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Growing Older In Paradise

As far as history is concerned, Fort Lauderdale hasn't seen too much of it. The city itself is not yet 100 years old - still a baby, relatively speaking - and even then, the historic structures from its salad days number few. It's one of the things that makes Fort Lauderdale's own indie, arthouse theater, Cinema Paradiso, so special: there's a lot of history packed into that building. The structure itself was built in 1947, and was originally the home to the First New Methodist Church of Fort Lauderdale. Over the years it's seen incarnations as the Vinnette Carroll Theatre (named after the Fort Lauderdale actress and playwright who became the first African American woman to direct a Broadway show), a family counseling center, and even a narcotics storage warehouse for the court. And now, this weekend, the building's latest tenants will celebrate a milestone achievement: Cinema Paradiso is turning 10!

That's right, that nifty little movie theater and right arm of the Fort Lauderdale Film Festival will be celebrating 10 years of serving South Florida. And what a momentous 10 they've been. The Broward County Film Society, in conjunction with the Millennium Club and FLIFF (which is turning 24 this year), has continually renovated the historic building, adding a number of amenities, including a covered courtyard, plush stadium seating, and the theater cafe. It's why Paradiso has been able to host so many of Fort Lauderdale's most unique events, from red carpet film premiers to street parties to the weekly shadowcasting of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Hal Axler, the Executive Director of the BCFS, says the theater plans even more renovations in the coming year, including a much-needed overhaul to plumbing, air conditioning, and the green rooms.

Saturday, Paradiso will put on its birthday hat and celebrate with an all-day bash representing the many facets of the building's history. Starting at 11 a.m., the Fort Lauderdale Children's Theatre will perform selections from Dr. Suess' Suessical, followed by a screening of the legendary author's 1953 fantasy flick, The 5000 Fingers of Dr. T, at noon. At 2, Paradiso will showcase its commitment to progressive indie film with a new flick, Everlasting Moments, before kicking off their official anniversary celebration at 4 (with live music and appetizers for all). The day-long par-tay continues with Cinema Paradiso at 6, the Oscar-winning Italian film from which the theater is named, and wraps up with Auteur Explosion at 9, the bad-ass monthly blowout that gives local filmmakers, artists, and musicians a forum to showcase their goods.

You don't have to bring a birthday gift; just come down and toast to 10 more years of history at 503 NE 6th St. in Fort Lauderdale. For admission prices and more information, visit
Sat., April 11, 11 a.m., 2009

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John Linn

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