From the Blue Starlite Drive-in to Shirley's at Gramps, Nayib Estefan's Secret Celluloid Society has been rapidly spreading its gospel of cult films to Miami audiences. Its latest endeavor is the After Hours series at Coral Gables Art Cinema, which features late night screenings of special flick events, from the 40th anniversary showing of Dr. Strangelove, to a fabulous Paris is Burning event that concluded with a voguing contest, to the upcoming 30th anniversary celebration of This is Spinal Tap on December 6.
This Saturday's screening, however, may just take the cake. This showcase of Brian De Palma's rock opera classic Phantom of the Paradise will not only mark 40 years of camp horror glory, but will include a special introduction from Gloria Estefan and a Q&A with -- if rumors are correct -- singer-songwriter Paul Williams, star of the 1974 cult musical.
"Secret Celluloid Cociety is unashamedly a movie cult and Phantom of the Paradise is the definition of a cult movie," Nayib Estefan told New Times. "Not only one of my favorite movies, but one of the best. [It was] light years ahead of its time; it's the most relevant commentary on the music business ever made and it is more popular now than it's ever been."
Filled with allusions to classic cinema and literature, De Palma's Phantom is a twisted take on The Phantom of the Opera: A disfigured composer, Winslow, masked as the Phantom (William Finley) sells his soul to an evil record producer, Swan (Paul Williams), in order to get his love, Phoenix (Jessica Harper).
Notoriously panned during its 1974 debut, Phantom has since become a beloved classic and recently spawned a two-disc special edition DVD set. Dubbing the soundtrack "Saturday Night Fever for freaks," Esquire says Daft Punk consider it their favorite film and consequently plucked Williams for their Grammy-winning last album, Random Access Memories. Another iconic -- and local -- musician also loves Williams' work.
"She has always been a huge fan and inspired by Paul Williams as a songwriter," Estefan says of his mother, Gloria. "When she was in college (before she was married), she went to see Phantom on its original run at a local miami movie theater. She loved the movie and the soundtrack written by Paul Williams so much that one day when her communications teacher asked her to sing a song in class as a project, she chose 'Old Souls,' the ballad from the film."
Estefan says the After Hours series -- named after Martin Scorcese's 1985 film -- is a chance to fulfill a lifelong dream: playing movies in a big room at midnight on Saturdays. In addition to the Gables cinema's projection abilities -- 16 mm, 35mm, and 70mm celluloid films are projected in high resolution DCP for restorations, he says -- everyone involved shares a common love for film. For Halloween time, the cinema and Estefan featured the fully-restored 40th anniversary screening of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
"Our Halloween screening of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre at Gables was incredible," Estefan said. "Two parents brought their 11-year-old daughter and the mom puked in the hallway halfway through the movie. People were screaming out loud; it was really special. The magic of Secret Celluloid Society is that we can visit all of these places together on one long strange trip, man."
Secret Celluloid Society has more film fun coming down the line, of course. Christmas favorites like Gremlins 2, Black Christmas, Trading Places, Eyes Wide Shut, Silent Night, Bloody Night, and Die Hard will make appearances at Shirley's, while Gables Art Cinema will feature Gremlins, "the original Christmas classic," Estefan says.
Locals better catch the epic Phantom screening Saturday if they want to see it on the big screen: It will be the last showing, Estefan says.
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"We are retiring it because we will never be able to top this screening."
After Hours' screening of Phantom of the Paradise starts Saturday, November 22 at 11:30 p.m. at Coral Gables Art Cinema. Advance tickets cost $11.50. Visit gablescinema.com and keep up with upcoming Secret Celluloid screenings and events on their Facebook page.