They served flan. As far as we know, no other theater in Miami, let alone many Cuban restaurants, offers flan. And it was good flan, too. That's one of the many positive things people will say after the Absinthe House Cinematheque shuts off its immense 1939 Supersimplex projector for the last time at midnight on March 31, 2000. Granted it may be a little premature to cry into our rich, eggy dessert. We are here to praise the Absinthe House, not to bury it -- at least not just yet. On Saturday many cineastes also will gather at the Absinthe to offer kudos when the theater celebrates its first and last anniversary with a party. Co-owners Johnny Calderin and Cesar Hernandez-Canton promise wine, cheese, memories, and Francois Girard's intricate film The Red Violin.

Already the flan, a quirky highlight of many receptions the theater has hosted in the year of its existence, seems a relic of the past. But the Absinthe is still kicking for at least nine more months. At that time, when its lease runs out, instead of enduring what is guaranteed to be an astronomical rent increase, Calderin and Hernandez-Canton have plans to pick up what's not nailed down and move the Absinthe elsewhere. About the huge projector, Calderin jokes: "I'm going to put it in my room." Surely a temporary scheme because, as they say, they're still scouting locations.

Known for its inviting atmosphere (the cozy lobby features primary-color walls, low lighting, and comfy couches; no sluggish nacho-peddling kids in uniforms, thank you) and its discerning selection of films, the Absinthe has had a good run. The 192-seat movie house opened with the Norwegian director Pol Sletaune's black comedy Junk Mail. So they didn't get to show Star Wars: Episode I -- The Phantom Menace. Leave that to the impersonal multiplexes. But fine flicks such as La Dolce Vita, Nights of Cabiria, Elizabeth, Gods and Monsters, and Central Station drew crowds. A Midsummer Night's Dream may have been a mistake, though. And some of us, ahem, are still patiently waiting for long-promised blaxploitation classics Cleopatra Jones, Superfly, Shaft, and Dolemite.

Much like a movie with multiple sequels (or prequels), the Absinthe owners vow to keep on coming back. The future holds films from China, Spain, a two-week Fellini retrospective, and eventually "a bigger, better place" according to Calderin. Who knows, maybe one day the illustrious flan might make a cameo appearance as well. "It's the best flan in Miami -- really," Calderin assures. The theater and the movies aren't too bad either.

-- Nina Korman

Absinthe House Cinematheque, 235 Alcazar Ave, Coral Gables, celebrates its first and last anniversary at 9:30 p.m. Saturday, July 3. Admission to the party is free; the film costs $7. Call 305-446-7144.

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Nina Korman
Contact: Nina Korman