The Forgotten Movie Screens of Broward County

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cinemasquare

University Cinema 4

This four-screen theater, in a small strip shopping center at the corner of Pines Boulevard and University Drive, was where Mom and Dad took us to see Kramer vs. Kramer one night during Christmas vacation in 1979. Our family had just moved to Broward County the month before.

We drove down University from our town house in Davie, passing orange groves and cow pastures. In the dark we couldn’t see any cows or the creatures Mom called their mascots, the ducks who would sit on their backs.

Soon after the scene where Dustin Hoffman throws the little boy’s French toast into the garbage, Edward got up and went out of the theater. We assumed he was going to the bathroom, but when he didn’t come back, we started getting worried.

Finally Dad went out to look for Edward, but he wasn’t in the men’s room or at the candy counter or in the tacky little lobby. Eventually Dad found Edward watching Steven Spielberg’s 1941 on another screen.

Later I’d think that as young as he was, Edward knew that something was up between Mom and Dad. He didn’t want to see a movie about divorce. It was easier for him to watch something from the past.

The University Cinema 4 was torn down in 1994 and replaced by a warehouse and storage complex.

Lakes Mall Cinema

A year later we all went to see Coal Miner’s Daughter at this six-screen theater at the Lakes Mall at the corner of U.S. 441 and Oakland Park Boulevard.

Before that we’d had dinner at Pumpernick’s in Hallandale and then went to the Greyhound track. Rachel thought the way they treated the dogs was cruel, so we left after a few races even though Dad had picked two winners.

Maybe that’s why he seemed annoyed as we aimlessly drove up 441, through Hollywood, Plantation, and Lauderhill. In the back seat, we all noted that Mom and Dad had spoken to us, but not to each other, all night.

When Edward saw the theater marquee, he nagged so much that Dad made a sudden illegal U-turn and lurched the station wagon into the mall parking lot.

We had to wait almost an hour for the next show. After we got our tickets, Edward and Rachel and I walked around the mall, Rachel holding Edward’s hand, till we joined Mom and Dad on line at the theater.

They had been talking about something while we were gone.

Even though none of us were country music fans, we agreed afterwards that Coal Miner’s Daughter was a great film.

It was the last movie we saw as a family.

The Lakes Mall got decrepit and finally closed, replaced by some low-rent big box stores.

Last year the Magic Johnson Development Company opened one of the Starbucks stores they put in African-American neighborhoods across from where the theater was.

Dale and I go there on Sunday mornings to sit on their patio, drink overpriced coffee, and read the Sun-Sentinel.

Broward Mall 4

This four-screen theater, which was 14,000 square feet on 3.6 acres, opened in 1978, the same year as the Broward Mall across the street from it.

It was the movie theater I went to the most. It was where I saw Pretty in Pink and Making Love and The Last Emperor.

victorvictoria

Original art for The Rumpus by Mikayla Butchart

Sean and I saw Victor/Victoria here at a Saturday matinee on a rainy weekend around the time we were graduating Nova High.

While Julie Andrews was singing a sentimental song, Sean’s hand reached for mine. It was the first time I ever held hands with a guy and I felt a little paranoid about someone seeing us, like the black twins from school who worked as ushers there.

But I wasn’t paranoid enough to let go. In a couple of months Sean would be heading for Tallahassee and I’d be going to Gainesville.

We made plans to see each other a lot, but once freshman year started somehow we were busy every weekend till November, when I saw him at the Gators/Seminoles game. By then it was too late.

Three months after that, Grandpa Dave died and Grandma Sarah came down from New York to stay with Dad at his condo. During spring break, I took Grandma to the Broward Mall 4 to see The Outsiders.

Because Grandma had been taking care of Grandpa all those years he’d been sick, she hadn’t been to a movie in years. So I guess it was sort of selfish to make Grandma see something I wanted to see, but she ended up liking The Outsiders.

Over cheesecake at Danny’s afterwards, she asked me about the young actors in it and if I thought they were handsome.

In 1991, after business at the Broward Mall 4 had been bad for years, new owners came in and turned it into an art movie house. But nine months later, Hurricane Andrew struck and the storm damaged the building. The movie chain that leased the theater decided to close rather than make repairs.

The last film I saw here was Mississippi Masala.

A plan for the city of Plantation to buy this property for an art museum fell through, and today it’s just another strip shopping center with a parking lot.

Art Towne Twin

This tiny theater, in the back of a little enclosed shopping center on Broward Boulevard at NW 65th Avenue, opened in 1984 and closed three years later. It showed foreign films and art films.

At home on vacations from UF and then that year I lived with Dad and basically did nothing, I went here by myself to see Fred and Ginger, Sid and Nancy, and My Beautiful Laundrette (twice).

The same kid who sold you tickets also took the tickets from you, and later he’d be running the little candy counter. I felt so bad for him that I bought their overpriced popcorn and Coke.

I saw The Official Story and Tampopo here with Edward, who was the youngest person in the audience-not that there ever were that many people.

I think watching so many foreign films is partly what made Edward decide to go to Israel when he got old enough. That and what happened to our family.

Rachel and her boyfriend took me to the Art Towne Twin on my birthday to see The Dead.

The little mall burned down in 1996. They said the owners didn’t want to put in a sprinkler system because they thought it cost too much.

A giant Publix supermarket stands on this spot today.

Inverrary Five

It seemed as if every time I would go to this Lauderhill theater, I’d meet one of my great-aunts or great-uncles who had condos nearby. On Oakland Park Boulevard in a little strip shopping center, the Inverrary Five drew mostly senior citizens.

Sean and I saw the last movie we ever saw together here, at the end of a day that we’d spent mostly in bed. At Poltergeist he grabbed my hand only at the scary parts and he didn’t hold on long. Mom’s Aunt Rose and Uncle Manny were three rows in front of us.

When the Inverrary Five closed on Christmas Eve in 1993, Rachel said she was surprised it had ever made money because ninety percent of the theatergoers received senior discounts.

By then all of Mom’s aunts and uncles were gone. Grandma Sarah had died the month before in a nursing home.

Sometime in 1995, this theater reopened, and the new owners tried to make a go of it by programming black-oriented films such as Ride for the blue-collar African-Americans who lived south of the theater and films such as Odd Couple II for the surviving seniors who lived to the north.

You could see the staff worked hard, scrambling to clean the theaters as soon as the audience left. Ushers escorted people to their seats with flashlights, a good thing with such an elderly clientele. They charged only five dollars for full-price admission at night.

Rachel and her husband didn’t live that far away, but they said they never would consider going to a movie here.

“It’s a dinosaur,” Rachel said a few weeks before it closed for the last time.

Pembroke Pines 8

I can’t remember when this theater opened. It was on Pines Boulevard west of Flamingo Road, long before the Pembroke Lakes mega-mall and various power centers made this the worst intersection for traffic accidents in the state of Florida.

By 1987, I didn’t go to many movies with Dad, but just before I moved out of his condo because his girlfriend got on my nerves too much, we went here-him, Mireya, and me-to see Platoon.

I was always told that Mom and Dad put me in a stroller when they went on antiwar marches during Vietnam. I think I remember this one rally when I was about eight years old. Edward was the kid in the stroller by then.

Outside the theater after the show, we noticed a group of Vietnam veterans, some of whom I recognized from the army/navy store where I worked. They were huddled together like members of a football team, crying and hugging each other. Dad said they probably all had their post-traumatic stress disorder triggered by the movie.

About five years later, Dale and I saw Malcolm X at this theater. I thought he would like it better than he did, but Dale said that growing up in St. Kitts, he paid more attention to music and cricket than to African-American history.

Malcolm X was too long, Dale said, and anyway, he preferred comedies. To Dale, Spike Lee went downhill after She’s Gotta Have It, which he found very funny.

The last movie I saw here was Planes, Trains and Automobiles. I was very surprised when they closed this theater in September 2000 because it had seemed so new.

Coral Springs Mall 4 and Coral Springs Triplex

When we first moved to Broward, the Coral Springs Mall was the place to go when we used to drive all the way north up University Drive. But by the mid-1980s, it was overshadowed by the larger regional mall at Coral Square.

On our second date, Dale and I saw Peggy Sue Got Married at the four-screen theater inside this mall. He told me afterwards he couldn’t relate to straight white people’s love stories. I told him I didn’t think Peggy Sue Got Married was a love story, unless a person could be in love with the past.

Eventually moviegoers didn’t want to walk past all those depressing empty stores. The Coral Springs Mall 4 seemed tacky and cheap and was always playing pictures like Ernest Goes to Camp and Creepshow II.

In the early 1990s, after her fiance died, Mom ended up working at one of this mall’s few surviving stores, Uptons.

One night when Mom’s car had broken down again and I was teaching a night class at FAU, Dale came to pick Mom up when the store closed.

Somehow he and Mom got to talking with Hamid, the guy who owned the theater in the mall. Hamid told them how he fled Iran in 1979 with $700 in his pocket.

Mom told him that 1979 was the year our family came to Broward County, the same year the Coral Springs Mall was built.

The first theater Hamid bought was the triplex a few miles south on University Drive and Royal Park Boulevard. He thought it would be easy to make money, but four months later a national chain opened an eight-screen theater down the block. Hamid had to turn the triplex into a dollar theater.

Mom worked at Uptons only a year before deciding to move to Ocala. She could sell the town house for a lot of money and live in a place where the cost of living was lower.

The Coral Springs Mall closed. The city took over the land, and on the property now are a charter school and a regional Broward County library.

Today Hamid’s company owns only megaplexes like the Egyptian-themed Paradise 24, at the corner of I-75 and Sheridan Drive in Davie. It averages 100,000 patrons per screen per month and on some weekends is one of the ten busiest cinemas in the country.

At the Paradise 24, Dale and I usually buy our tickets with a credit card from a machine and head for the cappuccino bar before the show starts. The theater has a Dolby surround sound system, oversize stadium seats that rock back and forth, curbside valet parking, and a faáade and interior as imposing as the pyramids.

planestrains-croppedEven though Hamid is now a multimillionaire, Dale swore he saw him behind the counter frying popcorn shrimp when we took Rachel’s twins to the Paradise 24 to see Shrek.

As for the Coral Springs Triplex, after it closed, nobody leased the space in the little shopping center on Royal Park Boulevard at University. If you look through the glass doors, you can see lots of dust and faded old movie posters.

Sometimes I go on this Web site called Lost Treasures, which celebrates fondly remembered theaters that are now gone. But they’re all old city theaters like the Loew’s Paradise of my childhood in the Bronx: a majestic 4,000-seat theater with an Italian Baroque-style facade, Corinthian columns, sweeping staircase, etched-glass lighting fixtures and gilded railings.

Multiscreen suburban shopping-center theaters built in the 1970s and 1980s are not considered Lost Treasures, and I can understand why. They weren’t handsome or imposing or well-built or historically significant.

I’m none of those things, either-which is probably why I identify with them.

**

From the forthcoming anthology Life as We Show It: Writing on Film, co-edited by Brian Pera and Masha Tupitsyn from City Lights Publishing. Copyright 2009 by Richard Grayson. Published by permission of City Lights Books.

Original art for The Rumpus by Mikayla Butchart. If interested in purchasing a painting, email tips@therumpus.net. A portion of the proceeds help support The Rumpus.


Richard Grayson is the author of the short story collections With Hitler in New York, Lincoln’s Doctor’s Dog, I Brake for Delmore Schwartz, I Survived Caracas Traffic, The Silicon Valley Diet, Highly Irregular Stories, And to Think That He Kissed Him on Lorimer Street and Who Will Kiss the Pig?: Sex Stories for Teens. He lives in Brooklyn and Phoenix. More from this author →