By the time the silent airplane epic "Wings" won Best Picture at the first Academy Awards, Tampa Theatre already had been welcoming movie-hungry audiences through its doors for close to three years. That was in 1929.
Seeking to capture the glory days and glamour of Hollywood, the historic downtown theater is rolling out the red carpet Sunday for a live telecast of the 85th annual Academy Awards.
"Oscar Experience: Tampa" is one of only 46 such screenings around the country that are officially sanctioned by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
It starts at 6:30 p.m. with arrivals at the red carpet and a reception in the lobby with food and drink samples. The ABC telecast of the awards show from Los Angeles, hosted by Seth MacFarlane, begins at 8 p.m. on the big screen.
"It's a glitzy event. To have it at a theater like this one, which was built during Hollywood's glory years at the birth of the film industry in the '20s, makes for a great convergence between the excitement of the Oscars and the history and heritage of this building," says John Bell, president and CEO of the Tampa Theatre. "And it's a great way for us to raise money for our artistic and education programs."
For a $30 ticket, guests can take a spin in a limo which drops them off at the red carpet. As they enter under the theater's lit marquee, they'll experience the screams of adoring fans and the flash of the paparazzi as they sign autographs and face an interview with "Roan Jivers."
"Quite honesty, I was in the limo rolling my eyes a little bit the first year I came to it before I worked here," says Kelly Prata, who now coordinates the event for the theater. "But when I stepped out on the red carpet and everyone was applauding, suddenly I couldn't help but smile. I was saying 'Ah, this is so amazing.' You really do feel like a star."
There also will be Oscar-themed games and prizes, as well as free popcorn and drinks during the awards show.
Being officially sanctioned by the academy gives the event a special authenticity, too. All of the guests receive an official Oscars program.
"That means the program you're holding is the exact same one that Julia Roberts is holding in L.A.," Bell said.
Tampa Theatre isn't the only option in town for an Oscar-themed night out. CineBistro at Hyde Park in Tampa, and CineBistro Grove 16 in Wesley Chapel also will be showing the awards ceremony live on the big screen, for audiences age 21 and older.
CineBistro is offering an open bar in the lobby, as well as selections from their full service in-theatre dining menu throughout the awards ceremony. There will be party favors and door prizes, and guests will take home their red carpet photos in customized picture frames.
No matter where you watch the awards ceremony, Bell says the Oscars are an event that's best shared with others.
"Film is the world's most popular art form," he says. "People love going to the movies, and they love having an opinion on which ones are the best. And it's accessible, because everyone gets to have an opinion."
'OSCAR EXPERIENCE: TAMPA'
When: 6:30 p.m. Sunday
Where: Tampa Theatre, 711 N Franklin St., Tampa
Tickets: $30; tampatheatre.org
'HOLLYWOOD'S BIG NIGHT'
When: 6:30 p.m. Sunday
Where: CineBistro, 1609 West Swann Ave., Tampa; and 6333 Wesley Grove Boulevard, Wesley Chapel
Tickets: $25, at the theaters' box offices