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Front Page » Top Stories » Coconut Grove Playhouse May Begin Showing Movies

Coconut Grove Playhouse May Begin Showing Movies

Written by on October 30, 2003

By Susan Stabley
Coconut Grove Playhouse soon may moonlight as a movie house.

The playhouse hopes to get $50,000 from Miami City Commission Chairman Johnny Winton’s district budget to buy a projector, movie screen and other equipment. The plan would need to be approved by the Miami City Commission, said Jason Walker, an aide to Mr. Winton.

"It’s a return to our history," said Coconut Grove Playhouse executive director Laura Calzolari. "In many respects, we are coming back to our roots."

The playhouse was built as a movie theater in 1926 but was damaged later that year by a hurricane, said Ms. Calzolari. It reopened in January 1927 with a showing of D.W. Griffith’s "The Sorrows of Satan."

The playhouse is considered South Florida’s largest not-for-profit theater with an annual budget of about $6.5 million. The budget was trimmed by $500,000 earlier this year because of state cuts in arts funding.

Almost 200,000 patrons visit the playhouse during its November-May season and another 60,000 students are served through education and outreach programs.

Ms. Calzolari said if the plan is approved, some improvements would be needed to bring the building’s projection booth up to code and funding would be needed for marketing but no major alterations to the building would be required. A screen could be placed easily in front of the playhouse stage, she said, allowing movies to be shown during the season on days without stage performances.

"This is the one medium that does not disrupt our sets," said Ms. Calzolari. "We are very excited by it."

Artistic director Arnold Mittelman suggested showing films based on famous theater performances, she said.

"We are a self-producing theater. We go from page to stage," Ms. Calzolari said. "Now we would like to show films from stage to screen."

The playhouse’s next season is scheduled to open Nov. 4 with "The Tale of the Allergist Wife." Shows are scheduled through May 15, but if equipment is in place, movies could continue through the summer, she said.

The playhouse could become a venue for the Miami International Film Festival, said City Commissioner Tomas Regalado, chairman of the Coconut Grove Special Events & Marketing Committee. The commissioner said he supports the proposal.

Ms. Calzolari said the playhouse has had "conversations" with Miami-Dade College, which will be sponsoring the film festival, and organizers of other events.Details: (305) 442-4000,