Government

Filmmakers Want an Encore, Not a Curtain Call for Tower Theater

The City of Miami recently terminated Miami Dade College's contract to run the Tower Theater.
The City of Miami recently terminated Miami Dade College's contract to run the Tower Theater. Photo courtesy of Miami Dade College
A group of Miami filmmakers intend to trade their cameras for picket signs in light of the City of Miami's decision to oust Miami Dade College from the historic Tower Theater on Calle Ocho.

Artists who have personal ties to the Tower Theater, a longtime venue for arthouse cinema and local talent, will gather for a "friendly" protest at 11 a.m. on Tuesday, October 4. The demonstration is billed as a "Save the Tower" event, aimed at keeping Miami Dade College (MDC) in charge of the theater, according to a flyer for the demonstration.

"The city wants to take this important landmark away from our community! Signs are encouraged but no profanity," reads the flyer, attached at the end of this article.

New Times reported last week that the City of Miami terminated its management agreement with the college without giving a reason, despite MDC's attempts to renew its lease.

A city spokesperson told New Times that the city would operate the theater once MDC's agreement expires on January 2, 2023. The city owns the historic Little Havana property and has leased it to the college since 2002.

Since last week, local filmmaker Chris Molina's online petition to keep MDC in control of the theater has garnered nearly 6,000 signatures. Molina is one of the organizers of tomorrow's protest, which MDC itself did not take part in planning.

Local director and screenwriter Manny Soto, whose documentary film A New Dawn won the Documentary Achievement Award at the 2021 Miami Film Festival's Audience Awards, says he and others are attending tomorrow's protest to preserve a bastion of independent film in Miami at a time when the list of iconic venues for artistic expression is dwindling.

"We already lost the Coconut Grove Playhouse. If we lose this, then what's next?" Soto tells New Times.

The Tower Theater opened in 1926 and earned a reputation as one of the most state-of-the-art movie venues in the south. In the 1960s, the theater became a cultural hub for Cubans who had settled in Miami and were eager to watch American films. After an extended closing, Miami Dade College reopened the venue's doors in 2002 under a lease with the City of Miami, turning the theater into one of Miami's go-to spots for arthouse cinema.
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Joshua Ceballos is staff writer for Miami New Times. He is a Florida International University alum and a born-and-bred Miami boy.
Contact: Joshua Ceballos

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