1251 Washington Avenue,
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Architects: Thomas White Lamb
Styles: Art Deco
Previous Names: French Casino
This nifty theatre which was built in 1934 begin life as a nightclub and later converted to motion pictures on November 17, 1937 when it was renamed Cinema Casino with the World Premiere of “Voice of India” plus vaudeville on the stage. It was run by Paramount Pictures Inc. through their subsidiary S.A. Lynch. Later operated by the Florida State Theatres chain. The rear lobby (which was surrounded by a large mural) had comfortable chairs and sofas to sit in while waiting for the show to begin. Much of the auditorium was decorated in reds.
In the 1950’s the theatre played double features, even second run or B first run (e.g. “Andy Hardy Comes Home”, “Bride of the Gorilla”.) For a while it became a $1 theatre mostly running double feature MGM 1950’s film. Eventually the theatre changed hands several times. I believe Brandt ran it for a while. It became a revival house for a while but was not successful and that area of South Beach had declined badly and the theatre shuttered in 1977.
Incredibly, the owners decided to demolish the lobby (even though preserverationists tried to stop this) and convert it into three plain wrap stores. The stores were never rented. In 1983 the preservervationists stepped in and the stores were ripped out and efforts were made to restore the lobby to original grandeur. In 1983 it again became a nightclub but has changed hands many times.
As a child this became one of my favorite Miami Beach movie theatres, along with the fabulous Carib Theatre and Beach Theatre on Lincoln Road in Miami Beach.
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