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Fighting For Independents

In this era of megaplexes, the Gateway Cinema 4 theater retains a quaint, neighborhood-theater feel. Built in 1951 near the eastern edge of the Victoria Park neighborhood in Fort Lauderdale, it has just one box-office window out front and only four screens inside.

"I'm stopped in the lobby all of the time by people telling me that they came here as a child and now they're bringing in their own kids," says Mitchel Drier, whose family bought the movie house in 1983. Parents may bring children in for the kiddie pictures, but Drier and company are touting Gateway as primarily an art film venue. Consider the recent showings of Orgazmo and Touch of Evil, films definitely not intended for younger audiences.

For years Gateway has been screening foreign and independent films occasionally, as it did in 1994 with The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert and The Madness of King George. "These films were not in wide release," explains Drier. "And we were the only theater in Broward showing them." Sunrise 8 theaters in Sunrise and Shadowood 16 in Boca Raton also show the occasional indie, but seeing such films on a regular basis demands a trip to the Carefree Theatre in West Palm Beach or the Alliance or Bill Cosford cinema in Miami-Dade County.

Drier is changing that. "The resurgence of art film popularity is here to stay," he claims. "And we felt that there are enough quality specialized motion pictures so that we could offer a consistent program."

Drier, whose family has operated theaters in the Northeast for more than 70 years and built the Mercede Cinema 4 in Plantation in 1976, should know an art film trend when he sees one. He has a bachelor of fine arts degree from New York University and a graduate certificate from the American Film Institute in Los Angeles. "I took a good many [film] history classes [at NYU]," he notes.

His historic knowledge no doubt came in handy when picking out Nights of Cabiria, the 1957 Fellini flick screened earlier this month. Gods and Monsters -- the story of the final days of Frankenstein director James Whale -- opened December 18. And this week the theater opens two independent films featuring big-name stars, Little Voice (Michael Caine, Ewan McGregor) and Shakespeare in Love (Gwyneth Paltrow, Geoffrey Rush).

"We will be showing edgier independent films, which likely would not be shown anywhere else," claims Drier. "And we'll be doing it on a regular basis."

-- John Ferri

Gateway Cinema 4, 1820 E. Sunrise Blvd., Fort Lauderdale, is open daily. Tickets cost $4 (before 6 p.m.), $4.75, and $6.25. Call 954-763-7994 or 954-763-7995. See "Showtimes" for the schedule.

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John Ferri

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