The Milane Theater 1928

Ritz Theater Launches 100th Anniversary Season

Beginning in July, the Ritz Theater at the Wayne Densch Performing Arts Center will begin a year-long celebration marking its 100th Anniversary of entertaining the community.

“In a country less than 300 years old, celebrating a centennial milestone is quite the achievement. The Ritz Theater has seen her hometown of Sanford, FL, grow and change immensely in her time. No matter what decade, the passion of providing the community with arts and entertainment has stood the test of time,” says Ritz Theater Board President Christina Hollerbach. She adds, “I believe that your community should have a sense of place, and what better place than the heart of a performer on a stage. Art creates community and a sense of belonging and I am honored that we will continue to carry the Ritz into another 100 years of dedication to that mission.”

The Ritz invites the community to join the kick off season performance with Orlando Big Band featuring a patriotic concert celebrating America on Saturday, July 2 at 7:30PM.

The 100th Anniversary season will showcase a variety of highly popular entertainment including tributes to Michael Jackson (7/23/22), Linda Ronstadt (8/13/22), and the Rolling Stones (4/1/23) and the extremely popular theatrical productions Grease the Musical (10/7/22) and Murder on the Orient Express (3/10/23). The Ritz will also be presenting free family movie days the first being Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (9/23/22), a formal fundraising Gala in January, a history timeline display in partnership with the Sanford History Museum, an oral history project of Theater memories, and a public art project.

“Now is a great time to be a part of local history by helping this amazing downtown historic gem thrive for another century with a gift of support,” says Theater marketing director Sheryl Brown. A Centennial Donation campaign has been set up to receive support from the community starting at $5 up to a level that’s right for the individual patron.

Find out more details of this 100th Anniversary season, including how you can give a gift of support, on our newly designed website at Tickets for all shows are now available online along with season passes and memberships, which offer discounts and benefits to participants. You may also call the box office at 407-321-8111.


The building was completed in July 1923, as Sanford’s Milane Theater with seating for 823 patrons, contained a four-story fly, and included a proscenium arch and orchestra pit.  Live dramas and movies were well-attended.

In 1933, the theater was sold to Lake Mary investors Frank and Stella Evans. The Evans changed the name from Milane to The Ritz in 1936. The Evans heirs held the property until the 1990s. The Ritz struggled to retain its viability in the 1960s and closed in 1978, after failing to compete with the new multiplex theaters.

The Theater’s Board renamed the theater the Helen Stairs Theater for the Performing Arts in honor of Helen Stairs who lead the restoration effort. The newly restored Theater was dedicated to the community during the grand re-opening gala, May 6, 2000.

In 2008, funds were raised to complete additional renovations and updating of the theater. At this time the name became the Wayne Densch Performing Arts Center, in recognition of the contributors of the Wayne Densch Charitable Trust, commitment to the community.

In 2015, a fund-raising project was begun to fund several capital improvements, critical infrastructure maintenance, and renovations, a complete re-painting of the theater inside and out featuring an Art Deco design on the interior walls, major upgrade to the marquee paying tribute to the 1930s design.

In 2021, the theater officially changed its name to Ritz Theater along with its brand. “The new look and feel honors the past and celebrates the engaging and inspirational entertainment of today,” says theater Marketing Director Sheryl Brown.

Oral History Project

We invite members of the community to share their personal recollections and experiences about visiting the Ritz Theater to be included in our Ritz Theater Oral History Project. Whether you grew up watching films here, were inspired by a musical program, have a special memory, or maybe our theater was the first time you were on stage, we’d love for you to tell us all about it. Stories are being collected all year to be included in a 100-year memories book.

Information on the Theater’s history, oral history project, support opportunities, and more are available at

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