Arts & Culture

Polk Theatre

Watch a movie, Broadway performance, or listen to a live concert at this historic vaudeville/movie palace where The King, Elvis Presley, once played, and stars twinkle overhead.

The Polk Theatre: It’s not Ordinary, it’s Extraordinary

Upon approaching the Polk Theatre, it seems fairly standard, aside from its iconic marquee sign that has made its way onto the Instagram feeds and Pinterest boards of the masses. But the moment you walk into the theatre from the bustling streets of downtown Lakeland, you’ll understand just how Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz felt the moment she uttered, “Toto, I've a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore.” That’s because the Polk Theatre isn’t your standard theatre.

“Italian-born architect, J.E. Casale, designed the Polk Theatre to be a 2,000+ seat vaudeville/movie palace, which mimicked a Mediterranean village,” according to “The stage is flanked by Italianate walls with niches, sconces, and even faux balconies and windows. An ornately tiled staircase leads to the mezzanine lobby, where towering columns, intricate cornice and molding work, and brass banded terrazzo floors awe patrons.”

Historic Polk Theatre
Historic Polk Theatre

The breathtaking splendor of Casale’s architecture resides under one of the theatre’s most fascinating design aspects: a deep blue ceiling full of twinkling stars, which can also be lit to simulate a sunrise/sunset. Even when you visit the theatre in broad daylight, it can difficult to convince your mind that you aren’t experience an evening in Italy – trust us, it’s that beautiful.

Fit for “The” King

On August 6, 1956, Elvis Presley performed at the Polk Theatre for hordes of young fans. Reports reveal that patrons began lining up for his three scheduled evening performances as early as 9 a.m., and that one female fan even fainted from the heat! Elvis apparently put on quite the show for his dedicated fans.

“The singing did not seem to be what the teen-agers particularly were interested in, for every time the sultry side-burned singer would bump his hip, the frenzy would mount.”

— Elvalee Donaldson of the Lakeland Ledger

While there are no remnants of his entertaining performance, Presley did leave behind his signature on the wall of the theatre’s third floor dressing room. The signature has since been removed from the wall to avoid water damage from a flood, but is now framed and will soon be displayed in the theatre once again.

Current Events and Movies

You too can experience this unique venue every weekend when the Polk Theatre hosts film showings, Friday - Sunday. Enjoy independent films, classic films, foreign films and timeless films for the entire family. Be sure to check their Calendar of Events when you're in town. Tickets range from $4.00 - $7.00, and beer and wine are sold at the concession stand.

Address / Location

121 S Florida Ave
Lakeland, FL 33801
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Contact Info

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Hours of Operation

Showtimes & Events Visit their website.


5 Star Rating

This theatre was built in the 1920's and has been kept in it's original historic style. It hosts a number of events throughout the year, from dinner and movies on the weekends, to Rocky Horror... Read Full Review

5 Star Rating

The Polk Theater is an "atmospheric" built in the early 1920s that has been lovingly restored to it's original glory complete with clouds at dusk giving way to stars in the night sky soaring above... Read Full Review

5 Star Rating

A friend and I went to the Polk Theater to see Gone With the Wind and thoroughly enjoyed it. The theater which was built in the 1920s is well-maintained. We were surprised to be treated to a live... Read Full Review

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