartbreak Hotel," Hound Dog," and "Don't Be Cruel." Presley played a total of six shows over the course of two days. Elvis had played Jacksonville a year before and city officials were deeply disturbed by how teenagers responded to the performer's on-stage gyrations. In advance of his return, a committee was formed, and Juvenile Court Judge Marion Gooding prepared arrest warrants, with charges of “impairing the morals of minors.” Presley himself was invited to Judge Marion's office, where the Judge threatened to execute the warrants if Elvis’ on-stage antics were too suggestive. "Life Magazine" chronicled the episode and Jacksonville, Elvis, and the Florida Theatre received extensive national coverage. The judge and police were present during Elvis' performance. It was unclear whether they were there to keep the audience from rushing the stage or as a visible reminder to the performer to behave.
The Florida Theatre hosts 200 cultural and entertainment events annually. More than just an entertainment center, the Florida Theatre is also home to graduations, awards ceremonies, lectures, business meetings, and charity events that support Jacksonville's schools, churches, hospitals, and civic groups. Each year the theatre draws 250,000 people to Jacksonville's city center. The Florida Theatre is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
We had an opportunity to interview Numa Saisselin, President of the Florida Theatre. Numa has been with the Florida Theatre since 2012. He brings with him over 25 years of experience. From 2002 until 2012 Numa was the CEO of the Count Basie Theatre, a historic 1,500 seat theatre located in Red Bank, New Jersey. The theatre grew from $1.5 million a year to $8.5 million a year during Numa's tenure at the theatre. Numa's experience also includes Managing and Artistic Director of the City University of New York's College of Staten Island Performing Arts Center (1998-2002), Executive Director of the Paramount Center for the Arts (1992-1997), a Bechelor's Degree in Music Education from Fredonia School of Music, where he worked his way through college as a stagehand, and an MBA from Adelphi University. Numa is also a musician, playing the French horn.
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