The evolution of 35mm showings in Miami has been fascinating, and no one has brought it all out to the population better than Secret Celluloid Society (SCS). Nearly two years after Nayib Estefan launched the midnight movie revival with Shirley’s at Gramps, and a year after he made the move to Coral Gables Art Cinema, he’s on the move again.
Secret Celluloid Society is hitting the beach.
“We’re moving to O Cinema Miami Beach!” Nayib yells over the microphone at this weekend’s midnight screening of Back to the Future. It was a night that not only featured the film on 35mm but also had the popular Universal Studios Orlando ride videos as a preshow on the big screen. Two of O Cinema’s employees even showed up dressed as Marty McFly.
Estefan says the mood will shift now that they have more than double the seats and a ton of room to play with. "Lo bueno de la vida es que cambia. Si no estas cambiando, estas muerto," Nayib quips about change. (The idiom translates to "The good thing about life is that it changes; if you're not changing, then you're dead.")
"Moving to O Cinema is a change that needed to happen. My dream has always been to be in an old theater with 35mm capabilities and a huge vintage marquee outside, and in Miami Beach of all places! We all need to be in the room at the same time for what is to come. I wouldn't want anybody to miss how insane this is going to get."
Modesty overtakes him when anyone tries to coax a quote of self-praise out of him, but Estefan does everything to make his events go right: putting Ryan Gosling “Hey Girl” memes on the screen before The Notebook; ensuring that his programs always have some semblance of cohesion; curating playlists that are thematically appropriate; and always making audiences feel like they’re part of what matters.
"The new era of film is finally upon us in Miami, and it seems, as I always hoped, that the way forward is to go backwards," he says, optimistic about the change and conscious of what lies in the distance.
"Technology has failed us in certain aspects, and the artistry of film projection took very long to develop for a reason," he continues. "It's easy to get lured in by the convenience of modern digital technology... In some cases, it's necessary, but we have to try to keep the magic alive. People love VHS, vinyl, cassettes, and film for a reason: It feels right."
At O Cinema, everyone seems happy about the change, and the gang at the theater is excited about the new collaboration. Kareem Tabsch, cofounder and codirector of the theater, says he has been looking forward to this partnership for a long time.
“When Nayib first moved back to Miami, my codirector Vivian Marthell and I met with him and instantly got along. His love of film was joyously infectious and mirrored our own,” Tabsch explains. “We admired his taste and his passion, and he, in turn, liked what we were doing at O Cinema. We tried finding a way to collaborate, but it just didn’t come to pass then. This opportunity seems to be the perfect time and place to finally make the partnership able to flourish.”
Tabsch adds that above their mutual love of film, SCS and O Cinema will be a harmonious partnership because they share a similar vision. “At O, we describe ourselves as a no-frills place for film lovers. Our laid-back and friendly ethos is an integral part of what we do, and the easygoing and good-natured vibe that SCS has created and the warm and genuine community it has cultivated is very much in line with our attitude."
Kevin Bosch, associate director and programmer at O Cinema, has participated in a few SCS screenings at Gables Cinema, so he's totally prepared to amp up the festivities.
"To me, Secret Celluloid at O Cinema is a no-brainer,” Bosch says. “We've always been about creating added value to enhance the communal moviegoing experience — especially when it comes to rewatching old movies we know and love. Nayib's popular revival of retro films on 35mm fits right in with that mission. I look forward to O Cinema helping him further unleash his inner P.T. Barnum [showman]."
The first three screenings of their O Cinema Miami Beach stint were revealed by the Miami Herald last Friday — The Matrix April 9, Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory April 16, and Natural Born Killers April 23 — but Tabsch and Estefan expanded the lineup announcement exclusively for New Times.
The first month closes out with Nicolas Roeg’s The Witches April 30 before launching into what seems like full-fledged insanity - with a dose of queerness - in May.
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Mommie Dearest May 7
Bram Stoker’s Dracula May 14
Creepshow May 21
- Demons May 28
Secret Celluloid Society at O Cinema Miami Beach
Tickets to the 35mm screenings cost $10 for general admission and $7.50 for O Cinema members.
Follow Juan Barquin on Twitter.