O Cinema, the art-house movie theater responsible for bringing grindhouse horror, obscure documentaries and locally produced flicks to South Florida audiences, is taking over the 66-year-old Miami Theater Center in Miami Shores. But lovers of traditional films need not be scandalized; owner Kareem Tabsch says the Miami Shores venue will screen family-friendly reels, starting with the 1940s musical "Blue Skies" on Saturday.
When Fred Astaire and Joan Caulfield hit the screen on opening night, it will be the first time in roughly two decades that the MTC will be used for what it was built: movie-showing. The venue opened in 1946, then called Paramount Movies, and "Blue Skies" was the first film shown there.
But after demand for old-school classics dropped, and single-screen movie theaters lost popularity, the Paramount went through countless reinventions that led it to become a "questionable-subject movie theater," Tabsch says. Miami Shores council members placed a ban on movie theaters to drive out the smutty content and the kind of crowds attracted to the small North Dade village.
In November 2011, Jesse Walters of the Miami Shores Chamber of Commerce helped lift the ban. Tabsch's new theater, O Cinema Miami Shores at the Miami Theater Center, will share the venue with the theater company previously known as the PlayGround Theatre, which puts on shows for children at MTC.
The programming at O Cinema Miami Shores will include animated films, live simulcasts of European ballet and opera, foreign-language narratives and classics from Hollywood's golden era. Still, the Wynwood location will have its grime and indie docs.
"That's not going anywhere," Tabsch says. "It's gonna reach new heights of awesome ridiculousness in Wynwood. [The new theater] is just allowing us to bring more types of films."
Saturday also marks the Village of Miami Shores' 80th anniversary, so a block party and street fair will lead up to the inaugural screening at 7 p.m. Although his new project aims to capture a less-edgy crowd, Tabsch isn't worried O Cinema Miami Shores will negatively affect the image of the Wynwood location.
"There's no reason you can't love both grindhouse and sweeping epics," he says. "I say that because I love blood and guts... but also love 'Casablanca'."
O Cinema Miami Shores at the Miami Theater Center, 9806 NE Second Ave., Miami Shores, screens "Blue Skies" at 7 p.m. Saturday. $10.50, $5 for children 12 and younger at O-Cinema.org.