If you read this June 7 article on problems at Cinema Paradiso, you might be a bit concerned about Fort Lauderdale's arthouse theater. Problems with finances, complaints from former employees, a decrease in membership -- all things that indicate things aren't going well.
If you continued on to the comments field, well then, you might be downright worried the place was headed for trouble. Many of the dozens of comments described a place where CEO Gregory von Hausch has chased out good employees and caters his cinema to just a few friends.
A commenter who called himself Former Employee wrote: "All in all, yes, the theater is great... if you're within 6 years of being 6 feet under, on oxygen or have Alzheimer's. To most anyone under the age of 65, I caution you, as the events which may have held something of worth have long sense been cast into the abyss."
But despite the detailed complaints from many employees and patrons, members of the executive board that oversees Cinema Paradiso apparently aren't willing to acknowledge
That comes from longtime board member Betsy Cameron, the only board member willing to talk. Cameron said she "basically can speak for the board," having heard from many of them, and says the members dismiss the problems as disgruntled former employees and crotchety patrons.
"We are pleased with the way we're going," said Cameron, a Fort Lauderdale attorney and a board member at Cinema Paradiso for two decades. "I think the way things have been stated, well, things have been mischaracterized."
Cameron declined to go into specific allegations of the problems at Cinema Paradiso. She did say that the "finances were fine" and that she saw no problem with CEO von Hausch. Claims of nepotism because he employs his wife in a top position are unfounded, she said.
And Cameron said the board sees nothing wrong with von Hausch's living in North Florida and getting paid by the charity to come to town a couple of times a month. "This is the age of working from various places. He doesn't have to be in one place all the time."
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Cameron was the only board member who returned phone calls from the Pulp. A spokeswoman for the theater, which receives public funding and operates out of a county-owned building, said no other board members would be willing to talk. And after the initial article, von Hausch scheduled an appointment to meet with the Pulp but then canceled.
The board's indifference to the problems is also indifference to the concerns of current and former employees, and many of them can be found in the comment field in that June 7 item. They detail problems with programming, internal fighting among employees, and a CEO who's rarely there to see it. One commenter, Crystal Schwartz, offered the theater an early eulogy: "It's sad to see a place i used to love slowly destroy itself. i feel like someone watching their best friend hang themselves, for the slow death."