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An Endangered Architectural Species: South Florida's Historic Movie Palaces

Now that the Oscars are over, let’s take a look back at how people used to watch movies in South Florida: in ornate theaters with lit marquees and plush seats.

These historic movie palaces have become an endangered species in the region.

The Miami Herald’s Howard Cohen grew up watching movies in many of these iconic theaters and writes about them in the Miami Herald.

By the late 1970s, however, the theaters began to split into double, triple and quadruple screens to compete with newly opened multiplexes, such as the Omni 6 in downtime Miami, which opened in 1977, or Movies at the Falls in 1980. The grander palaces could not compete. By the 1990s places like Suniland, Dadeland, the Omni, Rivera, the Plitt Gables on Coral Way, Loew’s 167th Street Twin in North Miami Beach and others disappeared or found new uses.

For example, the Lincoln Theater in Miami Beach is now an H&M department store.

Cohen says the disappearance of these old movie palaces have changed the way films are made. Movies are now made for smaller screens—both in today’s movie theaters and homes.

“Film makers today know that, even though they may not like it, they know the consumption of films is becoming even more common on iPads, and even iPhones on a four-inch screen,” Cohen told WLRN. “So obviously you don’t need a big Lawrence of Arabia sized spectacle on Panavision when it’s being squashed down to a much smaller space even in the theaters we’re seeing these movies in.”

Cohen says if he could pick two movies out of the nine nominated for best picture to see in one of South Florida’s old movie palaces, they would be Life of Pi and Django Unchained.

For Cohen’s full article a lots more photos, visit the Miami Herald’s website

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