Film & TV

Nayib Estefan and Gramps Bar Open New Backroom Theater for Screening Cult Classics

The chance for classics and genre flicks to come around Miami are slim, and when we do get lucky, it's usually limited to some of the most overpriced scenarios possible. The thought of being able to step into a pretty cool place, drop less than ten bucks, and watch an awesome (or awfully awesome) rarity -- say Blue Velvet, Tenebrae, Videodrome, Boogie Nights, or The Room -- sounds like a dream come true. Unfortunately for cult film lovers, a dream is exactly what it remained.

But what if we told you that there was now the option to do all that once a week? What is there was a way to both watch that movie and get a drink at a great bar conveniently located within?

"Surely you're crazy," you'd say. "Don't call me Shirley," we'd reply. Then, we'd take you to Shirley's, the new screening room in the back of Gramps.

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Awful Airplane! jokes aside, Shirley's proves to be the perfect place to screen all sorts of movies, especially genre works, to a community of people who'd actually be interested in them. Showing up at the back room of the bar just before a screening of the ridiculous '80s film Mannequin really revealed how choice it was. The Twin Peaks Black-Lodge style creative director Nayib Estefan, who practically masterminded the project with the help of Gramps' owner Adam Gersten, longed for is plenty there.

Having done some screenings beforehand, most notably those at the Blue Starlite Drive-In late last year that kicked off with Brian de Palma's Phantom of the Paradise, Estefan found himself looking for a new place to screen some movies. After a friend of his kept pushing for Gramps, it seemed things were just destined.

"If it wouldn't have been for someone like Adam who had the vision to understand that this needs to happen in Miami, this wouldn't be happening," Estefan says. For him, knowing that there's people out there willing to help support his initiative to unite film lovers through the Secret Celluloid Society is refreshing.

There's no doubt in our mind Estefan is a man truly in love with the films of a bygone time. Tattoos of Alejandro Jodorowsky film art and stories about meeting greats like Dario Argento and John Waters prove there's love for some of the medium's most eclectic auteurs, but the line-up and plans he's got for the future are an amazing show of dedication. A typical night at the theater kicks off with a lengthy pre-show clip of sorts, mixing in all sorts of glitch art, old commercials, and whatever the film of the night's soundtrack will be. In a way, it reminded us of the same atmosphere Alamo Drafthouse provides when they screen their remastered classics. The only difference is that the small locale provides something more intimate than the huge chain would.

"In LA, I had that experience where I got to watch all my favorite movies on the big screen again with a great sound system on 35mm, and it was amazing." While most places in Miami don't have the capabilities to show film reels, hi-def digital screenings are still just as appealing simply because of the friendly atmosphere he's trying to establish. "I did this all for people like us. I want to see if Miami has the kind of audience that LA does. It's done wrong a lot of times -- too stuffy, too square -- not the kind of thing you'd want to go do with all your friends."

Who wouldn't want to go watch something like Rocky Horror Picture Show or Miami Connection with a ton of buddies? Better yet, you have a bar right in the room with you, providing sweet, sweet intoxication for whatever drinking games you might need to get through one of those so-bad-they're-great movies.

Drinks aren't all Shirley's offers. In the short time this has been going on, Estefan has already brought in guests for Q&A sessions. For the April Fools' double-feature screening, writer-director Richard Elfman came in to chat about the just-shown cult classic Forbidden Zone.

With dozens of older films on the slate, and talks of potential guests to come, it's exciting to think of all the possibilities a place like Shirley's holds. Every Wednesday night in May features a movie. Upcoming films include Weekend at Bernie's, Police Academy, Jaws, and Creepshow. If Gersten and Estefan's ambitious ideas unfold as planned, we could be seeing the beginning of a haven for those into all things obscure and cult-like. Grab a bud, bring $8, watch a film and take a shot; it's gonna be a fun ride.

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Juan Antonio Barquin is a Miami-based writer who programs the queer film series Flaming Classics and serves as co-editor of Dim the House Lights. Barquin aspires to be Bridget Jones.