When the Valenti family opened in 1982, The Tampa Pitcher Show was not on the corner of a strip shopping center. It was the only free-standing building that far north on Dale Mabry Highway.
“We were the furthest thing north on Dale Mabry that wasn’t woods,” said Wayne Valenti.
As time passed, a shopping plaza and Carrollwood developed around them.
Wayne's daughter, Karianne Valenti, grew up in the theater and remembered at five years old urging a construction worker to get back to work.
“We were leaving and he was sitting on a stool by the door and I said 'Hurry up.' We want to start our business," she recalled.
Cindy Valenti smiled at her daughter behind the bar on a recent day at the Tampa Pitcher show and added, "And she’s been bossy ever since."
Anyone seeing the trio together can immediately sense that love of family and family-business runs deep.
But what has kept their 260 seat movie theater thriving when dozens of other large cineplexes have struggled and closed around them?
Evolution and the ability to adapt, said Wayne Valenti.
“The original concept was cheap movies and food," Wayne said. "It was a dollar theater originally."
With inflation and a depressed economy, the price has increased. But today’s $8 movie ticket price is still affordable.
“Seven dollars in 31 years is definitely not bad,” Cindy said.
The Tampa Pitcher Show, located at 14416 N. Dale Mabry Highway, has ventured above and beyond the description of a standard movie theater, considering themselves today more of an “open venue.”
Though they still play new movies, offer an expanded and upgraded menu and full bar in a non-smoking venue, they also offer their location as a place for live entertainment, business functions, private parties and smaller charity fundraisers.
“A lot of small and medium businesses are utilizing us for meetings, group functions, and breakfasts,” Karianne said. “We have a digital projector that they can run slideshows and we have full audio-visual, sound.”
The Tampa Pitcher Show also routinely serves as a bizarre for local artists, a friendly place for musicians to play and comedians to perform.
Karianne said that they were filling a niche for medium size independent films as well.
“They can film here. They can screen here. They can do everything in one-stop,” said Wayne. “We do a lot of premieres for independent films. We joined up with Florida Film Network. We’ve done independent film festivals for four years.”
The theater has also become a favorite for cult-classic lovers by featuring shadow-cast of popular movies like the Rocky Horror Picture Show, Clue, and most recently, The Princess Bride at select times throughout the year.
Several smaller charities have teamed up with The Tampa Pitcher Show to use its following to raise money.
“When you put the smaller charities and our little events together, it’s magic. The business for us is awesome, the performers are getting a stage and a new audience of people who are coming for the charity,” said Karianne. “The charity people are having an awesome time because half of them have driven past and never been here before.”
Karianne said it’s been so successful that they are going to send a letter introducing the Tampa Pitcher Show to the smaller charities “because it’s just a perfect fit.”
Last month, The Women’s Club of Tampa Bay raised $1,200 by partnering with a shadow-casted show at the theater.
“Overall, we bring a little taste of what Ybor has offer to Carrollwood,” said Karianne. “What I like best about us is we are able to be something for everybody. You can come here and be a star for a night. We need to stay open for the community because where would all these creative people go? ”
“And,” Cindy added, “If I wasn’t for the community, we would not be here. We’ve outlasted the cineplexes. We are proof that the ‘little guy’ can persevere.”