O CINEMA Bring Film
Back To the Neighborhood
Photograph courtesy of O Cinema
After years of visits to independent cinemas in New York and LA, Miami native Kareem Tabsch had a realization – independent film wasn’t being represented in Miami. So he set out to change that, and a few years later, Tabsch co-founded O Cinema with partner and colleague Vivian Marthell.
“The concept behind O Cinema is to reignite the idea of the neighborhood theater, ” Tabsch says. With it’s cutting-edge mix of independent, foreign, art and family films alongside events and screenings of theater productions, the concept is working.
Since debuting in 2011 in Wynwood, O Cinema has grown to three locations – Wynwood, Miami Shores, and North Miami Beach. They are all deeply rooted in the neighborhoods they reside, bringing the idea of “going to the movies” back into the fold.
“Film is a great equalizer, “ he says. “So it should be accessible.” For Tabsch, accessibility applies to everything, from the films, to the price – tickets at O Cinema are $11 – to the location.
In North Miami Beach, O Cinema is located at the historic Byron-Carlyle Theater. The movie theater, with its wood-panels and brass railings, first opened in 1968, with a screening of the film Skiddo with actor Jackie Gleason. After closing in 1999, the theater was purchased by the city of Miami Beach in 2001 for use as a rental venue for local arts groups but ultimately failed to return to its glory of earlier decades. After a tour with city managers, Tabsch realized the space had potential to once again become a cultural landmark for North Miami Beach. Since that location of O Cinema opened in 2014, it has been open every day since.
Tabsch has heard customers remark how nice it is to walk to the theater again. “It feels like you’re walking into a theater from another era,” he remarked. “You just don’t get that feeling anymore.”
OF GREAT INDIE THEATERS
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As for programming, Tabsch and his curating staff have a list of three programming requirements. Each film has to fill at least one requirement to be considered for screening. “We show films that people want to see, they should see, or they need to see,” he says. “If we find a film that does all three of those things, then we have a real winner.”
The 2015 documentary Amy about British singer/songwriter Amy Winehouse was one of those films; Tabsch said that he and his team extended the screening run twice because it was so popular. Other films popular with audiences have included Wild Tales – a 2014 Argentine film written and directed by Damian Szifron – and retrospectives of directors Woody Allen, Stanley Kubrick and Steven Spielberg.
In addition to regular screenings, O Cinema also showcases an array of contemporary programming that gives audiences access to opera, ballet and even Shakespeare. Through a partnership with The Globe Theater in London, O Cinema audiences can watch performances of some of Shakespeare’s best works on the big screen – the only theater in South Florida with such a partnership. Additional events and programs happen in in the form of film festivals, celebratory anniversary screenings and dinner and movie nights in collaboration with local favorite Harry’s Pizza.
For Tabsch O Cinema is all about engaging audiences, “We’re here to educate, enlighten and inspire,” Tabsch says. “And to have fun.”
Wynwood - Miami Shores - Miami Beach