Live music adds to the Tampa Bay cinematic experience this season

The spectacle of live performers accompanying films is as old as the film industry itself. In the era of silence, the technology to stream audio recorded with the film did not exist, but music was still considered an essential part of the viewing experience, with live bands and singers.

There are plenty of chances to go retro with beloved movies this season when theaters across the Tampa Bay area feature live music and even dancers who will accompany beloved movies like Disney’s “Encanto” at the MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheater and 1987 “Dirty Dancing” at the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts.

And if you want to go really old-school, Tampa Theater artist-in-residence Steven Ball is preparing a score on the historic movie house’s Mighty Wurlitzer Theater Organ, a magnificent 1,400-pipe instrument housed at the originally to accompany silent films when the theater opened in 1926.

Related: Tampa Theater Brings Back Summer Classics Film Series

On August 28, Ball will star alongside the 1920 comedy short “One Week and Buster Keaton’s classic silent romantic comedy “The Cameraman.” They will twinkle across the screen as the theater’s gigantic pipe organ plays as it did after the cinema opened.

In the 1920s and 1930s, movie theaters often had an orchestra pit with more than a dozen musicians, Ball said.

“The whole entertainment experience was amplified because when you came to the theater, you didn’t just come to see a movie,” Ball said. “There was a featured photo, but there were also usually live vaudeville acts, a comedy short, and a newsreel. It started at noon and lasted all day and tickets got more expensive around dinner time.

Dancers and a live band will add to the experience of watching the 1987 classic “Dirty Dancing” when the show arrives at the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts in Tampa on November 19. [ Zdenko Hanout ]

The organ evolved as a solution to replace a full orchestra. The organist would have been invisible in the pit or hidden behind walls, Ball said. The idea was to create the illusion that the sound came from the film.

Despite his position as a theater organist, Ball said he preferred the idea of ​​making the musician invisible.

“In my mind, it actually takes you away from the picture. When they’re invisible, it works in concert with the picture,” Ball said. is an entertainment experience and not just the movie.

“I think it’s part of our ever-changing entertainment culture. Previously, going to the symphony was enough. Or seeing a photo was enough. We are moving towards these amplified entertainment experiences where we engage multiple senses.

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Part of the reason for the surge in live cinema shows was the popularity of the live concert version of the Oscar-winning film “La La Land.” The film toured as a live music and concert film, and it was a worldwide hit.

La La Land in Concert was “abundant feast for the eyes and ears, without ever descending into sensory overload,” said one reviews in Billboard when it debuted in 2017. “It was a 3D experience in every way.”

There is also the interaction with the public. Singing will be encouraged when “Encanto: The Sing-Along Film Concert Tour” arrives in Tampa on August 6.

The event will screen the entire award-winning animated film while a live band performs hit songs from the soundtrack, including “We Don’t Talk About Bruno” and Oscar-nominated “Dos Oruguitas.”

Another lively, breathing presentation of a beloved film will be the November 19 screening of Dirty Dancing in Concert. Not only will there be a live band, but dancers will perform some of the iconic dance moves and scenes, creating what the producers call “a vivid, visceral, and entirely new visual experience.”

Steven Ball, 42, poses on stage at the Tampa Theater.  He says the recent trend of live musicians playing along to movies shows how far entertainment has evolved to become "amplified entertainment experiences where we engage multiple senses.
Steven Ball, 42, poses on stage at the Tampa Theater. He says the recent trend of live musicians playing along with movies shows how entertainment has evolved into “amplified entertainment experiences where we engage multiple senses.” [ LAUREN WITTE | Times ]

A full screening of the digitally remastered film will be played as a band and the singers will perform the songs live, in sync with the film. Then there will be an encore night where guests can continue to sing and dance with the band to their favorite songs.

Ball said this trend could also be in response to everything we’re doing streaming and binge-watching these days, especially during the pandemic.

“Entertainment is becoming more and more individualized,” Ball said. “Rather than buying a ticket to a movie theater to enjoy a movie with 500 other people, you’re paying for a stream that you can download to your phone and have a personal experience. The entertainment industry just track where the money is.

In the beginning, the money was in ticket sales. Now it’s in feeds and views. So, by using iconic films combined with a live musical experience, the events succeed in bringing people out of their burrows, he said.

“Using the marketing power of having something very familiar, audiences know they’ll love the movie,” Ball said. “So they might not want to go to a concert, but it has at least one thing that they know they’ll like.”

If you are going to

Encanto: the concert to sing: A band on stage plays the hit songs as the Disney movie plays in full. 7:30 p.m. on August 6 at the MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheater, 4802 US 301 N, Tampa. Tickets cost between $22 and $59 at

Tampa Theater: As part of its Summer Classics series, it will screen Buster Keaton’s “One Week” (1920) and “The Cameraman” (1928). The silent comedies will be accompanied by a live organ performance at 3 p.m. on August 28. $13 at 711 N Franklin St., Tampa. tampatheâ

Dirty Dancing live: A live band, dancers and singers will accompany the digitally remastered film. 8 p.m. Nov. 19 at Carol Morsani Hall at the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts, 1010 N MacInnes Place, Tampa. Tickets cost between $45 and $85 at

“Encanto,” Disney’s hit animated musical, will be turned into a sing-along concert. An onstage band plays the hit songs as the movie plays in full Aug. 6 at the MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheater in Tampa. [ Disney ]