The Capitol Theatre has been a vital part of Downtown Clearwater since its opening on March 21, 1921 with the motion picture Dinty. The Clearwater News of March 17, 1921 described it as “one of the most beautifully finished playhouses in the South.” Over the next seventy-four years theatergoers were treated to vaudeville stars, war bond rallies, the Miss Florida Pageant, the Clearwater Symphony Orchestra, cinema and the Royalty Theater Company. Saved from demolition in 1995, the Capitol Theatre was close to closing its doors again in 2009 facing foreclosure. The City of Clearwater thankfully purchased the building and entered into a partnership with Ruth Eckerd Hall to manage and operate the facility.
In 2013 the Capitol Theatre underwent a major renovation expanding into the old 1917 Clearwater News building to its west and another building adjacent to the theater. The result of the renovation was expanded seating to 750, including six private loge boxes, multiple concession stands, a larger lobby, an outdoor balcony that wraps around the building overlooking the beautiful Clearwater causeway, a VIP lounge, Frenchy’s rooftop terrace, ADA accessibility and an uncovered Panel of Honor from World War I with the names of Clearwater citizens that served in the war viewable in the lobby area. The Capitol Theatre is a cultural landmark in Downtown Clearwater bringing world class entertainment in the most intimate setting.
In March 2019, Ruth Eckerd Hall announced a $2.5 million gift from Nancy and David Bilheimer as part of the theatre’s ongoing “Expanding the Experience” fundraising campaign. In recognition of the generous donation, the Capitol Theatre in downtown Clearwater is now called The Nancy and David Bilheimer Capitol Theatre.