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Tour of Sanford Florida
Item 4 of 7

The Milane Theater opened as a "silent movie house" in August of 1923

  • Picture of this location now, after the renovations.
  • Picture of the theater when it was the Ritz Theater in the mid 1990s.
  • Picture of this location now, after the renovations.
  • Picture of the theater when it was the Ritz Theater in the mid 1990s.

The Wayne Densch Performing Arts Center, formally knows as the Milano was built in the July of 1923 and seated 823 people. This theater was originally built over another theater that had been abandoned before its time. In 1933, the theater was sold to a couple, Frank and Stella Evans, investors who were originally from Lake Mary, Florida. They then renamed the theater to The Ritz Theater and was open until the 1978, its closing was due to financial issues that began in the 1960s and also due to the new multiplex theaters they had in place. This property continued to fail and reopen until the mid-1990s, The Ritz Community Theater Projects Inc. rehabilitated it when it was decaying. In 2000, it reopened once again as the Helen Stairs Theater, in honor on Helen Stairs who took part in the restoration process. The next year the theater was placed on the National Register of Historical Places, and was renamed again after all the renovations were complete to The Wayne Densch Performing Arts Center in 2008. 



The historical site called Wayne Densch Performing Arts Center, is located on 201 Magnolia Ave in Sanford, Florida, zip code 32771. The theater itself has gone through many reconstructions since the 1920’s being renamed many times ranging from The Ritz and Helen Stairs Theater, and being among one of the few silent movie theaters located in central Florida. The theatre is constructed of brick, hollow tile, stucco, and the high multi-level roof was built to accommodate the lifting of stage backdrops. The theater was built in 1922 by Frank Miller and Edward Lane who combined their name to form the Milane Amusement Company. The significant of this establishment was based around gaining attraction and amusement for tourist and residents alike. The tourist boom during the 1920’s had a huge helping hand in shaping central Florida. There were many out of state families and investors who came to Florida for either vacation or looking for way to make money off the real-estate bubble that would soon pop and lead to the great depression.

            The Wayne Dench Theater has held continues events with more to come, in 2012 there was a “film festival which drew more than 1,500 attendees in February, double the first year’s attendance. The non-profit Love Your Shorts Festival features everything from documentaries to comedies, each less than thirty minutes long” ( Jackson, Jerry) The Love Your Shorts Film Festival is not only a recurring event but in February of 2016 the event “ showcase sixty-one different short films from seventeen counties around the world. The films were be separated into different blocks by categories such as animation, documentary, comedy, drama, and Florida flavor, Two UCF student films were be featured in the Florida Flavor Block.” (UCF) I feel that the Wayne Densch Performing Arts Center plays a important historical role in Sanford, Florida it brings many families together ranging from all ages and different backgrounds and gives the community the feeling of going back in time and get a taste of how things where in the 1920’s.

        The Wayne Densch Performing Arts Center has held a very successful fund-raising project which lead to several improvements ranging from the interior to the exterior. “These projects included a complete the re-painting of the theater, major upgrades to the marquee which was replaced with all high usage lighting with LED technology light and the installation of the RITZ Theater sign as it looked back in the 1920’s. Fund raiser raised from individual patron donations, The City of Sanford’s Community Redevelopment Agency and The Wayne Densch Charitable Trust.” (WDPAC) The Arts Center is sponsor by four big companies I central Florida which include Seminole County Florida’s Natural Choice, Untied Arts of Central Florida, Wayne Densch Charites Inc. and Seminole Cultural Arts and council. This remarkable landmark will be around for a long time to come and image the smiles and excitement that Wayne Densch Performing Arts upon the many families that have attended and the many smiles families that will soon come.


  1. Jackson, Jerry. “Film Festival.” Florida Trend May 2012: 29. General OneFile. Web. 18 Nov. 2016.

  2. “UCF to host workshops at short film festival.” UWIRE Text 18 Nov. 2016 Design Naked.
  3. Theater History” The Wayne Densch Performing Arts Center. The Wayne Densch Performing Arts Center is a 501(c) (3) non-profit organization. 2016. Web. 18 Nov. 2016