The Coral Gables Art Cinema opened in 2010 and has been a staple in the South Florida community ever since. But with rising demand and high operating costs, the non-profit cinema’s owners have decided it is time to make a change.
In the years since its opening, the cinema has outgrown its single screen location and realized its need to expand to further provide entertainment and serve the community. Brenda Moe, the executive director of the cinema, says that on top of demand, a second screen will ease the financial burden of renting films for screenings.
“We realized several years ago that we needed more than one screen. We’d go to the distributor and they’d tell us you have to pay us 63 cents of every dollar, which is quite a lot, especially when we can only show no other movies for multiple weeks,” Moe said.
The cinema regularly screens American independent and international features. It hosts programs including sensory friendly screenings for people with Autism Spectrum Disorder and “Unwind” screenings for children with incarcerated families, homeless women and children and youth who live below the federal poverty line.
In addition to the new screen, the cinema will feature a wide range of new accommodations for viewers excited to hit the theaters again after over a year of social distancing due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The expansion into 240 Aragon Ave will feature a large modern lobby, a cafe featuring local specialties, a 90-seat deluxe auditorium and additional offices, according to the cinema’s website.
The new space is expected to increase annual attendance from 50,000 to 80,000 total viewers and boost income by $3 million.
While the theater’s late night screenings of cult classic movies, the cinema is screening Stanley Kubrick’s classic “A Clockwork Orange” this Saturday night, and buy one get one (discounted) specials for beer and wine may be appealing to students, the cinema also offers unique service and career opportunities for University of Miami students.
“UM students are welcomed here, and there are great professional opportunities,” Moe said. “It’s easy to get involved because we’re a community organization, not a corporation like other theaters. We have internships and volunteer opportunities in marketing, communications and fundraising, which also get you into the movies for free.”
Bella Clark, a sophomore majoring in motion pictures production and a member of UM’s cinematic arts fraternity Delta Kappa Alpha, says she is excited to see the expansion and continue learning about film the best way she knows how: watching movies.
“Especially for people who aren’t film majors, I think it’s important for everyone to have a place to learn about film,” Clark said.
UM’s DKA chapter often brings groups of students together to attend screenings at the Gables cinema with their peers.
“DKA does group outings to the cinema which creates a place for us off campus to get to know each other better in a not so formal get together where we can just enjoy a movie together,” Clark continued.
April Dobbins, a UM alumna who has served as UM’s Director of Prestigious Awards and Fellowships in the Office of Academic Enhancement since 2015, was recently hired as the new director of programming at the Gables Cinema, a role that involves choosing the movies to be screened at the cinema. Dobbins says that she and Moe have similar goals for the cinema.
“We both want to make the spaces that we inhabit accessible, it’s something that we are both super passionate about,” Dobbins said. “We both see this sort of limitless potential for this space, and also, there are a lot of bridges that we can make to community organizations and even to the University of Miami,” Dobbins continued.
As the director of programming, Dobbins says she hopes to curate programming that will allow for the cinema to further connect with UM students and build bridges between students and the local community.
“UM has all of these great cultural events, so part of me is asking, ‘How do we connect this to programming at the cinema?’” Dobbins said. “Because the cinema is in the heart of Coral Gables, so I think there’s a way we can connect the student community with Coral Gables residents and build up those relationships,” she continued.
Those interested in catching a movie at the Coral Gables Art Cinema, volunteering or providing a donation towards the expansion project can visit their website at gablescinema.com, where the full screening schedule as well as details on how to support the cinema can be found.