Best Independent Theater

Cinema Paradiso

  From the outside, it still looks like a church -- which it was when it was built in 1926. Sixty years after opening, the First Methodist Church was renovated and rechristened the Vinnette Carroll Theatre, an intimate space devoted to showcasing small theatrical productions. In the past two years, with the assistance of Broward County and the Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival, it has undergone another transformation, emerging as a sanctuary for those who worship at the altar of offbeat movies. At first, Cinema Paradiso -- the name is an homage to the Oscar-winning 1988 Italian picture about a small-town theater -- had only occasional screenings. But now the upgraded facility features a full slate of weekly programming. And a recently formed partnership with the independent gay and lesbian newspaper the Express led to showings of such acclaimed gay-themed films as the documentaries The Celluloid Closet and Daddy and Papa. Classic foreign-language titles such as Jacques Tati's Mon Oncle, Akira Kurosawa's Ran, François Truffaut's Day for Night, and Eric Rohmer's My Night at Maud's and Claire's Knee have been resurrected, along with such landmark American movies as Nashville and Raging Bull. The theater, which bills itself as Fort Lauderdale's only nonprofit year-round art house, also schedules monthly screenings of the works of local moviemakers trying to break into the business. And to further its cosmopolitan image, Cinema Paradiso includes a tiny café that serves beer, wine, champagne, and light snacks.
 
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